Editor’s Note: Spoilers for season one of “Stranger Things” follow.
The wait to return to the upside-down is finally over, as Netflix released the highly anticipated second season of their hit show “Stranger Things” on Oct. 27. Featuring nine brand-new episodes that come straight from the minds of the Duffer Brothers, season two of “Stranger Things” reacquaints us with the small town of Hawkins, Ind., and the strange, otherworldly occurrences that have been known to take place there.
Nothing has been the same since the events of the first season of “Stranger Things.” While Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Will (Noah Schnapp) have tried to make the best of their situation as they head into middle school, the disappearance of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) still looms large over the group. Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) haven’t been getting by much better, as they try to comprehend and process everything they’ve seen and gone through.
Unfortunately, the unexplained events aren’t as far behind them as they hoped. Will, having lived in the upside-down for the majority of season one, is plagued by nightmares of a new creature that’s attempting to break into their world. Soon, the monster poses such a threat to Will that it makes him act uncharacteristically and opens up a whole new investigation in the town.
Meanwhile, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) has taken on the responsibility to deliver justice for her departed friend Barb (Shannon Purser), whom everybody else seems to have forgotten. Hopper is also trying to deal with a new government research facility that has emerged, working with them to keep Hawkins safe while also “protecting” them from the events of season one.
Much like the first outing, season two of “Stranger Things” comes off as a nostalgic love-letter to ‘80s film and culture. The main cast of kids dress up as Ghostbusters for Halloween and play Dungeons & Dragons. They ride their bikes everywhere and spend afternoons in the A.V. club. In addition, numerous references, homages and easter-eggs to blockbusters of the era — like “Gremlins,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Alien,” “Aliens,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and many more — are creatively woven into the story.
The best aspects of season two come in the form of its ensemble cast, which features a large amount of returning characters. Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will still create a likable and relatable group of friends with natural chemistry. Steve (Joe Keery) — Nancy’s on-again off-again boyfriend— is given a great deal to do as he’s thrown into the action in a more substantial way than in the past, becoming a new fan-favorite character as a result. Hopper and Eleven also get to interact in several well acted scenes together, creating some of the most touching moments of the series so far.
There is also several new and noteworthy characters who are added to the bunch including Max (Sadie Sink),appropriately given the nickname “Mad Max,” and Bob (Sean Astin), Joyce’s innocent new boyfriend, who commonly goes by “Bob the Brain.”
Season two raises the dramatic stakes that were set in season one, the way the second season of any television series should. The monster is bigger and poses more of a threat. There is more conflict and emotions that the characters have to deal with, resulting in larger confrontations and more satisfying payoffs.
“‘Stranger Things’ makes me miss the ‘80s, despite never having lived in it,” said Dustin Olson, a senior. “Season two brought more deep character development and each episode felt better than the last. Except episode seven. You can skip that one.”
Indeed, the one place that season two seems to falter is in the controversial seventh episode. Without getting into too much detail for spoilers’ sake, the show takes a left turn and introduces a new setting with a host of unlikable characters. The decision to do so was done in order to try to expand the world and give depth to Eleven’s character; however, the result is lost in poor execution. “Stranger Things” is at its best when it’s about the characters and the relationships they have with one another. Choosing to introduce us to a new, far more unlikable cast halfway through the series doesn’t necessarily have the same effect.
However, the Duffers still seem to have a good grasp on how to properly move this property forward.
“We think so much alike and we’ve been doing this together for so long, and it’s not like some teams, where one person is devoted to visuals and the camera and one’s to performances,” said Ross Duffer, speaking to “the Hollywood Reporter” about sharing director duties with his twin brother, Matt.
“We both like both [visuals and performances] equally, so I would say that we sort of trade off. […] It’s nice to have that support that there’s, someone there to pick up the slack.”
While there’s no telling where the show will go from here, fans can at least rest easy knowing that it’s in the Duffers hands, seeing how season two is a worthy follow-up to the high bar that season one of “Stranger Things” set.