Stranger Things Season Two: Better To Have Loved and Lost or Another Smash Hit?

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netflix stranger things poster

Stranger Things

With the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things due for release, Getintothis’ Luke Chandley looks forward to something special.

Sometime last year,sometime in June, I think -, I saw a poster for a show that I thought I would love.

The poster, as it sat in front of my eyes on Facebook, looked like a poster for a classic sci-fi film, channeling its inner-most Star Wars and E.T, in some kind of masterful mash-up consigned to mere fan fiction and imagination. The poster was in fact for a show. This show was Stranger Things.

Stranger Things is unusual. As a show, it is great. It’s strong, unique and works well as an 8 part series. It moves along nicely and each episode has something for you to chew on, to get stuck into. The best thing about the show though is the way it feels.

It’s nostalgia-driven, but not only in the references that the makers have sprinkled on the show. It is a nostalgic show because it’s a show about exploration and spirit, childhood glee but there’s also an element of danger. It’s the spirit of the show that has made it such a smash hit. A hot take amongst the wave of 80’s reboots and inspired shows. Not too much of a fanfare was made of the show pre-release, but fast-forward to August 2016 and almost anyone who ‘watches shows’ had caught this mysterious and giddy thriller. It was a phenomenon.

Media, especially T.V and film, demand more of the same when it finds success. Sequal, prequal and expanded universes are the buzzwords of a medium severely saturated of fresh imagination. So when something as successful as Stranger Things comes along – a show that still lends from its peers while being an original concept – the huge demand for more, more, more tips to overwhelming.

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Season two of the show was always going to follow, even if the creators were unsure how the initial run would go down with viewers, but the writers even added that they only had a small plan as to where the new season would go. The show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, said If people wanted it and if Netflix wanted it, we could explore it and continue the storyline’. Soon after this quote, Netflix renewed the show for a second season.

The trouble with renewing such a huge hit is that there’s a risk that it won’t live up to the billing of the initial release. And when looking at the quote above, it seems both the creators and Netflix were initially unsure about how deep the Stranger Things rabbit hole would go.

So, unlike a standard story, where there’s an arc through the timeline in which the writers link the story, with Stranger Things, it seems the arc was created after the first season, accommodating the massive wave of love when the series dropped last July. With little solid planning for continued seasons and a justified – if completely wrong – uncertainty of exactly how the show would go down, I ask why both parties decided to create a following season. Why not go out on a high?

I loved Stranger Things. I really did. It caught my imagination just like it caught the imagination of a generation of Netflix users and seems like it’s going to go down in history as a generational milestone. A force of television nature during a time when it really is a second Golden Age of Television. The risk that comes trying to match that is huge. Creatively, it’s hard to strike gold twice. But the will of the Duffer Brothers is there.

Shortly before writing this, the trailer for the new season was released at halftime during this year’s Super Bowl. By trailer, I actually mean some small clips sitting in between mostly text-based images telling us that the new season would be coming to Netflix on Halloween, over a year after the first series hit our screens. The hype that followed the release of the clip was huge. Interest in the show hadn’t diminished. It only seems to have increased.

The pressure on the brothers during this new season is nothing short of manic. Even during the months building up to Game of Thrones and as far back as Breaking Bad, a show doesn’t seem to have captivated an audience quite in the same way. The sci-fi lovers built up the buzz and the overflow into society – magazine covers, interviews, TV shows – has taken the general public by storm like a science fiction show hasn’t done in years. But the buzz was driven completely organically, and as Netflix doesn’t advertise its shows heavily on rival platforms, the ability for this buzz – or indeed a negative buzz – very much comes from a reaction to the quality of the show. Meaning again, the pressure is on for Team Stranger Things to write more of the same, but different.

The success of the new series very much depends on what there is to say that is original. What are we going to learn that is new? There’s actually plenty of possible room for manoeuvre.

As a starter for ten, where is Eleven? She was such a smash hit in the show, as were the rest of the children, and her disappearance at the very end of the show was largely unexplained. Hopper was seen taking food – Eggos, Eleven’s favourite food – to a small box in the woods. We may have seen her disappear into ashes in the final few scenes of the show, but it’s clear that she is alive, in one form or another. What are the extent of her powers, and is there more that we don’t know?

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The new trailer for the show sees the children back together in their threesome, without Eleven, and without Will. At the end of the first season we saw Will cough up what can only be described as a slug (ugh?) into the bathroom sink. It seems like Will’s relationship with the second dimension isn’t over yet. It would be nice to see him have a larger acting part in the new series. His unwanted ability to pass over into the Upside Down could be key to how the world is affected post-discovery.

What I would like to see in season two is more suspense and more peril. The first batch of episodes last year were great, but lacked a level of suspense that I think could improve the season. From what we gather in the new footage, ‘the world is turning Upside Down’ (it literally says that, hence why we gather it) and this could allow for a much bigger, much more epic adventure.

It seems like the boys and Eleven will need to save the world, and for me that’s super exciting. If they can nail the chaos of the world enveloped by the Upside Down in a haunting way (I’m talking bordering on creepy), whilst still making it realistic enough that our heroes could still save the day, I think we could really be on to a winner.

There’s such risk in the new season of Stranger Things. I’m of the opinion that the show, in its current form at least will end after season 2. I can see it becoming an anthology series after these adventures, where we move onto another mystery and another place with new actors and a new timeline. If the world is being affected by the Upside Down, where can you possibly go next that keeps the story fresh?

A new story would keep the Stranger Things franchise going whilst adding a renewed excitement and intrigue for fans. Black Mirror and Fargo have had huge success in their anthology set-up in the past, and see Stranger Things taking on this form.

The final, huge tip of the cap reference to the shows closest cousin, The Twilight Zone. And whilst we still have so much to look forward to, I hope the expectation isn’t too much for one of the most original shows of the streaming era.

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