Stranger Things returned to Netflix and Getintothis’ Luke Chandley binge-watched the second series to deliver his verdict.
The TV event of the year has undoubtedly been the second season – or the self-professed sequel (as the creators have called it) to Stranger Things which came to Netflix a week last Friday.
Streaming networks have a really great habit of allowing shows to go under the radar whilst being written and produced, and then dropping them to huge critical or social acclaim.
The epitome of this was Netflix’s 2016 smash hit Stranger Things. When the first season was released last July it became a massive success. Its success mirrored the success an unearthed and unsigned artist used to have on the music industry. The wave of excitement was almost impossible to escape.
With the super-nostalgic first season blowing away any rival before or since, the news of a second series was welcomed. But the trepidation of how they could expand the universe without repeating themselves and over-eggoing (get it?) the sentimentality for the 80’s was a caveat for all Stranger Things lovers.
We had the same concerns yet upon the release of Season 2, we were too excited to hold back; we binged the show in a day. And we’ve served up some of our thoughts for you here. Enjoy!
***BEWARE!!! SEASON TWO SPOILER ALERTS!!***
Fans of Season 1, rejoice: the new episodes are bigger and bolder.
We are fans of the first season, and it’s always nice to know how the hardcore group feel about the new material, so if you’re like us but haven’t yet seen it: you have nothing to worry about.
The new season is bigger, darker and more ambitious than the first series.
There’s some interesting new dimensions to the show now – gone is the idea that the Demogorgon is the main bad guy, and we begin to discover how the creators of the show have thought out which direction the story will take us.
Saying that, some parts of this season just don’t work
The second season is better than the first, but there are still parts of the show that didn’t really work this year. Chapter 7: The Lost Sister, feels too forced.
To see Eleven grow and evolve (more of this later), we always needed to see more to her story than the scientists and the labs. And this was there, but with a shallow-feeling backstory about her mother and her long-lost sister.
This storyline doesn’t get enough gravitas in the grand scheme of the show. While the gang in Hawkins are discovering their new fate, Eleven’s more emotional issues seem less significant, and this is probably because of poor writing and a lack of time. The Lost Sister feels out of place.
The story of how Eleven would find her sister, join a gang of misfits only to have an epiphany of friendship and love, at the mini-betrayal of Kali (her sister) and her punk pals, is almost too much to summarise here, so to fit into 55 minutes on-screen is ambitious.
If Stranger Things 2 was 18 episodes, this story line would probably work over 3/4 episodes, with more detail and reflection than we got here. But it isn’t so this felt too much.
We also had Barbgate MK2, which worked as well as a chocolate fireguard. At the beginning of the season, there’s a really interesting sub-plot, in which Nancy and hero-in-the-hair Steve are dealing with the disappearance of insignificant-character-turned-series-sensation Barb.
This plot falls short because after a few episodes we are once again forgetting about poor Barb in place of other-worldly impending doom. It would have been best to forget about her all together instead of trying to fix a clear plot issue from Season 1.
Eleven gets nasty – and it works
The return of Eleven is a triumph, and it gets us all excited for what is to come, and in that respect – this show delivers.
When we first meet her this season, we find her living in the woods with father-figure Jim Hopper. Hopper is a good guy, and he’s trying to protect Eleven but she clearly isn’t getting that vibe. This creates tension between the two characters and we begin to see some of the most interesting – and scary – moments in the show.
Throughout the programme we have always seen Eleven with a nasty streak, but it has always been for the greater good to help our heroes.
During her fight with Hopper in Chapter Four: Will the Wise, we see Eleven break rank and become someone we now see being capable of hurting characters for the wrong reasons.
This is one of the most impressive plot-lines in the series and seeing Eleven lose her shit with Hopper is one of the most intense scenes to date. If we see the four boys evolve throughout this season, we also see Eleven coming of age, too. But how will this work out?
Dustin and Steve for life
There are so many relationships in season one of the show and that theme doesn’t stop here. The Nancy/Steve/Jonathan triangle evolves romantically, but also in how we, the viewers, feel empathy for the characters.
Mike and Eleven’s relationship is put on the back-burner until late on, and there’s some new character relationships to get your teeth stuck into. By a country mile, though, the most fun and damn-right exciting new relationship on the show is the Dustin and Steve bromance. Steve’s story arc is a highlight of the whole two seasons, and it is probably Dustin who gets the best level of screen time in the latest season. And he absolutely owns it.
The scene when Steve gives Dustin romantic advice while walking along the train tracks is a delight, and shows us a new, softer side to both characters. In S1, Steve is the hard-nosed jock, whilst Dustin is the dweeb of the group, but we begin to see roles changing and this really evolves the show for the viewer.
Our two favourite scenes
Throughout the whole of Season Two, we see the show grow into more than just a sleeper hit and a fad.
There should be real confidence from fans that the writers and creators have enough interest and creativity to continue bringing the show to life. This season brought us two of our favourite scenes yet. The Ghostbusters scene and the final scene in the show, the Snow Ball.
The Ghostbusters scene is short but sweet. The main characters dress up on Halloween as everyone’s favorite ghost-fighting quartet. We see a sweet moment of their parents getting Polaroid photographs of them before school, and it’s just adorable and excellently shot. Sometimes it is the little things.
The final scene of Season Two sees us at the Snow Ball, with Eleven and Mike finally getting to act on their promise in S1 (Mike promised to take her to the annual school winter ball, only for her to temporarily explode into ash whilst saving the day) of attending the party together.
It’s also the peak of the Dustin/Steve show, when Steve drives young Dustin to the event and gives him some final advice on chatting to girls.
What happens next – Dustin’s Season Two love dancing with friend Lucas instead of him – is heartbreaking. Dustin’s next move is to shake off the rejection and ask various other girls to dance, which ends in, you guessed: more rejection. It’s a tough time to be a boy. As his loneliness sinks in, he heads to the corner for a sob and a moment to reflect.
Thankfully for Dustin, he’s in luck. Nancy, seeing all of young Dustin’s rejection, offers him a dance to help him save face in front of the watching school. Obviously elated, his mood changes as he gets to dance to with the attractive, older girl.
This scene, all to the backdrop of The Police and Every Breath You Take is the perfect way to end a show that is all about heart, fear and friendship.
In our view, it is the part of the show that helps Stranger Things 2 stand out from the crowd. A warm, charming end to a well-crafted second season. Bring on Season Three!