Review of Stranger Things 2: Can The Duffer Brothers Deliver After The Success of Season One?

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There is a reoccurring uncertainty reserved for TV series whose first installment is an unexpected, instant hit. Such is the case with the triumphant and pervasive Netflix series, Stranger Things. It was the most buzzworthy show of 2016, earning itself five Primetime Emmy Awards and inspiring many a Halloween costume and a craving for Eggos. With success as massive as this, the question remains―can they do it again?

The answer is yes.

Stranger Things 2 is as captivating, immersive and awe-inspiring as its precursor. It has its highs and its lows, as does its first season, but for myself and many others, the weight of its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses.

The season continues with its eye-catching visual effects and cinematography (Shawn Levy still proves his masterful directing skills), 80s callbacks and invigorating, heartwarming, and chilling plotline. It is more large-scale and comfortable than the first season. The Duffer Brothers are clearly more familiar with what works for their show and what does not. Critics have said that the 80s vision for the show is too stereotypical in nature. Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff has said “it still feels like a show that’s set in ‘the ’80s!’ instead of the 1980s.” However, I’m not sure that the Duffer Brothers don’t know this. Between their ‘in-your-face’ 80s inspired posters and clear-cut references to the decade throughout the series, it seems obvious to me that the Duffers are intentionally placing the show in “the ‘80s!” They know what they’re going for, what they aim to emulate, and they succeed. After all, it just works better for encouraging feelings of nostalgia, especially when the primary audience is young people, many of whom have not lived in the iconic decade (such as myself).

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Season two takes longer than it should to get where it’s going. Not until about halfway through the series will the audience’s heart will really start to shake and interests peak, but the steadiness of the first half isn’t to a fault, as  they spend the first half of the series further developing familiar characters and introducing new ones. At the root of a great series are great characters. This is something the Duffer Brothers know. By creating subplots which follow new and unique character pairings, the characters are able to bounce off of each other in ways they haven’t before, enhancing our ideas of the characters. This is something they succeed in during the first season, but perfect in the second.

This season, viewers will get to see Hopper and Eleven, Dustin and Steve (I know. My personal favorite.), and Lucas and Max, the newcomer with a big personality. She, along with the other new (and old) characters (the geeky Bob Newby, the short role with a big impact Eight, and the human bully and villain Billy) seem to be stereotypes at face-value. But one of the Duffer Brother’s biggest successes is elevating stereotypes to whole characters that audiences won’t want to live without.

Of course the character development can be credited to the writers and producers, but the sheer greatness of this cast brings the characters to life in an honest and alluring way. The entire cast performs above and beyond what was thought possible after seeing their performances in the last season (the series garnered several awards relating to outstanding casting and performances by a cast). Furthermore, Noah Schnapp, who spent most of last season communicating through Christmas lights, is especially phenomenal in his role of Will Buyers throughout season two.

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Sure, the shock-factor of something new is gone, but if Stranger Things continues as strong as it is right now, the series may be as defining as other greats like The Twilight Zone, Friends, The X-Files, or M*A*S*H in its comfortability and timelessness. I can only hope that the pressure of perfection doesn’t take it down before its lived up to its full potential.