You may have heard that a little show called Stranger Things debuted it’s second season on Netflix recently. If you’re like me, you probably got caught up in the hype of season one; the show’s first season did a great job with casting, expertly played into 80’s nostalgia, and introduced lovable characters who became instantly iconic. Although season one wasn’t perfect and neither was season two, I will say the Duffer brothers did an amazing job expanding on the content that worked last season, while still creating something new and fun. For those of you who didn’t binge watch all of season two in one day like I did, beware: spoilers ahead!
Season two once again did an amazing job with it’s characters and casting; honestly, I think it’s the actors and the characters they play that truly make the show as great as it is. We got stellar performances from the kids, teens, and the adults, which is rare. My first commendation has to go to Noah Schnapp as Will Byers; Will spent much of season one stuck in the upside down, so we didn’t get to see much from him in terms of acting chops. But Noah really brought it this season.
Starting in the first episode, we see Will suffering from the effects of being in the upside down. Eventually, his body is taken over by what they refer to as the Mind Flayer, an ancient, powerful being intent on consuming the world as we know it. At 5’1, The juxtaposition of Will’s tiny, fragile physicality against the rawness and power of his scenes was mesmerizing. The scene where Will first gets possessed and the scene where the evil, shadowy entity is finally expelled from his body are some of my favorite. The scenes are delightfully creepy and almost hard to watch at times, with some of the strongest horror elements in the show. Watching Noah seize and twitch and scream as he battled this supernatural force raging inside him was really incredible.
There were two characters who surprised me, but in the best way possible: Steve Harrington and Dr. Owens. Both initially played into their stereotypical roles, with Steve as the typical douchebag jock, and Paul Reiser, who plays Dr. Owens, seeming to reprise his role in “Aliens” as Burke, a corporate crone willing to sacrifice others in the pursuit of some bigger goal. But these character subverted their tropes and morphed into interesting, multi dimensional characters. Steve was great as the kids’ babysitter, and I really enjoyed his scenes with Dustin. Similarly, Dr. Owens ended up being more than just an evil scientist, and I’m curious to see where they end up taking his arc. I really enjoyed that their characters weren’t predictable, but rather complex and compelling.
In general, props to the whole cast, old and new. The actors all had great chemistry and absolutely nailed their story lines.
But like I said, the stellar cast doesn’t fully make up for some the weaker spots in season two. My main issue was that I felt the nostalgic references were a bit more forced this time around, especially when it came to the music. I felt that they really were trying to emphasize how eighties the show is by playing every single eighties hit they could think of, and it came off as a little cheesy. The music was such a strong element in the first season, but I felt like they missed the mark a bit with this one.
My other issue was with a few of the side adventures that I felt were just meant to add run time; mainly the Barb side plot. As much as I wanted justice for Barb, I felt that the creators were just responding to internet outrage at their mistake of not tying up that loose end well enough the first time around. It was just a bit forgettable to me, and I felt that it didn’t really matter as much overall. It didn’t tie in to the climax as well as the other characters’ plots did, but it didn’t completely throw off the timing of the series for me. At least Barb got the recognition she deserved!
If you couldn’t already tell that I’m a huge fan of this show, you can probably tell by now. I’m never going to be one of those fans who’s blind to the flaws and mistakes made by showrunners, but I can totally say I thought this season was just as good as, if not better than, season one. It played off the strengths of the first season by sticking to a similar story and similar themes, but put characters in new and interesting scenarios to test the limits a bit. I think they could definitely branch off even further from the material. Maybe they will explore other dimensions with new monsters. Maybe they will explore the Eleven’s other brothers and sisters; we already met Eight, so I’m sure there are more kids with supernatural powers out there waiting to be discovered. Honestly, I’m already counting down the days until season 3!
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