After the Duffer Brothers’ drama Stranger Things dropped last summer, it seemed like all anyone wanted to know was when the next installment of the series would be released. By the time the second season was announced at the end of August of 2016, it seemed like anyone with a Netflix account was making Eggos, scrounging up 80s-inspired Halloween costumes, and celebrating Winona Ryder’s triumphant return to television. With only eight episodes, how did Stranger Things become such a phenomenon?
The answer lies in the casting. The first season of the show follows a group of junior high schoolers living in the sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana as they battle with supernatural forces, and the ensemble of children assembled by casting director Carmen Cuba lived up to the task. Gatan Matarazzo delivers perfectly timed one-liners as Dustin, a foul-mouthed but lovable AV club member who acts as the perfect foil to Caleb McLaughlin’s Lucas. Nancy, played by Natalia Dyer, is the ultimate teenage sister with a secret badass streak, and Joe Keery shines as her boyfriend Steve.
The young cast is undoubtedly gifted, but the real breakout stars of the show are Finn Wolfhard as Mike and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. With only a few lines in the first few episodes, Brown manages to make her portrayal of the escaped lab experiment so engrossing that we’re constantly left hoping for more. Wolfhard, meanwhile, leads the Hawkins Middle School AV Club to more trouble than victory while perfectly depicting a young teenager grappling with the complicated issue of growing up.
When you put together the spunky ensemble, the wonderfully 80s setting, and the juxtaposition of the supernatural with the mundane, you’re left with a cinematic experience that’s deliciously reminiscent of The Goonies. Stranger Things is perfect for the generation that spent the 1980s riding their bikes around town and playing Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s also perfect for the generation that was born after 1995. The first season was a smash hit, and it left critics wondering if the next season could live up to the hype. I’m happy to tell you that it doesn’t disappoint. Season 2 picks up almost a year after Will Byers is rescued from the upside down. Although the season gets off to a slow start, the newest additions to the cast provide ample entertainment as the action picks up. Bob Newby (played by Sean Astin, an original Goony himself!) is Joyce’s sweet but awkward boyfriend, and newcomer Sadie Sink captures the hearts of the AV club as Max, the new kid in town with a crazy stepbrother. Noah Schnapp’s Will Byers also gets considerably more screentime this season, and his performance as a kid struggling to overcome the trauma of the last year is impressive. I’m calling it now: Schnapp will be up for some awards this year.
If you’re planning to watch the next season of Stranger Things, do yourself a favor and just block out nine full hours to do it, because there’s no way you’ll be able to resist bingeing all nine episodes in one sitting. The show is as beautiful as ever, and it will undoubtedly leave you with enough one-liners to last you for the thirteen months it will probably take to produce the next season.