Stranger Things Season Two (2017)

(Spoiler-free review of Stranger Things Season Two)

In the second season of Stranger Things, newcomer Bob Newby (Goonies alumni Sean Astin) suggests something every viewer of show must be thinking: “We could always move to Maine.”

The first season of Netflix’s breakout hit dealt with the disappearance of and search for Will Byers, a pre-teen boy living in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. The official story was that Will got lost in the woods, but the truth was much more sinister and far more complicated. The city of Hawkins is connected to the Upside Down, an alternate plane of reality home to the Demogorgon (a creature as nasty as it sounds). Hawkins is also home to a government research facility that is good at studying children with psychic powers, but not so good at containing them. With all powers that be (both human and otherwise) in place, it was up to Will’s friends (Mike, Dustin, and Lucas), family, Chief of Police Jim Hopper, Eleven (a girl with telekinetic powers) and various other members of the community to find Will and defeat the Demogorgon.

That’s how the first season ended, and if everyone’s efforts had rid Hawkins of evil, there wouldn’t have been a need for a second season — and since there is (along with two more seasons planned), you can guess evil continues to lurk in (and under) Hawkins.

All the major characters from the original season return, along with a few new additions. New this season are Maxine (aka “Mad Max”, a skateboarding, arcade game-playing girl the same age as our heroes) and her pissed-off mullet-wearing brother, Billy. Inside the medical research facility we meet Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), the yin to Jim Hopper’s yang. And then there’s Bob Newby, Joyce Byers’ love interest and local Radio Shack salesman.

If you love 80s nostalgia, Stranger Things continues to drip in it. The episodes contain toys, cars, and even a local arcade. More than the first, the second season cheats a bit more when dealing with the era’s lack of cell phones by equipping almost everyone with walkie-talkties, CB radios, and a working knowledge of Morse code. I remember spending a lot of time in the 1980s riding around on my bicycle just looking for people. The kids in Hawkins never have that issue (nor is there any shortage of batteries in the town).

Stranger Things wears its homages to films from the 80s proudly on its sleeve. There are scenes that reminded me of Jaws, Alien, Goonies, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters, Stand by Me, Poltergeist, Pretty in Pink, and even The Exorcist, but perhaps an unintentional comparison I made was to Star Wars. When evil returns in its new form, it becomes obvious that in the first season the denizens of Hawkins were dealing with a single Stormtrooper. In season two, Darth Vader — or perhaps the Emperor — has come looking for them.

The show continues to grow. While the first season consisted largely of practical effects, the size and scope of season two all but ruled that out. Once praised for their lack of CGI and green screens, the show now relies heavily such technology. Pacing, on the other hand, has been greatly approved. At times the first season felt like two episodes worth of material, stretched out into eight. This season feels like twelve episodes worth of action, crammed into nine. Unlike the first season, viewers rarely have to wait for action or wonder where the story is headed.

The Duffer Brothers did a good job of typing up most of the questions asked not only in season two, but some of the ones left unanswered in the first season. In fact, so many things are wrapped up by the end of of season two that it’s hard to imagine where things will kick off in season three. If it’s anything like this season, it’s hard to imagine everyone not following Bob’s suggestion in regards to moving to Maine.

One Response to “Stranger Things Season Two (2017)”

  1. Matt Dee Says:

    It’s an unabashed love letter to the 80s, that’s for sure. The level of detail is pretty good in that respect; for example, when they’re playing Dragon’s Lair and Dustin yells out of frustration “stupid overpriced piece of s%$t!” which I think is a direct reference to the fact that Dragon’s Lair was infamous for upping the arcade ante to $0.50 per play.

    But, they kind of lost a bit of that cred when they showed the Dig Dug high score table with the entry “MADMAX” because everybody knows Dig Dug only allows you to enter 3 letters. :D