Director – Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Andrew Stanton, Rebecca Thomas
Cast – Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, David Harbour, Wynona Ryder, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Joe Keery, Sean Astin, Joe Crest, Matthew Modine, Rob Morgan, John Reynolds
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This second season of the wildly popular and critically acclaimed Netflix series was easily one of 2017’s most anticipated horror events. The first season sucked us in with nostalgic homages to the movies, music, and lifestyles we grew up with in the 1980s. On top of that, we were treated to memorable characters brought to life by some seriously talented child actors who were then complimented with the acting chops of a resurrected Winona Ryder and rising star David Harbour. With season two comes new obstacles for the survivors of the government experiment gone wrong. There is still an otherworldly presence in Hawkins, Indiana, and it is on the brink of erupting chaos on the isolated town. Along with this comes character drama, infighting, and a few new additions, but most importantly, we see a small rag-tag group stand up against an overwhelming entity.
Set roughly one year after the previous events, life has returned to normal for some, but remains empty for others. Mike is still hit hard over the disappearance of Eleven, and Nancy’s guilt over Barb’s death takes a further toll on her. For everyone else, things are peachy. Will, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas meet the newest addition to Hawkins Middle School, Maxine, and immediately target her as a new addition to the group. Joyce has since found love in the lovable A/V nerd Bob Newby (Sean Astin), and Hopper’s town has finally found some piece…despite some big secrets he is keeping. This normalcy will soon come to a screeching halt when Will’s visions of a tentacled creature enveloping the town come to fruition.
To start, the Duffer Brothers did well in giving us a second season unlike the first. Sure, you can expect the nostalgic tones the series is known for, but aside from that there are few similarities. This season is much slower and takes more time in delivering the horror. One could argue that this show is a drama with supernatural tones, so I can’t knock it for taking so long to deliver the goods. Character drama takes the front seat here. It makes sense too for the drama to reach critical levels here after developing the characters during the first season. These characters, especially the younger ones, are going through a strange period of their life. Combine adolescence with having to save your town (and possibly the world) and you have some young teens asked to accomplish more than they can handle. Thankfully, this spectacular group of losers, with a bit of help from their older associates, is up for the challenge.
The biggest issue when the series gets going is where is Eleven. You won’t be the only one asking that, as the kids are wondering the same thing. Mike is the most hard-hit by her absence, with the other crew members having since adjusted to life without her. Your questions will be answered soon enough, and the writers find a way to keep her character from the limelight while still maintaining the sense of mystery that surrounds her. Much to my surprise, Eleven wasn’t used to the level I expected. If you are expecting to see more of her in this season you are dead wrong. While there is more of a focus on uncovering what went on in her past, it takes a long while for the series to get there. The last few episodes will ultimately deliver the goods, and it will require patience from the viewer. There is a common issue I hear from fans that the seventh episode of the season is a waste and could even be avoided. I fully disagree with that statement. While it can feel a bit out of place at first, the episode is the bridge that brings Eleven to where fans wanted her to be all along.
While I did enjoy this series, it is not without its faults. There are still many questions left unanswered. This isn’t always a fault, but I balk at it leaving me feeling like the season is only halfway done. At the very least it could have used another two episodes. There are also times where key characters are forgotten about for several episodes, which is a writing issue I will always take notice to. Aside from that, there isn’t anything else to gripe about. As a whole this story is one that once again delivers not just a nostalgic experience, but one that is well-written and loaded with great characters. Don’t let the nostalgic aspect fool you into thinking that is all the series has to offer.
The direction from the Duffer Brothers and their co-directors is fantastic, playing a major role in selling the series to us. From the get-go I was sucked into the experience despite the slow approach the writers took. Great atmosphere and engaging performances from everyone involved are the biggest constants in the series. This is a character-driven project that is made possible by the superb performances from a slew of young actors and a few seasoned adults. While the horror may take a backseat to the character drama I was glad to see the horror expanded to more than just a single Demigorgon. There are foes both big and bigger, and they excel at not only deliver the horror but breaking hearts as well. Now with Season 3 greenlit I am expecting a tremendous climax to what will be one of the better genre experiences of this millennium.
Overall, Stranger Things: Season 2 delivers more of what we enjoyed in Season One. The characters are expanded, the “Upside Down” delivers the horror, and the direction alongside a slick story seals the deal.