Stranger Things 2 Review – Semi-Spoilers

One year after the disappearance of a fowl, man-eating monster, an evil far more treacherous is planting its roots, readying its attack on the small town of Hawkins, Indiana.

The second season of Netflix’s hit show, Stranger Things, is now out, all nine episodes available to watch. Questions left over from the finale of the first season are answered, backstories are explored, and more on the mysterious parallel universe dubbed the “Upside Down” is revealed. Facing the challenges sequels to hit first-time films and shows provide, i.e. failing to live up to their predecessor, Stranger Things 2 fares very well, acting more as a The Empire Strikes Back for the series, rather than a Temple of Doom.

The first season of Stranger Things was well received, creating numerous fans among both Netflix subscribers and critics alike. With the highly anticipated Season 2 came the concern of failure, as seen with many sequels to great first installments by critics and fans respectively. The second season of the 1980s-set show, however, does not let viewers down, proving a worthy sequel in the eyes of many–myself included.

Season 2 answers a myriad of questions left over from its predecessor, such as “Where is Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)”, “What’s up with Will (Noah Schnapp)”, and “What’s the situation between Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton)”. The answers to such questions range from what could be guessed to deeper, complex ordeals, but what directors and lead writers Matt and Ross Duffer provide is no less satisfying than what would have been asked for.

New characters Max (Sadie Sink, center) and Billy (Dacre Montgomery, right) arrive at the arcade.

Contrary to the previous season, Season 2 takes on a slower rate of progression. While this may postpone the sense of urgency and intensity to later episodes, it allows for more  insight into the daily happenings of the numerous protagonists in that nostalgic ’80s livelihood. Not too surprisingly, Mike (Flynn Wolfhard) still misses Eleven and tries regularly to make contact. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), mother of Will and Jonathon, has taken up a new love interest, played by Sean Astin. Joyce remains skeptic of son Will’s condition and the presence of the horrible Upside Down, somewhat traumatized by her experiences a year prior. Meanwhile, the new kids in town, step siblings Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and Maxine (Sadie Sink), lure the interest of returning characters, eventually finding their way into various aspects of the plot and subplots. The Duffer Brothers do not fail to maintain and add to the loveable and relatable cast of characters.

Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser, corner right) performs a checkup on Will Byers (Noah Schnapp, center) who has been showing intense signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The acting remains astounding. Millie Bobby Brown continues to provide an excellent performance as Eleven, though Noah Schnapp has a good chance at taking the cake with his performance as a possessed Will. Playing a child plagued with sporadic transitions to the hellish world in which his character was imprisoned, and host to a the Mind Flayer, the apparent overlord of the Upside Down, Schnapp delivers a phenomenal performance of essentially two different characters, alternating between the two in multiple scenes.

However, before fans are reunited with the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana, they are treated to a cold open involving  police getaway in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wherein a girl in a gang of punk-rock aesthetic individuals seemingly crumbles a tunnel to halt the pursuit and get away, nose bleeding just like Eleven’s when she uses her power. This serves to set up suspense for a return of these characters to see their relevance to the plot, as well as showing that fan favorite Eleven is not the only one with mysterious psychic powers.

Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) teaches Eleven Millie Bobby Brown) to harness her power.

“Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”, the episode featuring Eleven and the characters seen from the season’s cold open, serves little to the overall plot of the season other than training Eleven to increase the capacity in which she can use her power. There is some suspense regarding whether or not the girl from Hawkins will go back home or be captured by police, though the ultimate out come is the more predictable of the two. The friends Eleven makes in the episode serve no further relevance to the season aside from Eleven’s increased power and punk aesthetic, though the possibility of their return in future seasons has not been ruled out. While this episode may have been placed after what may be the season’s largest cliffhanger, I feel it serves as a nice break from all the action in Hawkins, and makes the return to the lab where Chapter Six left off all the more anticipated and appreciated.

The season’s finale managed to capture the same intensity of its predecessor, and provided the nostalgia of the main cast splitting into multiple groups, each group going on its own mission to do their part in stopping the evil from the Upside Down. The final two chapters do not fail to challenge not only within the characters, but within the audience, what is right and what is wrong, and if the fate of one boy outweighs the potential fate of the world.

While the final battle, so to speak, was intense and delivered with an excellent performance, it felt all too familiar to the first season’s finale. The epilogue, while cheerful, suffers from the same issue. The epilogue’s conclusion, though, is sheer excellence, not just in writing, but in directing and editing, and creates much suspense for the next season.

Despite a slow first half, an episode which has been a heated source of criticism, and an all-too familiar finale, the Duffer Brothers provide a phenomenal season and worthy sequel. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, setting aside time to binge the season, as is a popular gag among the series’ fandom. I cannot wait until Stranger Things 3, and hope it will be just as good as the first two.

To watch Stranger Things and Stranger Things 2, simply download Netflix and login or create an account.