TV Review: “Stranger Things” Season 2 – The Sequel

Written by Matt Butler November 01, 2017

stranger things

As the title credits rolled on the first episode of an 8-hour binge party, I said aloud “Please say Stranger Things 2”. Because Stranger Things season 2 just doesn’t cut it. What makes that big red 2 in the title credits so important and satisfying is that it’s unapologetic. Stranger Things is a film: a long, stretched out, serialized film. Stranger Things 2 is much the same. And like most sequels, it’s more or less the same, but bigger and louder. And for the first time in a long time, I’m quite okay with that.

Season 2 reminds me that I’m not done with seeing the same things, I’m done with seeing the same dull, unaffecting things. Stranger Things is none of those things. I’ve heard people deride the show for its overt nostalgia, but that’s just the flavouring. It’s there to bring us back to a simpler time when information was nowhere near as accessible when a mystery could unfold in the confines of your own neighbourhood. The Dragon’s Lair, the walkie-talkies, the Ghostbusters costumes. It’s all just to set the stage for a far more compelling story.

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It’s Halloween in Hawkins, but the scarier (and stranger) thing is right around the corner. Still recuperating from the events of the year prior, our Hawkins heroes find themselves at odds with the secrets they’re forced to keep. As trust wavers between everyone, a looming evil begins to reveal itself, and I’m not talking about the government. An entity to send the demigorgon cowering. It has big bad plans for Hawkins, and once again, young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is the centerpiece of it all.

“Nobody normal ever accomplished anything meaningful in this world.”

I feel the draw with season 1 is the mystery. Where is Will? Who is Eleven? What is the Upside Down? How did it open up into Hawkins? More or less, all the big questions have been answered. Stranger Things 2 takes on the questions pushed to the background. What’s happened to Will? Where is Eleven? Who is Eleven’s mother? This is the hook of the series, a list of questions that branches off continuously. But I’d argue that’s not what people love about Stranger Things. What really drives the show is its character dynamics. Character types from countless 80s films that we’re no strangers to. The Duffer Brothers are essentially playing an elaborate D&D campaign with our favourite 80s cliches.

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But what makes this homage so endearing is that in their interminglings, the cliches take on new life. A prime example is Steve Harrington (Joe Keery). Season 1 played him as the useless horny slacker boyfriend, which serves the story fine. Stranger Things 2 turns the tables. Now he’s a take-charge babysitter for the gang. He’s the same Steve, just with new motives. He recognizes the end of his role and moves on to another. It’s a transformation several key characters undertake throughout the season, but Steve’s is the most striking, and it makes him the easiest character to get behind.

“Bitchin’.”

Stranger Things‘ focal point is how uncovering mysteries can bring people together. Season 2 is about how keeping secrets can tear people apart. Ironically, the supernaturalness is one of the least interesting things in the show. The real compulsion is the relationships, how they build, fall apart and start anew. The horror/sci-fi elements are just there to push everyone in new directions. It’s the human element that makes Stranger Things so infectious.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Stranger Things

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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