I had no idea what I was in for before watching the first season of Stranger Things last year. From the very first scene (paying homage to E.T.), I knew I was in for a treat! Each episode did not disappoint. It never ceased to surprise me, make me laugh, scared, and imagining I lived during the Reagan era. I recently rewatched it in preparation for the new season. It was great to see these characters I have known and loved (and loved to hate). With season two, the Duffers continue to bring back what made its previous season a joy.
In 1984, a year after Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) returned from the Upside Down, the town of Hawkins is preparing for Halloween. However, it’s struggling to go back the way things were. Pumpkins are beginning to rot, Will is being picked on at school (“Zombie Boy” is what his classmates call him) and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. He is seeing visions of a giant monster terrorizing the entire town. His condition is worsening every single day. His mom Joyce (Winona Ryder), his older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and the new kid Maxine (Sadie Sink) are with him every step of the way trying to get rid of his condition.
It’s great to see these characters evolve over the course of one season (also continuing to deliver wonderful performances). Officer Hopper (David Harbour) is still dealing with the loss of his only child. He’s trying to do it all over again while protecting Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)–now with slightly longer hair. Of course, there will be discipline. For Eleven, however, she is wondering all her life who her real parents were. She goes through Hopper’s paper clippings, and goes out of his way to meet her mother (prepare the tissues). Meanwhile, after what she put Will through last time, Joyce will always be there to protect her kids. This time around, Joyce has never experienced Will’s peculiar behavior until his return from the Upside Down.
The most interesting story arc of all is of Nancy (Natalia Dyer). She is grieving the loss of her best friend Barb (a favorite among fans; not to mention social media users using #JusticeforBarb). She and Jonathan decide to take a road trip on whether authorities know where she is. I love their dynamic because they trust in one another–in my opinion, they make better pair than Nancy and Steve (Joe Keery)–and, just like the younger kids, they don’t take shit from anybody.
There are new faces in the new season. Joyce’s new boyfriend Bob (Sean Astin) is a particularly great addition. A techie who works at the RadioShack hopes to be a positive influence on the family, especially Will. There is a great scene where they are talking in the car. Bob understands Will’s situation. He talks to him about standing up to his biggest fear. He explains that he used to have nightmares about this monster as a kid. One night, he tells it to simply “go away”. Then, his nightmares washed away. He’s suggesting to step up and be a man.
The Shadow Monster, inspired by H.P. Lovercraft, is just as eerie as the Demogorgon. The soundtrack features some of the best songs of the time, from Bon Jovi’s “Runaway to The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (also used in the first season where Jonathan reminisces him listening to this song with Will) to Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film”, and the list goes on and on. I would like to have the next season to feature A-ha’s “Take on Me”.
While I enjoy the show, it does drag a bit and the tone shifts during the seventh episode. It doesn’t feel like I’m watching the same show at times. But–the Duffers put things back on track to provide the thrills, pure emotion, and laughs (i.e. Dustin making a new pet gets a chuckle here and there). The finale is some of the craziest fun I’ve ever had. And the very last scene in the episode is nothing short of perfect! I hope the Duffers keep it up in the future.
My Top 5 Favorite Episodes:
1. “Chapter Nine: The Gate”
2. “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”
3. “Chapter Five: Dig Dug”
4. “Chapter One: Madmax”
5. “Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak”