Rating 5/5: After a fantastic first season, Stranger Things season 2 may not have only stayed on the same level but may have exceeded the first season. That’s no small thing to say. Talk about taking a small story and making it bigger within the rules of its own universe. That not easy. The Wachowskis tried to do it with Matrix and only ending up with a mish-mash of a storyline that basically gave a finger to the story everyone liked. Stranger Things Season 2 is not a show that meanders on its previous fame or is stuck in telling the same exact story being told the same exact way. (See Heroes, kids.) It builds off what came before, show serious character growth without taking away from what we know and loved about the character in the previous year. It works hard to stay away from the one-dimensional character and makes relationships happen naturally rather than being forced. This in no way means there aren’t some problems – most of them are nitpicks because I’m a geek and you can’t be a geek in this age without an endless supply of ready-made nitpicks. I’m going to say empathically that I completely enjoyed Stranger Things Season 2 before I dig deeper into plot, character and all the stuff we so-called “pop culture” reviewers like to go through. I have to put all that book learning I’ve done to some use, after all. Stranger Things Season 2 is a great Halloween story told in nine episodes to make those who bitch about “too many episodes” happy with a great building on it’s established the world. The best part of this new threat is it’s never exactly explained, and what you learn is pretty damn chilling.
Stranger Things Season 2: The Terminator
When you have a runaway hit like the first season of Stranger Things you either have to find a way to make what you already have just as, if not more, interesting or you have to get bigger. Japanese franchises tend to go that way, starting with a small story, making it get bigger and ending with something huge and dangerous. Stranger Things Season 2 goes bigger in every way. When I review the first season of Stranger Things I said that the real monster was Mathew Modine as Dr. Brenner. The premise is that due to psychic experimentation the evil science building opened a portal to another dimension accidentally letting loose a creature from that dimension. This time the monster is something else from that dimension. Something really big with an alien intelligence and trying to reach our world to take over. The rule of any monster movie or series franchise is you start with one monster then in the second movie, you introduce the army. This new creature got itself an army of Demogorgon’s this time and when things go from bad to bug-nuts crazy they are used just as effectively as the one monster was used in the previous episode.
Stranger Things: The Woman in Red
It’s one year later and Will Byers is still suffering from the effects of what happened to him last season. Will keep having episodes where it seems he’s back in the Upside-Down and in it, there’s a Godzilla size shape trying to get to him. Mama Byers is having a romance with Sean Aston and Sheriff Hopper is hiding El to keep her safe from the new scientists at the Dept. of Energy facility and the boys have to deal with a new member named Max (aka Mad Max). Paul Riser plays Dr. Owens who has more dimensions to him then the evil with a capital “E” Dr. Brenner played by Mathew Modine. Sadie Sink does a great job as the new character in the group who eventually has to have what’s going on explained. El’s story gets expanded in interesting ways I hope they revisit next episode. And Nancy is still driven by finding some kind of justice for Barb. The Duffer Brothers topped themselves with Stranger Things Season 2. The story was bigger, the scares were earned and the tense creepy gets jacked up to eleven (pun intended.)
Stranger Things: Dressed to Kill
One of the bright spots of Stranger Things Season 2 is El’s expanded story. They got rid of the Colonial Marine buzz cut for a short crop of curls and as a consequence of the story gets a badass makeover. I totally understand they didn’t use Cherry Bomb – it’s been overused at this point – but the temptation must have been there. I’m hoping Stranger Things expands upon her origins in Season Three because the things she learns about her past has a lot of story possibilities. There are questions. For instance use of the powers in Stranger Things Season 2 is always followed with nosebleeds. That can’t be harmless. Also, does it grow as she grows? If she’s around 14 now, what happens when she’s 18 or 25? El is number 11, where’s one through 10, and are there twelve through, let’s say 30? I’m hoping the showrunners do the smart thing and follow the kids as they grow up. I can see the problem will be balancing future threats with the limitation of the power and sooner or later many shows paint themselves into a corner because of this. I suppose it depends on how long the creators intend for Stranger Things to go on.
Stranger Things: Ghostbusters
It’s very significant that they had the boys wear Ghostbusters gear in the Halloween episode of Stranger Things Season 2. The core four are obviously being set up to become Supernatural, or a slightly more serious version of the Scooby Do Gang. I’m rooting for the former. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp) are great characters. They are not annoying, have the kind of conflict and problems you remember from that age, the parents are not written entirely clueless like a lot of these kinds of stories, and how they battle danger in Stranger Things Season 2 is plausible and does not go outside the internal logic. And since the ending made it clear that the horror they had to face is still there and ready to give things another try, it will be exciting to see what they have planned for Season 3. And yes, there will be a Season 3. When you watch this you’ll understand why.
Stranger Things: Sudden Impact
Stranger Things Season 1 hit the pop culture consciousness like a hurricane. It was obviously lightening in a bottle and you had to wonder if the Duffer Brother could do it again. The answer to that question is “HELL YES.” Stranger Things Season 2 was fun, scary and kept with the tradition of trying to keep away from the usual one-note type of characters. That was one of the strongest things in Stranger Things season 1 and it’s just as true in Stranger Things Season 2. As far as I’m concerned Stranger Things season 2 is slightly better than season one but that’s like yesterdays excellent dinner was only a little better than the day before’s. It’s a great watch and one you as a horror, media or nostalgia fan needs to be binging yesterday.