Stranger Things 2 review


Happy Halloween! I’m officially done with my Masters y’all! I wrote my dissertation on low budget horror movies. It feels only right that I’d come back with a review of Stranger Things 2.

When we last left our heroes, the boys had reunited with their lost friend Will and Eleven sacrificed herself to the demogorgon to save everyone. Nancy got back with Steve. Barb was dead.

The show picks up a year later in 1984. Things have more or less returned to normal, aside from Will’s (Noah Schnapp) visions of a giant monster attacking little Hawkins, Indiana. Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) are duking it out over the new girl, Max (Sadie Sink), whose main character trait is that she’s a tomboy. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is still mourning his lost love, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Oh, and Joyce (Winona Crazy Eyes Ryder) has a dorky new boyfriend, played by The Goonies’ Sean Astin.

Things begin to go awry as Will’s episodes get worse. Are they visions of things to come or just symptoms of PTSD? Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), who she friendzoned last season, team up again to investigate Barb’s death. Mike tries communicating with Eleven over the radio. And Dustin gets a creepy new pet.

Stranger Things 2 is a step up from the first, which was a surprise hit (judging purely from word-of-mouth, since Netflix doesn’t release any of its data). I killed the whole thing in one go. In a way, it works better if you think of it as a long movie because it takes a couple episodes to really build. Once it gets going, though, there’s a satisfying climax.

Once again, Stranger Things’ greatest strength is its younger characters, whose chemistry is so genuine it feels unscripted. I won’t reveal too much, but I will say Eleven’s arc is the most compelling. Unfortunately, there’s not much to Max, who feels more like a plot device for Dustin and Lucas to fight over. There’s a meta bit where she becomes a mouthpiece for all the critics of the show, calling the demogorgon mythology “a little derivative in parts.” Other than that, it’s disappointing, coming from a show that has created other multifaceted female characters.

Earlier in the season, there’s a scene where Mike is arguing with Lucas, the token black friend (and possibly the only black person in this goddamn town), over Ghostbusters costumes. Mike basically tells him he should’ve dressed up as the token black Ghostbuster. Ha, ha, ha, but seriously WHAT THE F-CK?

I love the cast, but would it have been so hard to add more people of color this season? Or even different sexualities? 13 Reasons Why, though not a perfect show, is that much richer because of its diversity. It’s worth noting that the seventh episode of Stranger Things 2, the strongest of the season, is the only one directed by a woman, Rebecca Thomas.

I adore this show, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next season. I’m guessing they’ll move on to a new monster. The show runners, the Duffer brothers, have hinted at doing a time jump because the younger cast is growing so fast. So kind of like Mad Men, then. The 90s would be fun. But I’d prefer to stay in the 80s a little longer.

Header image credit: Netflix

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