Warm up your Eggos and pop some batteries into your Walkman because it’s back to the 1980s and the town of Hawkins, Indiana for the second season of the acclaimed and award winning sci fi horror Stranger Things. Whew that was a long sentence.
Like most viewers I was blown away by the awesomeness of the first season and was highly anticipating the second. Like Hopper jumped into that tunnel we are going to dive into our review and, in case you missed those huge letters in the title, this is your second SPOILER ALERT. Here is Stranger Things 2 in four easy to chew slices:
#1 Going back to Hawkins
Season 2 picks up about a year after the events of Season 1 when Will Byers was rescued from the alternate dimension called the Upside Down, the evil Demogorgon was destroyed and the psychokinetic Eleven went missing. Will is hanging out with leader Mike, cool Lucas and comedic Dustin but his other schoolmates shun him and call him “Zombie Boy.” Things get stirred up with the arrival of new students Maxine aka Max and her jackass brother Billy.
I thought Max was a cool addition to the group and her romance with Lucas was cute. Our little guys are growing up. Her strained relationship with Billy added depth to the character and Billy gave us a bully that we loved to hate. Mike’s treatment of her was a bit crappy though. Yeah he does not want her to replace Eleven but he acted like a brat which diminished the character. I was hoping he would finally accept her into the party but we will probably have to wait until Season 3 for that if it ever happens.
#2 Shadows and bad dogs
The baddie for this season, and likely the big bad of the entire series, is the Shadow Monster aka The Mind Flayer. I loved his weird spider-octopus design and lack of facial features. Eerie indeed. Sadly, like Sauron in the Lord of the Rings franchise, he is restricted to the background, manipulating Will, affecting the environment and controlling Demodogs. The Duffer Brothers (the show’s creators) are probably saving him for the later seasons but I did feel somewhat cheated that we did not get to fully meet The Mind Flayer in the flesh. All those rotting pumpkins were creepy as heck though.
And speaking of Demodogs they made decent adversaries though not as intimidating and striking as the Demogorgon. The junkyard attack was downright thrilling but the attack on the lab felt somewhat generic. There are some theories that the Demodogs eventually turn into Demogorgons but they seemed fully formed to me and I believe they are a separate but related species.
But you can’t speak about Demogorgons without mention D’Artagnan aka Dart. You knew that little sluggo was going to be trouble from the time we met him but poor Dustin just wanted a pet. The scene where he put on the hockey equipment made me burst out laughing. I did feel a little sad when Dart bought the big one. Just a tinge. I also liked the big brother dynamic between Dustin and Steve.
#3 Where the weird ones are
I’ll just come out and say it – I was not a fan of Will. In a show with such a stellar young cast Noah Schnapp just never gripped me. He was decent enough but he didn’t draw me into the character, which was important seeing that he was so central to the plot. From his haunting to his possession to his “exorcism” I was watching but I was not engaged as I should have been.
On the flip side I thoroughly enjoyed Eleven’s arc this season. The surrogate father/daughter relationship with Hopper was believable, beautiful and one of the best parts of the season. I was drawn in by her search for her mother and the tragic discovery. Even her adventures with her “sister” Kali and her punks made for some good times. Her dramatic reunion with Mike and the gang pulled on ye olde heart strings indeed and I almost cheered. As Eleven Millie Bobby Brown continues to deliver an interesting, intriguing and iconic character. Alliteration people. Works 90 per cent of the time, every time.
#4 Barb and the final battle
Since the end of Season 1 everyone called for justice for Barb and the Duffers delivered in Season 2 with her story getting wrapped up. The vehicle to do that, though, was the Nancy/Jonathan investigation and romance which was okay enough but one of the less interesting plot lines. Brett Gelman’s Murray Bauman was hilarious though and a great addition.
And speaking of additions Sean Astin joined the cast as Joyce Byers’ love interest Bob. This refreshing character was so nice I thought he had to be a government agent or something nefarious. Then there was a throwaway line of his hands being really cold which made me think he was the Shadow Monster incarnate. But no, he was just a really nice guy. And he had a really gruesome death. Now we need #justiceforbob.
The finale featured the aforementioned Will exorcism, the kids and Steve going down in the evil tunnel because we needed them to do something and Hopper – who survived REALLY long in that tunnel with those evil vines – and Eleven going to close the gate to the Upside Down at the lab. And I was hoping to see Eleven mind throw some Demodogs but nope. Her levitating and going all Super Saiyan to close the gate was pretty sweet though.
And speaking of sweet the Snow Ball happy ending was practically dripping with honey but I guess we needed some lightness after all the bleakness. The final scene with the Upside Down flip was a cool effect but seeing the Shadow Monster again and not doing really doing anything lacked the cliffhanger punch they were going for. Maybe he should have destroyed a house and said “Eleven” or something. Anything. But overall I enjoyed the season despite some silly things happening, some characters like Joyce not having much to do and a lack of sweet, sweet Eleven action.
Rating: Stranger Things Season 2 gets 4.25/5 Eggos with extra syrup.
For more Stranger Things you can check out my non-spoiler take on Season 1 here.