I love STRANGER THINGS. I love the fact that I binged watch all 8 episodes of the first season the day it came out, and discovered it before it got really big. I could explain how I love it a million different ways, but the plain and simple truth is that this series is magic. Magical. Magically perfect. Magically beautiful. Magically acted. It just gives off that aroma that it is something special when you are watching it, because you are completely engrossed is what is happening, and when the episode ends, you just want more. You could watch it for hours, even if it overstays its welcome (which thankfully it doesn’t). And you think I’m just talking about Season 1. Oh no no my friends, I’m talking about all the episodes released thus far. I think Season 2 is on par and in some ways I like it even more than season one, and it made me fall in love with the entire series even more than I already am.
Why? Because it doesn’t have that sophomore slump that we normally associate with television series. Don’t know exactly what a sophomore slump is? Try watching Heroes Season 2, Mr. Robot Season 2, Lost Season 2, The Walking Dead Season 2, etc, etc, etc and you’ll get what I am saying. Not only does Stranger Things Season 2 up the ante, it does so in a way that fixes whatever problems the first season had, without getting too big for its britches a la (Star Wars Episode 1). What exact problems did the first season had? It really only had one, in that it relied wayyyy too much on nostalgia for not only the time period, but copied a lot of film/television/pop culture beats of the 80s. I mean if you didn’t think of E.T. when Eleven was on the bike with Mike escaping from the government, I don’t know where your head was at.
Now, while there is some nostalgia this season, such as the the Pollywog reminding me of Gremlins a little bit, this season doesn’t hit you over the frying pan with it. Stranger Things did something a little strange, it has now become its own thing with homages to things that inspired it instead of completely ripping them off. It also vastly improved on characterization, even though the characterization was one of the reasons why the first season is so magical. Let’s be clear, the child acting in this as a whole is incredible. But that acting can go to waste if you don’t have characters that you come to know and care about. And the characters have to grow. In this season, they very much do. All of them. In fact, if you felt spurned by season one and felt that some of the kids (mostly Mike’s friends) got the short stick when it came to characterization/storytelling, it is completely fixed here.
I don’t know how they did it in 9 episode, but everyone gets their own full rounded, well developed storyline and equal screentime. I can’t believe they juggled all that but they did. You get Caleb and newcomer Max, you get Dustin with his Pollywog, you get Mike and his longing for Eleven and trying to reestablish his friendship with Will, you get Will trying to wrestle with the Upside Down demons still living inside of him. You get Hopper wrestling with secrets (those exact secrets are spoilerific) and you get Joyce with a new love in her life, Bob. And hell, you get Jonathan and Nancy trying to get Justice for Barb! All with equal screen time, it was incredible.
In fact, the only person that you could argue gets the short stick of storytelling this time is shockingly Eleven herself. Even though her journey gets its own episode (#7), most of the time, even though she is onscreen an equal amount just like everyone else, she mostly isn’t doing anything. But thankfully, episode 5 changes all that and even though we don’t get much, I have a feeling it is setting something up even bigger for season 3. Plus, I liked the fact that they didn’t forcefully just shove her into the action. They tried a slower organic way to do it, and even though it takes its time and its a little frustrating, it works. Another character, who plays newcomers Max (a girl) older stepbrother seems to not get much development, there is a big scene near the ends that plants something that could be truly cool yet sinister in season 3, we will see how and if that plays out.
The truly great episodes in this are 6, 8, and 9. The pretty good episodes are 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, with episode 7 being sort of the weakest link. HOWEVER, episode 7, just like Max’s step brother, sets up several seeds that could pay off in a later season, so we’ll just have to see if episode 7 gets more attention and love the farther into the series that we do get. But everything here is magical. I even think Winona Ryder managed to get better this time around. There is this one scene she has with Will that almost had me teary eyed, so again, I say give her a nomination this year please. And give David Harbour and Millie Bobbie Brown another nomination while you are at it. Even though Eleven didn’t really have all that much to do, Brown still knocked it out of the park.
And I loved the way the season uped the ante a little bit without going overboard. Yes, the upside down is back, but it is expanded upon and really is given great context in episodes 6, 8, and 9. And I loved the fact that the CGI in this was so, so, so, so, so much better than Season 1. I guess since their success they got a bigger budget? But yeah, great visuals that actually had a story to go with them.
But yeah, in conclusion, if you loved Stranger Things Season 1, you are more than likely to love Season 2 the same if not more in some areas. It still has its magic, and certainly is not fading at all from what I can see. I love the fact that there are only 8 or 9 episodes each season, keeping everything tight and not bloated at all. Hopefully they continue this trend and not add any more episodes to each order. It might’ve been a strange thing, seeing about 90% of the country binge watch Stranger Things Season 2 this weekend, but if you are part of the 10% that didn’t, or has never even seen a single episode of this series, well, that might actually be stranger.