Spoilers Abound in the BGN Upside Down!
After months of teasing fans with trailers of its new season, Stranger Things returned to Netflix with nine fantastic episodes. With its Goonies-like appeal, cryptic monsters, and ability to seamlessly combine supernatural happenings with 1980s pop culture, Season 2 proved to be binge-worthy. Nine hours of nostalgia and monsters? No problem.
The 1980s nostalgia of the show is exactly why fans loved the first season of Stranger Things. With its Spielberg inspired drama and setting (small town, regular kids, extraordinary circumstances), the show captured the hearts of Netflix subscribers everywhere and instantly became a cult classic.
While the Duffer Brothers filmed the new season, fans consumed every Stranger Things tidbit they could find. Glossy posters inspired think pieces, flashy trailers were released, and fans listened to 80’s inspired Spotify playlists to satiate themselves. Some fans, like myself, were worried that Season 2 wouldn’t live up to the hype and questioned whether the magic that is Season 1 would continue into the new season. Thankfully, the new season was worth the wait.
The Duffer Brothers maintain the series’ nostalgia, do a bit of character development, and continue to experiment with horror elements of the show in a concise and clever manner. That’s not to say that the new season is without flaws. There are redundancies and minor plot holes, but nothing that tarnishes Stranger Things‘ story arc.
Season 2 picks up with everyone adjusting to Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) disappearance and Will’s (Noah Schnapp) return to his family. While Will struggles to shake off the effects of the Upside Down, his buddies, Dustin, Luke, and Mike, prepare for Halloween with sweet Ghostbuster’s costumes and video games. With the Upside Down and the Demogorgon presumably behind them, the gang of pre-teens attempt to go about business as usual. They crush on the new girl in town (Mad Max, played by Sadie Sink), play arcade games, and trick or treat. Problem is, things aren’t the business as usual — Will still isn’t the same, which is made evident by his frequent seizure like visits to the Upside Down.
Season 2’s characters and plot points stayed true to the original season. Joyce (Winona Ryder), Will’s mom, does her usual fretting this season except now she has a boyfriend (Bob) who is brilliantly played by Sean Astin as a 1980’s version of Samwise Gamgee. The new high school bully is Billy, an obnoxious teen played by Dacre Montgomery. Will (Noah Schnapp) is still pursued by creatures from the Upside Down, while Nancy (Natalia Dyer) continues with her boyfriend problems.
While some characters remained largely unchanged this season, others were gifted with much-needed character development. Take Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) for instance. Last season we knew nothing about his family and many people (not me) found him abrasive. This season, we discover that he does have a family complete with a sassy little sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson). Erica doesn’t have much screen time, but she totally steals the show. She is sassy, smart, and has the propensity to steal her brother’s He-Man figurines. Erica is the first young black girl on the show, and as a fan of the genre, it was nice to have some representation reflected in the series.
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) is another character that got a lot of development this season. While Mike, Lucas, and Max try and figure out what’s going on with Will, Dustin befriends an Upside Down slug and hides it in his pet turtle’s terrarium. No longer the peacemaker of the group, Dustin takes on the role of a goofy and angsty pre-teen, desperate for the attention of Max. In fact, it’s his desire to impress Max that allows for the introduction of the season’s newest baddie: Demogorgon canines or demodogs. As the name implies, demodogs are nasty critters and serve as one of the main threats to our heroes. Fortunately for Dustin and the gang, one of Hawkins’ residents knows just how to handle the beasts. Thank goodness for Steve and his baby Negan bat!
Everyone hated Steve (Joe Keery) last season, but this season he is something else. Try an ultimate babysitter, Farrah Faucett hair rocking, baseball bat wielding badass! Yeah, he’s all of that and spends most of the season helping Dustin with his demodog problems. The transformation of Steve from bully to hero was surprising and contrasted nicely with the whole Nancy and Jonathan narrative. While we were all meant to sympathize with Jonathan (Will’s socially awkward older brother) and Nancy last season, this season they came off as trite and pedestrian. In fact, their contribution to the over-arching story was to hook up and help the town’s conspiracy theorist uncover Hawkin’s Laboratory experiments.
While the Upside Down threatens to destroy Hawkins, Indiana, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is largely absent from the town. Hiding out in Hopper’s family’s cabin, Eleven is just as isolated as she was in the lab. It sucks for her and she lets Hopper know this on more than one occasion — with lots of psychic tantrums. Eleven pines over Mike a lot, does some weird television juju, and eventually leaves the safety of the cabin. This is when we learn about Eleven’s mother and a young girl named Kali. While not much is revealed about her mother, besides the fact that she was tortured by Hawkin’s Lab, the real reveal is the existence of Kali — a young girl with special powers like Eleven. Kali, played by Linnea Berthelsen, was one of Hawkins Labs’ subjects and has the power of visual suggestion. While Kali was an interesting addition to the series, it would have been nice if her character was fleshed out more. She deserved more than an episode and a teaser scene. Hopefully, Kali — and her gang — will make an appearance next season.
Unlike last season where Eleven exudes a level of confidence and understanding of the supernatural, this season’s Eleven is rebellious and as Hopper describes her, “a real brat.” I suppose this was done to humanize Eleven, but it ended up comprising her independence and unique view of the world and left the character looking petty (her interactions with Max for example).
The Upside Down this season remains largely unchanged. It still has that weird pollen stuff flying around everywhere and still boasts creepy and weird creatures. The big bad monster this season is highly intelligent and has some powers on par with that of a virus. While not much is explained in terms of its motivations and why it’s making its appearance now, anything to do with the Upside Down is fun to watch.
While Season 2 of Stranger Things fails to surpass the awesomeness of Season 1, it’s still great. While there were some flaws and lack of character development for some of its characters (Eleven could have done soooo much more), this season did not disappoint. I can’t wait for Season 3.
Stranger Things is available to stream on Netflix.