Recapping Stranger Things 2

Jeff Lembo, Staff Writer

The first season of Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things left newly-obsessed fans on a huge cliffhanger. There were so many questions left to answer, such as the whereabouts of Barb, what happened to fan-favorite Eleven, and how Will would cope after his disappearance into the Upside Down. Season one set the bar extremely high, giving season two much to live up to. The second season passed the test with flying colors, and set us up for an exciting third season of our new favorite kids and their supernatural adventures.

As mentioned before, there was much left up to the imagination at the conclusion of season one. First, Barb. She disappeared into the Upside Down in season one, and wasn’t heard from again. I didn’t particularly like this decision by the writers: I thought she could have been an influential part of the show, especially influencing Nancy’s character development. In season two, any hopes of a comeback are squashed. It’s confirmed that Barb is dead and obviously won’t return. However, this does bring a new character into the fold; Murray Bauman. He is an ex-journalist hired by Barb’s parents to investigate her death. Eventually, he collaborates with Jonathon and Nancy to help bring down Hawkins Laboratory, by showing that the lab was the fault of Barb’s death.

Next, the question of what would happen with Will. At the end of season one, we saw him puke up a scary looking bug, and then have a flashback to the Upside Down. This was the main cliffhanger we were left with. This concept is developed very well in the second season. We see Will struggling internally, continually experiencing episodes and flashbacks. He is haunted by what he saw and went through with the monster in the Upside Down, and eventually, though it is slowly set up, he becomes possessed. The monster he threw up spawns a return of many of these monsters to Hawkins. This sets into action a hugely stressful and exciting conflict to watch play out in the final few episodes, as the whole crew fights to free Will of the dreaded monster.

Finally, the questions that surrounded Eleven’s situation were quickly answered early in the season, when it was dramatically revealed she was living with Hopper. Eleven and Will’s continued intimate connection was also an important part of season two. This was another superb acting performance by Millie Bobbie Brown (as Eleven), and one that truly contributed to the show’s suspense and drama.

There were some things that I feel were done really well in season two. The first of these was the introduction of Mad Max, the new girl in town who at first hated Lucas, Will, Dustin and Mike, but grows to love them and be a part of their team as she learns about the past year’s events in Hawkins. Another thing that was done well was the building of suspense. Sure, the first few episodes were a bit dry and dragged out as the show struggled a bit to connect back to season one. But as the drastic events began to occur, they didn’t stop, and there was rapid action and drama. This eventually led to an epic final episode, where the entire cast of main characters came together to save Will, defeat the monsters, and close the portal to the Upside Down. The final thing I really enjoyed about the second season was that it was quite clear that there was more than one main hero. In season one, it seemed to be Hopper running to the rescue most of the time. This time around, Hopper was still there, but the kids also played pivotal roles in the resolution, as well as Joyce, Bob, and even Steve (who now has emerged as a “big brother” figure for Dustin). It was nice to see a more well-rounded and inclusive plot for all the characters to be involved in action.

On the other hand, I did have some complaints. The first of these was the opening scene, which showed a group of criminals getting away with robbing a bank. After this happens, the camera pans over to the getaway driver, who has a tattoo reading “008” on her wrist, similar to Eleven’s tattoo reading “011”. This was not necessary and a waste of a character and time. This strange woman isn’t even mentioned again until the later part of the season, where she meets up with Eleven in a boring episode that played little part in the rest of the series. Personally, I just wasn’t a fan of Eight’s inclusion.

Another complaint I had was the development of Steve’s character. For example, we saw in season one that Steve was kind of a jerk, but was very loving towards Nancy. In season two, it seemed like the writers couldn’t decide what to do with him, as he struggled in his relationship with Nancy and also had trouble coping with his past traumatic experiences. Eventually, he settled into a role apart from Nancy, where he was a guide and leader for the kids. But it seemed like that could have been developed more subtly, instead of him taking on the role of caretaker just because he met up with Dustin by accident in one episode where the fight against the monsters began.

The season didn’t wrap up with an effective cliffhanger, so season three might be a bit slow at the start, and, finally, the varying episode lengths were also a bit annoying, because you wouldn’t know around when the episode would reach its conclusion and how much they were trying to jam into a single episode. This was irritating when binge-watching, especially at 1 A.M.

Besides these few grievances, I thoroughly enjoyed the second season of Stranger Things. I would highly recommend it, and give it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. If you want more content, check out Beyond Stranger Things, which takes an in-depth behind the scenes look at the cast of the show.