By Jeffrey James
Stranger Things is back! This is not a drill!
After waiting for over a year, the new season of Stranger Things has been released. And while the new installment might not fully live up to the magic the first season created, it is still undeniably fantastic. There will be no sophomore slump! Before this review goes any further, you must know….
The story starts off a little slower than the first season, with the first two episodes acting as table-setters, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are reintroduced to our main cast and discover what they have been up to for the past year. Throughout these episodes, the writers slowly drop plot points that will eventually play a larger role in the narrative; such as the rotting pumpkin patch. Even though the show begins relatively slow, it never feels boring. The writers make it easy for the audience to trust in the story and know there will be strange things coming their way. However, the show soon falls seamlessly into the magical vibe the audience has grown to love. And after the first two episodes, the show slams on the gas and goes full throttle.
In addition to placing the pieces on the board, we are introduced to our new set of characters. Bob (Sean Astin) is the nerdy boyfriend of Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder); Max (Sadie Sink) becomes the newest addition to the boy’s group, attracting the affection of both Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo); Billy (Dacre Montgomery), the step-brother of Max, acts as chain-smoking tough guy; and Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) is responsible for containing certain events and treating Will (Noah Schnaap).
The new actors, for the most part, are a welcome addition to the already remarkable cast. However, the characters go 50/50. Max feels like her sole purpose was to give Lucas a love story equivalent to Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). She doesn’t exactly serve a greater purpose in the narrative. In fact, the story would not change in any way if she wasn’t included. Her brother, Billy, is even more useless. His purpose is to rival Steve (Joe Keery) as the new “King” in high school. He is an obnoxious jerk with no redeeming qualities. At first it seemed like Billy would be the new Steve of this season, but instead of redeeming himself like Steve did in season one, Billy never develops. On a more positive note, the writers created a great character in Bob. Sean Astin brilliantly portrays the lovable, dorky tech role. Initially, Bob came across as the “too good to be true” boyfriend for Joyce that may be hiding a secret, but he wasn’t. And finally, Dr. Owens is a great fit in the cast of characters. He, like Bob, comes across as the typical “scientist that might be hiding a secret and will protect that secret.” But this isn’t the case. In a show already with a bunch of twists and turns, it is refreshing that the writers aren’t trying to deceive the audience with character motives.
One of the best parts of this new season are the unlikely relationships that are created. At the end of the first episode, it is revealed Eleven is alive and well and is actually living in a secluded cabin under the protection of, none other than, Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour). The father-daughter relationship that is created between the two is wonderful and somewhat unexpected. But it is a delight to watch develop as the season goes forward. The next great relationship created is between Steve and Dustin. Steve finds himself going on a wild goose chase with Dustin, and they form a bond that came from left field. But it works! They bicker like brothers and Steve essentially takes Dustin under his wing.
The new season isn’t without a few flaws. The biggest flaw comes in episode 7, “The Lost Sister.” Correction: there isn’t flaws in the episode…..the entire episode is a flaw. Every show has at least one episode that the audience struggles to get through. This is that episode for Stranger Things. It is bad. Not only is it bad, it is extremely unnecessary. The episode focuses entirely on Eleven as she travels out of Hawkins searching for a girl from her past. There is nothing from this episode that has any impact on the story. And what makes it even worse is the fact that it is episode 7 out of 9 episodes. It was misplaced. The last ten minutes of episode 6 was an intense ride that ended with a nice cliffhanger. Unfortunately, the audience is forced to sit through an hour of this waste of time before they find out what happens next. It almost feels as if the writers had no idea of what they wanted Eleven to do that they forced an unwanted story. The final two episodes, however, are some of the series’ finest. They are dark, intense, heartbreaking and emotional. Prepare yourselves for a wild ride.
Before this review comes to an end, there has to be recognition given to the MVP of the season. Season one’s MVP was clearly Sheriff Hopper, as he punched his way into the hearts of the audience. This season, the award easily goes to Steve Harrington. Steve has come along way from his douche days. This season sees him deal with the breakup of Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and has to come to terms she is attracted to Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). But it also deals with him becoming a guardian for the kids. Once he joins Dustin, he acts selflessly on more than one occasion. In the face of danger, he puts himself between the kids and the Demogorgons and vows to protect them in the last episode, creating a very unique story arc.
Overall, this is a great addition to the Stranger Things series. While it isn’t as good as the first, it delivers all the thrills the audience expects and more. The wait for season 3 begins now!
Let us know what you thought of Season 2!