I’ve made no secret of the fact that I loved Stranger Things season 1. In fact, I gave it a massive 9.5/10. I lavished it with praise, calling it an almost flawless love letter to the 80s and movies of the era. My opinion was reciprocated almost universally. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I’m back a year later talking about Stranger Things season 2. The big question is this; would it be able to come close to what had come before it in terms of quality? It certainly wouldn’t be an easy task, let’s see if it delivered.
The second season is set a year later, starting in October 1984. Will had been rescued, but few know of the details of the events. When Will is found to be still influenced by entities from the Upside Down, his friends and family learn there is a larger threat to their universe from the Upside Down.
As with my review of the first season, I won’t go into much detail on what happens episode by episode. That would be long and boring and you’ve probably seen the show. However, if you haven’t then like before I highly recommend you do so.
Stranger Things season 2 continued what the first had started so perfectly. However, I found myself nit-picking at a number of moments this time around. Still, any complaints that I do have are as I just mentioned simply nit-picking. Make no mistake, season 2 is fantastic.
Firstly, I found the overall pacing much slower this time around. At times, it just doesn’t feel like things are progressing as they should be. Far too much of the runtime is focused on a sub-plot involving Nancy & Jonathan. I have two big reasons as to why I didn’t particularly enjoy it. First, I never liked Barb as a character. The main purpose of the sub-plot is for the pair to get justice for Barbara. Now, I understand why they would want to do this. However, it felt like the storyline only existed because of the outcry from fans.
Secondly, Steve is one of my favourite characters. It feels like you’re supposed to be rooting for Nancy and Jonathan to get together but I feel the complete opposite. It makes matters worse when Steve is shown to be an even better guy than I had ever anticipated. Even more surprisingly, Steve has some of the best lines/moments of the entire season to his name. I find it extremely difficult to invest in a romance when I like the person that they are hurting in the process. Nancy is easily the most dislikeable character on the show for the ways she treats Steve. Anyway, I’ll try moving past my love for Steve Harrington.
I really liked how the show used PTSD as a realistic plot device. It makes complete sense that several characters would be suffering from the disorder and it’s executed well. Jim Hopper is absolutely fantastic here and manages to still stay an almost complete mystery regardless of hints about his past. The scenes that he and Eleven share are easily some of my favourites from this season.
Talking of Eleven, she is once again the most compelling aspect of the show. I heavily disliked how much her sacrifice against the Demogorgon was almost entirely ruined. That scene had such emotional impact that it just won’t have now. Still, I cannot deny I’m glad to see her back and being as badass as ever. She has a number of emotionally impactful scenes here, some of which land and some not so much.
Stranger Things season 2 introduces to us some new characters. Max seemed really interesting at first but she fizzled out quickly. She adds absolutely nothing to the group which is a shame. Her brother Billy is a much more interesting character. I look forward to see how things develop with him in the future. Bob Newby played by the ever-loveable Sean Astin was a brilliant addition; he’s such a nice guy! Also, there’s Paul Reiser who played the backstabbing Burke in Aliens!
One thing I cannot fault are the performances across the board. This goes especially for Noah Schnapp who plays Will Byers, he really stepped it up.
What I cannot praise is the CG Demodogs. For such a huge show, I expect much better than what is delivered. It is on display much more than before and it looks really bad at times.
Let me quickly mention episode 7, which has divided opinion amongst fans and I can see why. This episode is a huge deviation from what you have come to expect from the show. Still, the show has to expand. It cannot go on forever in its current format. It’s interesting to have a glimpse at what the future of the show might hold and it is definitely intriguing. However, the episode is so fast paced that it ends up feeling extremely rushed and thrown together. Still, it is highly effective in developing Eleven as a character which is important. Although, tonally it is undeniably the black sheep of the series. Basically, I liked it but found it to be rather over the top at times. Also, some of the characters it introduces are not particularly likeable.
Stranger Things season two has some issues but I only see them as small ones. It is still a seriously great show, one that cannot be missed. There are so many clever Easter eggs, references and homages for all of the 80’s nerds out there. It is dripping in 80’s goodness. The soundtrack is amazing and the characters are wonderful, there’s just nothing else like it. The final episode is as perfect as you could have hoped it would be. Yes, it feels a little underwhelming at times and Eleven isn’t in it as much as I would have liked but it makes up for it in the end. I simply cannot wait to see what comes next.
Stranger Things - Season 2