Unlike the first season of Stranger Things, I was able to watch 2 Stranger 2 Things without the Interwuzzle spoiling everything for me! (I did so instead of catching up on Inhumans because I was the real monster all along!) So now I’ll spoil it for you! But odds are you also spent the weekend binging it. I guess this will still be around if you’d prefer to finish it & return, too.
Much like Aliens, it turns out Stranger Things (season) 2 is at least as good as the first if not better. This, GLOW, & The Americans are the pinnacles of the 1980’s nostalgia TV wave. I’m not sure what the worst 80’s nostalgia trips are (or am I?), but I’m glad the Duffer Brothers are getting it right. (If you don’t want to visit the past, I recommend Sense8 & Black Mirror.) The writing remains sharp, the cast has chemistry, the pacing glides along, & the production values are on point. It features the right degrees of character development & stakes raising. I’m glad my limited time Netflix subscription didn’t abruptly cut out mid-episode.
Stranger Things 2 does a good job splitting up the assorted characters into smaller subplots to give them some breathing room. Eleven spends a big chunk discovering her secret origin so as not to instantly avert catastrophe with her vast psychokinetic powers. Nancy (played by Lyndsy Fonseca’s clone, Natalia Dyer) finally gets justice for Barb! Having Jean Ralphio’s illegitimate father, Steve, spend time with the younglings confirms that he’s reformed. Lucas & Mike reverse polarities on whether new girls are icky & have a great conversation about Ghostbusters. Dustin has grown in his front teeth & makes dubious pet care choices. Ironically Will Byers, who was lost last season, doesn’t get much expanded characterization since he’s soon possessed by the Shadow
Joyce Byers remains best mom. Sheriff Hopper gets to be Eleven’s paranoid step-papa because the Eggo trap he left in the woods paid off! (Turns out it’s super easy to leave the Upside Down if you’re psychic enough to tear it open in the first place.) Although they would’ve been deleted scenes in a less whimsical series, I liked meeting the other kids’ families. Dustin calling Mike’s & Nancy’s parents useless was perfect.
Rookie (Mad)Max goes meta on season one. She makes a strong case for adding zoomer as a D&D class. The way Billy talked to her, I expected Max was tragically responsible for their family having to leave California. Nope! It just turns out he’s a garden variety abusive racist stepbrother. He’s all of Steve’s caddish qualities distilled & amped up to 11.
Dr. Owens is so avuncular that everything he says sounds sinister. It’s a shocker that he actually is sincere in helping! Nerdy Bob Newby (it’s a pun) had to die for giving Will bad advice that got him possessed. His useful font of incredibly specific knowledge does not extend to self preservation. His sacrifice also appeases the Joyce/Hopper shippers.
The threat from The Upside Down is even more eldritch than before. Its vines burrowing underneath the town like a metastasizing cancer is very effective large scale horror. The Demodogs remind me of Resident Evil’s Lickers with Ivy heads (aside from the period appropriate Gremlins & Aliens homages) while the Shadow Monster evoked a Great Old One. The series manages the tricky feat of keeping them dangerous despite the low body count of named characters without it being a cop out. (RIP Mews!)
Expanding the story beyond Hawkins was keen. Kali is a cool big sister to Eleven who gives bitchin’ makeovers. (If she’s the Mastemind to her Jean Grey, is this Eleven’s Black Queen phase?) Hopefully she gets more involved next season. If the remaining nine experimentees are still alive with assorted powers, they could form their own X-Men. I am much less enthused by the suggestion that Dr. Bremmer could be inexplicably not Demogorgon chow.
The climax is as thrilling & satisfying as The Defenders’ should’ve been! Cutting between the tunnels, Will’s heat exorcism, & the red-tinted lab sub-basement made for an exciting three-pronged battle. You know it’s off the chain when Eleven bleeds from both nostrils!
Not only does Stranger Things 2 tell a complete story, it also feels like it could be the conclusion of the series. Eleven finally seals the rift to The Upside Down that she’d inadvertently opened. Most of the characters get happy endings for the time being. (Becoming a better person did not win Steve any karmic favors.) Of course it’s been renewed for two more seasons, so I suppose that’ll be the real test of the series. In the meantime kudos to Stranger Things on its stellar sequel season!
FLAMING SQUIRREL TO THE FACE!!!
I attended io9’s & The A.V. Club’s Return To The Upside Down party. It was an 80’s costume party, but the only 80’s clothes that still fit me are a Members’ Only jacket & choice of vintage TMNT or Real Ghostbusters caps. Not wishing to fail this short notice San Junipero with a non-cohesive costume, I ended up going as 1981’s “Days Of Future Past” Wolverine. A whole two people recognized me! That’s what happens when the most iconic aspects of the source material don’t get translated to the movie adaptation’s theatrical cut! (Eventually I ought to write a full post about my disappointments with that film.) I was coincidentally queued up next to someone whose Wolverine costume was just sticking chopsticks into medical hand braces, but I didn’t attempt any claws because I didn’t feel like being arrested that evening. Thanks to greenscreen magic, it looks like I can ride a bike!
There wasn’t as much 80’s music as I expected, but the hors d’oeuvres & open bar hit the spot.
I will be attending Thor: Ragnarok on Donnerstag! Maybe you’ll receive two posts this week?