Stranger Things 2 Review
One of the most incredible accomplishments last year, on any platform, was Netflix’s Stranger Things. Set in Indiana in 1983, the story dealt with a group of four junior high students and efforts to deal with the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schapp) after an epic D & D battle. The story dealt with one of the great suspense and thriller genres, combined with some of the most brilliant acting in all of 2016. Even in the year of peak TV, it was by far the most worshipped discovery of that season, winning awards from the Screen Actors Guild and MTV. The only thing that really seemed that could possibly go wrong was, well, what happens to many TV series when they have a breakout first season. They can only suffer in comparison to themselves. Having the seen the first couple of episodes of Stranger Things 2, I can say with relative certainty that the Duffer Brothers have not gone astray.
Its been nearly a year, since Will returned from the Upside Down, but no one in Hawkins is even close to being the same. For starters, Will is still experiencing episodes, which seem to have him feeling stuck ‘between two worlds’. This understandably panics Joyce (Winona Ryder, still astonishing) who is trying her best to raise Will. Unfortunately, in doing so, she seems to be making deals with the devil. The biggest one is the one with the doctors who ran the Upside Down (now led by Paul Reiser — yes, Paul Reiser), who say they want to treat him, but who we’ve seen are far from willing to abandon the work they were doing before. Sheriff Harper (David Harbour, continuing his fine work) tries to be an anchor for Joyce, but there are complications. For one, Joyce has finally started dating, a tech nerd named Bob (Sean Astin, and the ’80s Easter Eggs just keep on coming). For another, there are signs that nothing has returned to normal, now being manifested in what appears to be a dry rot through all the pumpkin patches in Hawkins. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he is taking care of Eggo loving, psychic wonderkind Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown).
If the adults are going through their own post-traumatic stress, so are the kids. The one who seems to be suffering the most is, understandably, Mike, who has never really recovered from Eleven’s disappearance at the climax of last season. He has refused to accept any of the cover story that the government is putting up, and is still sending out radio signals for her every night. Lucas and Dustin seem to be a little better on the surface, but they have a certain level of fascination with an arcade acing, skateboard riding bad girl named Max, and we suspect bad things can come from this. As for Mike’s sister and Will’s brother, they are still undergoing their own shock trying to coverup the death of Barb last season, which no one else, including her own parents, know about.
I have not even begun the dent the surface of all the questions that there still are to be asked just in the first two episodes. Who is Max’s dick of a brother, and why did they come to Hawkins in the first place? What is the creature that Will sees in his episodes? What tie does this have to the opening sequence in Pittsburgh that we saw in the teaser of Episode 1? And what the hell did Dustin find in the trash can in the last second of episode two? I want to find out the mysteries of Stranger Things 2, but they’re only a fraction of why I love the series. First, there’s the way it gets every single nuance of being a child growing up in the 1980s was. It isn’t just all the Reagan/Bush placards or the fact that the Russians are considered the villains or the fact that the four wonderful kids decide to dress up as the Ghostbusters for Halloween. (Or that Eleven channel chases past Susan Lucci) It’s the fact that it gets that ever child of that age wanted to rush down to an arcade and play Dragon’s Lair, and curse the joystick when it screwed you over — as it always did. Its the fact that it gets that its always difficult to be the new kid or the freak in any school, even when you haven’t been the victim of an alien dimension. Its that the Duffer brothers understand love. Not just the teenage love, which is always confusing, but the kind of bizarre, purer love that hits just before puberty.
Now, I grant you, I haven’t seen the later episodes of Stranger Things 2, and I admit that from a purely critical standpoint, there are bound to be some disappointing things as the series progress. But as far as I’m concerned, this is a near perfect show, and I’m glad it was renewed for Season 3. Watch it. And if you have a kid of a certain age, watch it with them. There’s very little to offend them, and a lot for them to rejoice in.
My score: 5 stars.