Review: Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)

Stranger Things 2
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Unless you’ve been living in The Upside Down, you’ll have noticed that a little Sci-Fi Horror show called Stranger Things has returned to Netflix with its second series. With a bigger budget, an extra episode and new characters this was always set to be a bigger season than it’s 2016 debut! Time to dig in deeper with my thoughts on Stranger Things 2!

Spoiler Alert

Plot Summary

After seeing Will being rescued from The Upside Down and then coughing up some weird monster slug in the Season one cliffhanger, we rejoin our youngsters a year later in the autumn of 1984.

While much of what has happened the year before has been covered up, our main characters are still trying to get back to normal after Season 1, however not all is as it seems. Will once again encounters trouble and becomes infected by a monster from The Upside Down.

Hopper, Joyce and Mike fight to make Will better whilst Dustin, Lucas and newbie, Max are embroiled in a love triangle (involving a baby Demogorgon!). We also see Nancy and Jonathon team up to try and bring justice for Barb and reveal the truth behind Hawkins Lab to the public.

While all this is going on in the open, Eleven, who has been cared for by Hopper, is coming to terms with her powers and has a journey of her own to find out the truth behind her origin.

The Cast

While much of the cast has remained the same for our returning characters, we have five notable new characters joining this season.

Season 2 New Cast

  • Sadie Sink as Maxine “Max” Mayfield A.K.A “Madmax” – Max plays the new love interest for Dustin and Lucas, along with being the newest member of our youngster’s gang.
  • Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove – Billy is Max’s step-brother and brought in specifically to be a human antagonist to our main cast.
  • Sean Astin as Bob Newby – Bob is a schoolmate of Joyce and Hopper and is dating Joyce at the start of the series, becoming essential in working out how to help Will.
  • Linnea Berthelsen as Kali A.K.A. ‘Eight’ – Kali is Eleven’s ‘sister’ who was also experimented on at Hawkins Lab. She’s able to manipulate peoples minds to see what she wants them to.
  • Paul Reiser as Sam Owens – Sam is sent in to replace Brenner at Hawkins lab and continue research into The Upside Down, however, he’s a lot more compassionate to our main cast than Brenner ever was.

The Monsters

Shadow MonsterThe writers for the show, The Duffer Brothers, have always likened the Demogorgon from Season One to the shark from Jaws. While it was threatening, it wasn’t really sinister, so they wanted to add that aspect to Season Two. This is where the Shadow Monster was created.

The Shadow Monster, as the boys refer to it, is a large looming creature in The Upside Down that has a hive mind with all the other monsters as well as anyone it has infected; In this case, Will. The boys then compare this to the Mind Flayer from Dungeons and Dragons.

DemodogOn top of this, what could be scarier than the Demogorgon from Season One? How about, multiple Demogorgon, only in their younger, more energetic form. Dustin dubs these as Demodogs, because they look like a mix of dogs and a Demogorgon, duh!

Dustin just so happens to find one in it’s younger form towards the start of the series and his curiosity get’s the better of him as he nurtures it to it’s larger form, with his cat mews getting eaten in the process. Luckily, the bond he forms with ‘Dart’ may just be the reason he’s still alive at the end of the series after Dart lets them go without attacking them in the finale.

My Thoughts

Stranger Things came back bigger and better than season one, although, with an extra $2million per episode in their budget, that’s hardly surprising!

While there have been grumbles from some of the older audience that this isn’t what the 80’s was really like (apparently, they didn’t really have mind-controlling aliens!), I feel it hit’s the nostalgia factor right on the head. With a show like this, it doesn’t need to go for accuracy, but more of a romanticised feeling that will take you back to the period at hand. By combining the dodgy outfits and hair, alongside a synth-heavy soundtrack, The Duffer Brothers have nailed it.

Illinois PunksOne part of this Season that I wasn’t too keen on and apparently divided fans across the globe, was Eleven’s sub-plot from episode 7. While I can fully appreciate that this was used to drive Eleven’s story arc forward and help her learn how to embrace and harness her powers, I feel it’s location was so far from Hawkins that it just didn’t fit in. If this story arc had been brought closer to home then maybe it would’ve worked better, however big city life just doesn’t feel like Stranger Things.

Overall though, I feel like this was a strong addition to the Stranger Things mythology and a fantastic follow-up to the original season. I was a bit disappointed that chirpy and friendly Bob died after all the effort that he put into solving the puzzle of Wills drawings as well as getting them all out of Hawkins Lab once the Demodogs attacked. I feel like Sean Astin would’ve made a strong addition to the cast for Season 3. However, the silver lining of his death is that this now opens the way for a Hopper/Joyce union to come in the future.

Dustin and SteveOn the flip side of that, I loved that the characters were mixed up from the Adult/Teen/Youngsters split in season one. for me, Dustin and Steve stole the show and if they were to get a monster-fighting spin-off series, I certainly wouldn’t complain.

Max has also integrated herself into our core group with great ease and is now classed as one of the gang. It’ll be good to see how this changes the dynamic of the group, especially with her love interest with Lucas.

Where now?

As Season two comes to a close, we’re at the Snow Ball at Hawkins High and the classic song “Every Step You Take” by The Police is being played in the background with the infamous lyrics:

Every breath you take, Every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take,
I’ll be watching you

As the camera pans out, the school starts to rotate and we see its counterpart in The Upside Down with The Shadow Monster looming over the school. I can’t think of any stronger imagery than this to let us know that The Shadow Monster will be back in future seasons. The question is, who will he be after this time?

After seeing Hopper and Dustin both get sprayed by monster spores in the tunnels, my money would be on them, however, it also wouldn’t surprise if The Shadow Monster has it’s eye on Eleven now that it’s fully aware of her presence and strength.

As far as timing goes, with our cast now being in understandably high demand and already signed on to some big projects (David Harbour in Hellboy, Millie Bobby Brown in Godzilla, Charlie Heaton in The New Mutants) I wouldn’t expect to see this until 2019, most likely in the autumn again.

So what did you guys this of this season? Let me know what you thought in the comments below or come chat with me via @8dayssooner on Twitter.

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Mike x

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