Last year, the first season of “Stranger Things” premiered on Netflix. The show was appealing due to its eighties throwback film references, cool visual effects and great soundtrack. Unfortunately, the ending of season one was anticlimactic and made it clear that a second season was forthcoming. I binged season two last weekend, which premiered Oct. 27, and found that it satisfied and exceeded all expectations.
Twelve-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is the lynchpin of both seasons’ plots. We meet his mother, Joyce (spectacularly portrayed by Winona Ryder), his friends, his older brother and the chief of police, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) as they try to figure out the mystery behind his disappearance. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a preteen MK Ultra experiment is also dragged into Will’s story, as she helps Will’s best friend Mike (Finn Wolfhard) find him by entering the Upside Down (a secret dimension) at the end of season one.
Season two deals with Will coping with his return from the Upside Down. One minute, Will is at the arcade with his friends. The next, he finds himself in the Upside Down. These “episodes,” as they are referred to in the season by his doctor, end up being real experiences that fuel the most action-packed episodes of the season.
The other characters are also given extensive character development. Joyce finds love after reuniting with Bob Newby (Sean Astin), a former high school classmate. Astin, known for his role as Mikey in iconic ‘80s adventure flick “The Goonies,” could be considered ‘80s-tastic stunt casting, but he lovingly plays the cheesy Bob.
Eleven and Sheriff Hopper also develop a family relationship, with actors Brown and Harbour exceptionally portraying their past loss and present fulfillment. Eleven faces a new desire to be part of a family, which has her looking for another MK Ultra experiment in Chicago. I enjoyed every single moment and minute of it and await any new “siblings” we might meet in season three.
Stranger Things 2 also gives us delightful early adolescent angst. A love triangle grows between Will’s friends Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and newcomer tomboy, Max (Sadie Sink). It sweetly touches on the moment when we start seeing these kids share romantic moments and provides comic relief with the adorable dorkiness of Matarazzo’s Wookie growl every time he shows off his new “pearly whites.”
Sadie’s arrival also gives us a human villain in the form of her stepbrother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Billy looks like an extra from the set of “The Lost Boys” and thrives on wreaking havoc. While the creatures from “Stranger Things 2” are exciting, the most interesting aspects of the show are the human relationships.
As excellent as the creatures are, the true standouts of this season were Dustin and teenage friend Steve (Joe Keery). Their bromance blossoms as they pair up to lure one of the creatures to an early grave. Steve and Dustin bond over their mutual problems with women. Steve gives Dustin surprisingly endearing lessons on how to attract girls and hair tips, giving Dustin the male role model, he didn’t know he was seeking. Ultimately “Stranger Things 2” was a fun season thanks to the excellent character development, actors and the Upside Down’s seemingly endless monsters. I can hardly wait for season three.
Featured Photo: Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and new character Max join together to survive adolescence and the Upside Down. NETFLIX.