Stranger Things Season 2 Review

The second season for “Stranger Things” is a different beast. Physically, as the teasers have implied, and also figuratively. Unfortunately, this second outing’s penchant for a bigger and meaner monster doesn’t equate to it being better. While this outing is still a satisfying watch, it fails to hold up to the first season when putting side-by-side

Set a year after the events of last season, the series centers on the as everyone tries to move on from their experience in dealing with the reality of the Upside Down while still dealing with serious ramifications in their personal lives. Will (Noah Schnapp) is still coming to grips with his time down under and it seems that he is suffering from PTSD-like visions. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are still the same guys from before but Dustin has pearly whites now while Mike is seriously missing Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown).

On the older front, Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and older brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) are trying their best to help will cope with his recovery. Although it’s pretty clear early on that Joyce might need as much help as Will does. Nancy (Cara Buono) and Steve (Joe Keery) are back together, surprisingly while Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) seems to be doing an okay job this time around but soon things start going bat-shit crazy for him - unfortunately.

There is also a new cast of characters that try to mix things up further. There’s Bob (Sean Astin), Joyce’s new boyfriend and a serious contender for dad of the year. The step-siblings Max (Sadie Sink) and Billy (Dacre Montgomery) that have secrets of their own that shake things up for our friends sooner rather than later.

From the first episode to the last, “Stranger Things” is still jam-packed full of references from the 80s that the series is best-known for. It’s a mish-mash of movies, arcade games, Dungeons & Dragons and a whole lot more that will leave fans satisfied in a plethora of ways. The atmosphere is the same case as before. Most of the episodes are still truly horrific and feature wonderful camera work but the increase in the Upside Down scenes and the creatures that inhabit it feel a little bit lacking with shoddy CGI ruining these moments.

Plot-wise, Season 2 was a mixed bag. This is mostly relevant in the new characters introduced to the show. Major or not, these characters were not given enough time to bake themselves into the previous season’s cast. This is most apparent with the character of Max. We get why they are hesitant to include her into the A.V. Club membership but it doesn’t help that her character feels like she’s just there to put some additional tension between team members. Also, her side story with her stepbrother Billy supremely falls flat in the end. Overall, these new characters turn out to be mildly interesting not “totally tubular” as Dustin would have it and it’s totally disappointing as you know they could have been portrayed so much better.

As for overall arc this season, it’s still heavily-concentrates on Will. This time, things do get over-the-top even for our tastes. Crazy explanations, solutions, and workarounds just don’t have that satisfying punch. Things feel rushed at times and if we could describe how we felt in the end, it’s that everything felt muddled and lacking.

In the end, “Stranger Things” Season 2 was a good outing to push forth the plot for another season. There are glimpses on where the franchise will go to next but it is not as compelling as before or was it able to capitalize on its new cast of characters to really shake things up. The feelings of nostalgia, pop, and cultural references are still there and will make you smile from time to time.

Rating: 4 reels

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