A promotional poster for Stranger Things 2.

Stranger Things 2: A rightside-up review of the upside down

November 14, 2017

As the days become shorter and the nights become longer, you can feel the crisp fall air beginning to cool and see as the trees lose their leaves while you snuggle up on the couch with your favorite blanket and pair of fuzzy socks. It’s finally that time of year, the day that everyone has counting down to with bated breaths, and, so long as you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few months, you should know that I’m not referring to Halloween. That’s right! Season 2 of Stranger Things has finally been released on October 27th, just in time for the spookiest time of the year. We’re back in Hawkins, where things only ever seem to get stranger, as our favorite gang of kids have finally been reunited. Eleven’s disappearance, however, still remains an unsolved mystery. Everything is seemingly back to normal, but with terror awaiting them in the shadows, are they truly free from worry or will they have to save their world from the threat of the upside down once more?

Being a second season to a great show means you have an equally as great legacy to live up to. You either live and rise up beyond your predecessor like the second season of Master of None or fall far behind and live a life of shame and plummeting views like the second season of Heroes. With all of its promise to be even more than the season before it, how does Stranger Things 2 stack up as a sequel to the show that got the whole world craving Eggo’s? There’s only one way to find out.

It’s time for us to don our Ghostbusters costumes and trick-or-treat in the good old town of Hawkins, Indiana and who knows, maybe we’ll make a stopover in the upside down while we’re at it! Be warned though, you might end up with a few spoilers in your pillowcase tonight.

DEMO-SPOILERS AHEAD! WATCH OUT!

Trick: Borderline Home Alone 2 Syndrome

Screencap from Stranger Things 2, Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer.

Like many sequels, it’s hard not to recycle the same content that won everyone’s hearts the first time around. After all, the big goal of continuing from the first installment’s legacy is to find ways to please both old and new fans alike and the practically foolproof method of doing so is pulling the same cards and tricks that wow-ed them before. Unfortunately, it gets old and it gets old quick and to make things even more unfortunate, Stranger Things 2 borderlines pulling these same antics. Once again, season 2 puts Will’s life on the line as he is almost “lost” to his family and friends and once again, he turns to using outlandish means of communication to get his words across to them. To top it all of,  Hawkins is greeted once more with a strange visitor from another dimension. They’re recycled concepts and if it weren’t for the fact that the Duffer Brothers really know how to spice up a dish they’ve already somewhat served to us, people probably wouldn’t be eating it up like they are now. Thankfully, Stranger Things 2 does bring enough new things to the table to keep us wanting more, thanks to the genius minds and writers behind it, and thus narrowly avoids falling victim to the dreaded Home Alone 2 syndrome, if only as close as the close-cut shave on Millie Bobby Brown’s head last season.

Treat: A Leveled-Up Cast

Screencap from Stranger Things 2, Chapter One: MADMAX.

Even the most atrociously written shows can find a way to be heroically saved by an incredibly gifted set of actors. In Stranger Things 2’s case however, they’re blessed to have actors that are equally as, if not more, talented as the writers on it, making the show a bold double-threat against its competition. Season 2 of Stranger Things really let actors like Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) demonstrate the true extent of their talents, which weren’t necessarily showcased as well in the season prior. Actors like David Harbour (Jim Hopper) and Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers) were able to wow us once again, particularly the latter, who struck a chord in many with her emotionally charged performances in the more intense episodes of the new season. Actor Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) also thoroughly impressed fans with his incredibly genuine and heartfelt performance and even the newbies on board, Dacre Montgomery (Billy Mayfield) and Sadie Sink (“Max” Mayfield), were able to seamlessly blend in with the veteran cast and feel like they were a part of the team since day one. The chemistry between the cast members involved in Stranger Things is as clear as day, making for both an engaging binge-watching experience and a beloved team of actors and actresses who have managed to both amaze and win the hearts of both longtime and fresh-faced viewers alike.

Trick: 80’s “Appropriation”

Screencap from Stranger Things 2, Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak.

If there’s one thing Stranger Things will never let you forget, it’s the fact that it’s set in the 80’s. From the pop culture references to the clearly-80’s fashion fads of plaid and mom jeans, Stranger Things never passes up on the opportunity to make it painstakingly obvious that it’s an “80’s show.” Even with all of that, though, Stranger Things 2 never truly feels like it encapsulates the 80’s, but rather the 80’s interpreted solely through popular media of the time period. If anything, less-than-adventurous choice in 80’s music, akin to that of something you’d find in a time travel film trying to blatantly tell you that the characters have arrived in the 80’s or Spotify’s tops picks for a “Bring Me Back to the 80’s” playlist, gives it an almost lackluster and close minded “80’s tribute brought to you by a bitter millennial who romanticizes and wishes they were born in the 80’s” sort of vibe. Their obvious use of references make for a sometimes enervating, rather than inspiring, game of “spot the pop culture touchstone” solely because of how blatant and in-your-face they are. Somehow though, that manages to be act as the charm and appeal of the show rather than a complete downfall, filling countless fans alike with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for an iconic era that has come and gone.

Treat: A Revamped Harrington

Screencap from Stranger Things 2, Chapter Six: The Spy.

Besides being the king of my heart, it’s safe to say that Steve Harrington is also the official king of best character development arc in all of television history. From the jerkwad pretty boy to the neighborhood’s new favorite babysitter, Steve Harrington pulls a complete personality flip in the new season, making for some of the sweetest interaction between himself and the main gang of kiddos, most particularly Dustin Henderson, which led to the formation of the unlikely power duo that won the hearts of countless viewers. Seeing his development in character and bond with Dustin Henderson grow over the course of the season was incredibly heartwarming and it’s easy to see why he’s climbed the list of fan favorites by the conclusion of the series. Props to Joe Keery for bringing life to one of the best written characters in the series!

Trick: #JusticeforBobNewby

Screencap from Stranger Things 2, Chapter Six: The Spy.

If you thought Barb had it rough last season, devastated will be an understatement for how you’ll feel about saying goodbye to Bob this season. Death for the sake of adding shock value to a plot line is one thing, but a cheap death thrown in to simply torture the viewers is a completely different story. While I do understand that Bob’s death was an essential part of this season’s plot line, having his death occur seconds after narrowly escaping it before makes his death feel in vain and solely to make the show and the Duffer Brothers look that much more edgier for killing a character so mercilessly– not the kind of death the true hero of season 2 deserves. If anything, it felt like he was killed off last second because the Duffer Brothers remembered that they wanted to finally pair off Joyce and Hopper in the third season, which is honestly even more heartbreaking. While it is touching to know that his gruesome death was designed as a tribute to classic monster films like Jaws and Jurassic Park, let’s be real, Bob the Brain was definitely smart enough to outwit such an unsportsmanlike-death. RIP Bob Newby. You deserved so much better than what you got, but your untimely death and selflessness to the very end undoubtedly makes you the hero of our hearts ’till the end of time. 

The King-Sized Candy Bar: The Entire Season Finale

Screencap from Strangers Things 2, Chapter Nine: The Gate.

If there’s an episode that truly outshined all of the others this season, episode 9 did it gracefully, majestically, and without question. The best way to describe it would probably be a true work of  filmographic art. From the intense pacing to the perfect wrap-up, not a single flaw could be found in episode 9 under my radar. Though easily overwhelming if done incorrectly, episode 9 managed to master and execute the art of cut-aways to truly capture the intensity of the season’s climax. There’s just something about cutting to three near death situations back to back that makes you feel some kind of way. The cherry on top of the sundae was undoubtedly the conclusion though, which acted as the perfect wind-down from a rollercoaster of a season: Snow Ball, Hawkin’s long-awaited middle school dance, in which everyone, to some extent, got their own happy ending. If I had to award a crown to the pair with the happiest and most satisfying ending of them all, however, it’d go to Mike and Eleven hands down. Just watching the look of genuine love in Mike’s eyes after he sees Eleven all dolled up is enough to make your even the iciest of hearts melt and seeing them finally share that special dance Eleven promised him before being apart for 353 fills you with a sense of relief and satisfaction like no other. Plus, that final kiss was undoubtedly the cutest thing 2017 has and will ever see for the remainder of the year and that’s a fact just about anyone and their mom can agree with. That in conjunction with The Police’s hit song Every Breath You Take ominously playing in the background as the scene flips to the Mind Flayer overlooking Snow Ball made for an ending that unnerved us just as much as it warmed our hearts just seconds before. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to conclude a perfect episode. 

DEMO-SPOILERS DEFEATED! CONTINUE TO SAFETY!

The Final Verdict: A Full Pillow Case of All Your Favorite Candies– The Halloween Jackpot. [9/10]

Even with its incredibly minor shortcomings, Stranger Things 2 effortlessly manages to outshine the season before it with finesse and flair and knock it clean out of the water. Packing an even bigger punch that Steve Harrington’s nail-studded baseball bat, Stranger Things 2 definitely keeps its promise of bigger and even better things, from its even further upgraded storyline and crew all the way down to its even more beautiful and thrilling cinematography. Old and new fans rejoice and get that pack of Eggo’s out of the freezer because this season definitely isn’t one to miss!

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