Well that escalated quickly! No doubt you've seen references to the Netflix hit Stranger Things all over your social media this past weekend what with season two being released.
I didn't think it would happen but I got through all the episodes in time to share my thoughts (with spoilers obviously) on the second outing for this show! That's worth celebrating!
I feel like there was a moment in time where people thought it was cool to dog the ending of the first season of Stranger Things and dismiss it as just bingeable 80s nostalgia. I didn't ever feel that way. Mostly since most of the stuff being mined for nostalgic effect wasn't a huge part of my childhood. I was all in for the superb casting and interesting character arcs.
Season 2 wasn't any different. I enjoyed watching these kids handle more complex material while the adults brought it all home. In terms of the returning kids, I was happy to see Will actually have different emotions to play this season. I feel like there was a sense that Stranger Things could fall into the Hangover trap of constantly finding ways to sideline their Doug.
Not the case this time around! Of course Mike, Lucas, and Dustin get some new levels to play. However, Will gets a lot to do. You'd expect Will to feel alienated from his peers because, he probably was before last season, but, he's also the weird kid who was "lost" for a week. What's interesting is the fact that he doesn't even feel like her can be himself around his friends and family.
The fact that he actually liked his mom's new boyfriend was a nice touch. Bob, as played by Sean Astin, was so clueless he was able to treat Will as a kid and give him some form of normalcy. I think we can all agree that Noah Schnapp sold the possessed scenes! I was genuinely freaked out by some of his line readings and physical work.
My favourite kid continues to be Lucas. For some obvious reasons like we both have predominantly white friends, a younger sister, and parents in what seems like a loving marriage. We also feel the same way about Winston in Ghostbusters! More importantly, the growth Lucas shows as he decides to pursue a relationship with Max despite all odds was nice to see from a character who was strong in season one but by no means a leader.
Dustin. You broke my heart, bruh! Dustin got a lot to do this season. He made a "friend" out of Dart, almost made an enemy out of Lucas during the whole fight to impress Max, but he also showed a lot of courage and leadership skills. Pairing him with Jean-Ralphio's dad was such a great move!
Especially since Dustin was able to drag Steve out of his funk surrounding Nancy and Steve was able to build up Dustin's confidence. Dustin at the Snow Ball THO! I loved seeming him bounce back from the first rejection, but hated him sitting on those bleachers after the second one. Glad he got to finish the season smiling and hopeful about the future thanks to Nancy.
Mike was understandably sullen throughout most of this season which actually helped cement the difference in my mind between Finn Wolfhard's It character and his Stranger Things character, but also made him a bit of a downer. Mike and Will share a bond in that they both feel more out of place than the rest of the party. Will for the upside down stuff that's going on inside of him, and Mike because he lost a friend and his first crush in Eleven. It all makes sense, but maybe could have done with a quicker reunion between Mike and Eleven so that the real Mike could come back and stop being so mean to Max.
Speaking of Eleven, I loved everything to do with her playing father and daughter with Hopper. That was another great pair up for the season! I also liked that she looked for her mother and found a "sister."
While it does seem to derail the overall momentum of the season, taking that trip to see Roman, was great world building. I did think there was going to be more of a clash and focus on Roman, but that's what the next season can explore I guess. I also noticed Eleven thought she was in a love triangle with Max and Mike. The fact that Mike smiling at Max was the first image she thought of while harnessing anger was a great beat.
Oh Max! The newest addition to the party, this season was MadMax the Californian, who brought her Power Ranger step brother to town. Of the two, I think Max is the character that works the best. She threatens to break apart the party as Dustin and Lucas both try to woo her and Mike tries to shut her out, but she's also the "zoomer" and shows she can take care of business when need be.
There was something charming about Max's character. I liked the way she handled herself in every single situation she was put in. I especially loved her meta moment of commenting on the events of last season after Lucas finally lets her in.
Her brother, Billy kind of felt out of place. I seriously couldn't tell if he didn't want Max to hang out with Lucas because he was black, a nerd, or both. He also didn't factor into enough of the overall story. But we all loved when he jumped off of Mike's mom's romance novel and onto her front door step for that fleeting moment of charm.
Let's talk Barb!
Which is to say let's talk about the Nancy story line. I'm not sure why everyone seems to be mad that a teenager who lost, who we are told is, her best friend would spend most of her screen time thinking about that friend's death and trying to pursue justice for that friend. I get that it was a hashtag... and people retroactively hate things that get a lot of initial love, but that story tracks.
I might have found it annoying, but I can't sit on Twitter or wherever and dedicate time to deriding the creators for exploring a character's guilt over and struggle with losing her friend. I don't think it could have or should have played out any other way. Why would Nancy ever just forget about something like that and move on?
Overall, this season continued to have great performances and genuine surprises. Like Bob not being a bad guy even though he gave Will some horrible advice. Plus it gave me the great Avengers-esque shot of everyone getting ready for battle, including Lucas and his sling shot!
I'm sure there will be people who didn't enjoy this season, but I thought it delivered. However, I'm apparently the only person who liked Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 so I guess that should be taken into consideration.
I anxiously await season three. What about you?