This is a spoiler free review for Season 2. Elements of season one could be spoiled so those who have not begun Stranger Things should avert their eyes to this review.
It’s been a year since the enigmatic Stranger Things came on the scene and proceeded to blow the socks off most of the TV viewing populace. The intoxicating mix of 80s nostalgia, old-school creature horror, and references to all things Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter was an undeniable hit.
Things pick up again a year later in Hawkins, Indiana. Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas have fallen back into the easy friendship that they possessed before Will’s disappearance and subsequent rescue from the alternate dimension of the Upside Down. As a series of recollections and flashbacks start to hint that this may not just be Will’s imagination running on overdrive, the darkness that hit Hawkins a year before soon begins it’s insidious grip once more.
The players in Hawkins universe have also expanded a little further with the introduction of Sean Astin as Joyce Byers’ new love interest, new town bad boy Billy and his tomboyishly cool step sister Max, and another mystery character that will help flesh out the world of Eleven’s past a little bit further
In the second season of Stranger Things, the series loses the advantage of surprise that it had in the pilot season, where developments and plot arcs take up the challenge of establishing a bridging season between the first season and the rest of the series, now that the creators, The Duffer brothers have alluded to a narrative that will span the course of 5 seasons.
True to form however, the nostalgic references still run rife and roughshod through the series, with season 2 paying homage to fan favourites like Aliens, Gremlins and Can’t Buy Me Love.
This season also has started to lift the curtain on the big bad of the series, a greater antagonist that the previously animalistic and savage Demogorgon of season 1 coming to the fore like an ominous analog of the great eye in Lord of The Rings.. Like season 1, there are parts of Stranger Things that seem two degrees past comfortable on the family viewing scale. And all the returning characters play their parts ever so well, with Winona Ryder given a respite from her shrieking mother routine, Gaten Materazzo wielding even more one liners and comebacks and even previously secondary players like Will and Lucas having more to do and more to flex their acting muscles to.
Without going into the narrative for the season, it can be said that not all viewers are going to enjoy this second instalment more than the first. Some will find the change in character alliances and situations distracting but others will still find value in the series, maybe not for the now but for the future seasons that this current set of episodes will help build.
That said, certain character arcs like the redemption of season 1 jerk Steve into one of the more likable people this time around, Lucas’ younger and completely endearing sister and Joyce’s bumbling and over sweet nice guy boyfriend Bob Newby just might be enough to keep the excitement levels there for the next season when it comes around.