Stranger Things (Season 2), 2017
Signed up the 28/03/2017
Mild spoilers ahead
Stranger Things 2 has possibly been the most inticipated series this year- in fact, since its exciting premier last year that left everyone hopeful about shows again. Someday soon I might even be brave enough to get into writing a think-piece on how the show has since altered (for the better- way better) the way in which television is both consumed and made since its July, 2016 release.
We've had to wait an entire year and some months for a season 2, and this passed Friday, on the Halloween weekend of 27th October, 2017, we finally got to see what the Netflix wonder had in-store for us next. What we got is nothing less than satisfying. Though showing some cracks and flaws here and there, the show has been so well crafted, developed that it is pretty much hard to hate as a sequel. What I can assure is that the show isn't a one-hit wonder, as the many directors and writers involved in bringing it to our screen evidently worked so tirelessly and seamlessly to offer us the best experience.
I'm going to keep this review as simple enough as possible to accomodate those who are not familiar with the show and want to get into it.
Season 2 kicks off with an introduction to two new characters, one of them being Maxine- Max for short. The 1st episode is titled after her videogame-store alias, "Madmax". She sparks the interest of the original kids, and they begin to stalk her. At first Max seems like she'd play a bigger role in contribution to the main plot, but she just goes on to have been only included as a (well-appreciated) distraction for the kids, and for the die-hard fans since Eleven isn't reunited with the bunch until later on. She's there, she's funny, brave and she stands her ground, and since Eleven couldn't be around the boys most of the season, she was the veil for girl-power for girl-children. Besides the surface stuff, it's not really clear why she'd need a title-episode. Hopefully she serves the plot better in season 3.
For the 1st half of the season it feels like we're playing catch-up, while the show's creators play on our nostalgia and poke at our emotions. The story takes a while to unfold, but once it takes off, it does so exceptionally. It's revealed that Eleven is hiding out in the woods, and is offered care by Hopper. I personally started disliking Hopper's character a lot more due to how he's been treating Eleven as a prisoner and acting like a bordeline psychopath all in the name of protecting her. I guess the writers felt that he needed an edge, and thought having the audience finally notice him as not just a wavering leaf in the distance in this way would actually get him the "he derserves to still be on this show as a regular" points. Well it didn't, he's unbecoming, not cool and a lazy character to get on board with. This became more evident when he was showed up by new character, Bob Newby, who was so well-written that his late arrival felt a lot more needed than we knew.
This season is emotional. Friendships and romantic-relationships are confronted. All the while there's a new big bad monster looming over the town of Hawkins that has to be dealt with. The seeds are planted for the plot, and they're very inventive and exciting, but once its blooming season, some of the plants and flowers don't survive the un-even manure. What I'm saying is, some of the sub-plots were good in theory but fell flat when it was time to deliver. An example of this is when Will is possessed by the monster that is threatening to take over Hawkins; it's called the Thessalhydra. The idea of the possession itself was intense and frightening, but once it was done, we were given room to feel safe and assured that Will is still the Will who was stuck in the Upside Down and conquered. Which is not exciting and just playing it safe (and maybe being lazy). In fact, the Will now and the Will in season 1 aren't much different from one another. He's still isolated from the rest as he was in the 1st season, he's offering nothing more to the development of character, and he's still the same kid prone to be picked out by monsters from other worlds. The only interesting aspect about Will this season is his growing friendship with Mike, which will absolutely pull at your heartstrings. I expected Will to be more frightening and different due to the possesion.
Eleven, also left isolated in a secret cabin deep in the woods, could've been more developed here. The season didn't really need a stand-alone episode for Eleven to be showcased to us as a capable and interesting enough character. The whole arc of her going to find her mother, and eventually going into the city where she meets her "sister" (the girl she was held captive with) was really unnecessary. Or rather the change of location wasn't really appreciated. This is how it could've went: with Hopper being stuck at the hospital after his attack and Eleven being lonely and stuck alone, Eleven could've started having visions of Kali (the sister) due to her now new and more powerful psionic powers. She could've used these improved powers to track Kali down, manipulated her dreams with visions of herself and eventually led her to the cabin- to confront her own loneliness and the need to have family. This would've played out well and helped us understand Eleven more as a character than having to throw the whole season off balance with a new setting just for the sake of development. One of the allures of season 1 was the setting, a small-town which afforded the audience nolstalgia and a well-needed escape into the quite-storm setting. The stand-alone episode (episode 7) snatches us out of our comfort zone. I truly hope that that's not a feeling that lingers into season 3, and that they've experimented enough and took a lesson from this out-of-place, unfortunate episode.
When the action finally kicks in, we're afforded an aesthetically pleasing and well-shot adventure coupled with heartfelt storyline that can get even the synics on board to see the characters through. Will is possessed and poses danger on his friends and family, and everyone else in the town. And everyone else is left with the moral dilemma of either doing away with Will altogether as a host, or risking it all to save him from the monster within him while also killing the monster. Obviously, it all works out well in the end, but there are sacrifices.
Sacrifices in the form characters whom are apparently brought in just for their clocks to run out at the end because, duh, main characters can't be killed. But we want #JusticeForBob. While on the topic of new characters, Madmax's brother Billy (played by Power Rangers' Dacre Montgomery) also doesn't serve the main plot and seems to be just the bad-boy, eye-candy filler. The introduction to new characters, as well as the development for those characters, was one of this season's shortcomings. This took away screentime that could've been used more on more pressing issues like the origins of the demogorgons, how exactly they are tied to the Thessalhydra, and how the Upside Down down truly works. Instead we get only a few explanations by the oh-so-wise Dusty.
From learning that Will has the power of "true sight", to Eleven finally arriving to save the day, everything else in between is good enough to take you on a thrilling ride. We get to only briefly visit the Upside Down, but this time it's different, and it's Hopper in danger. The visuals here are amazing, and the shots of the tunnels the Thessalhydra has dug under Hawkins are so well-drafted that you want to pat show's creators on the back for having such a good eye and being so dedicated.
Overall, this season is as enticing as expected. We get a good dose of everything, and discover new things while falling in love with the well-rounded cast even more. It's exciting to see what the new cast will have on offer in season 3. Dusty is the stand-out character this time around, but everyone seems to get their own time to shine on screen. Lucas is bae'd up with Max. Will and Mike have their bromance going on. Nancy, Steve and Johnathan are still dealing with their love-triangle, while Steve is made more relevant to the storyline by being paired with the kids for the monster-killing spree. The demogorgons are made to feel less of a threat and more like minor infestations compared to thier "leader", which kind of takes away from season 1 a bit, as a demogorgon was the main villain and is now being diluted to a sub-predator. Season 2, besides its cracks, is a thrilling watch and deserves all the waiting we've done.
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