There aren’t many TV shows quite like Stranger Things. I could probably count with one hand the amount of shows with as much binge-a-bility, yep that’s a new word around here. We are in a the golden age of television with multiple Netflix original series spreading their vines amongst the calendar year, no pun intended.
What I will share with you now is the sequel to my Stranger Things review of last year And what exactly do I have to say? A lot because Season 2 is just as good if not slightly better than the first. There may be spoilers ahead but not many.
So what makes Stranger Things the stand out series of 2017?
The Phenomenal mostly young Cast
Season 1 worked with a particular format and as a stand alone holds up pretty well. But sequels are a fantastic opportunity to expand upon the wealth of wonderful characters, with a cast that matches or even surpasses the likes of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Probably the best thing in stranger things is the cast, but this time around I found very few things wrong with the show at all.
Long gone is the over done; over the top emotion of Winona Ryder. We see her in a more developed role with a concern for her no longer missing son/ partial newcomer Will Byers Will (Noah Schnapp). For a character who had a handful of scenes last time around he certainly changed the dynamic of ST2 making it different for the better.
Will Byers takes center stage again in all things plot but this time he is present. He becomes one of the top priorities in a rich multi plot narrative driven by the huge range of characters. From the very beginning we are teased by him that something is coming and his time in the upside down had an effect.
David Harbour as Jim Hopper takes the deserved lead. We see his character explore further into himself and the effects of the upside down world that seems to slowly present itself into the real world. There aren’t many television characters as third dimensional as the conflicted but real Hopper with his cigarette smoking, wheel spinning tough love approach to life. All he wants to do is protect his town and not let the past haunt him.
Gone are the spook type secret people or the ‘bad men’ although the shady department of energy lab is still in operation only this time seemingly in more control of their ‘experiment’ with a convincingly shady Dr Owens (Paul Reiser) being at the helm.
He isn’t the only new character in town as Sean Astin appears in true nostalgic Goonies style eventually providing some important input to the group as Bob the Brain. We see a conspiracy theorist investigator type (Brett Gelman) provide that well known ‘commie’ hysteria of a town where something happened.
This wouldn’t be stranger things without the break out character Eleven and Millie Bobby Brown this time stands alone most of the time. Her performance throughout can be best described as award winning, with that power and emotion wrapped in an essence of historic darkness. We are teased that there are more of her types in the world and this is perhaps something further explored in the latter stages of the series.
The most important element of Stranger things 2 is in fact the kids; or the AV club as I like to call them. Lucas, Mike and Dustin who are all on form and not just a trio this time but with Will back in the fold. The AV club are the character glue of Stranger Things and all of them face new challenges alone and together which is all a part of growing up. Newcomer girl Max (Sadie Sink) provides that extra diversity and perspective of an outsider along with testing the group’s integrity.
Eventually they are joined by boyfriend of Nancy , Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) who exceeds his character from last season complete with best hair do and really comes into his own as the ‘baby sitter’.
The established friendship of Jonathan Byers and Nancy is expanded upon eventually tying into the main plot like all of the familiar faces seen before. And we even get a nod towards the seemingly not cared about Barb from Season 1!
Let’s face it, you can have all the nostalgia and nods to various 80’s pop culture stuff, but it’s nothing without an original story. And that’s where Stranger Things sets itself aside from other shows. The story, this time around was sharper toward the end but with a slower build to bringing all the elements together.
Characters were deliberately separate making the viewer want to see the reunion and boy did we have to wait, but boy was it worth it.
From the poster you can see breaking out of red sky the big bad looking thing looming, and I must say it looks badass, or ‘bitchin’ shall I say. After spending three of so episodes re introducing the story we are treated with a continuous build all the way to the final episode. It makes for binge worthy watching and even runs like a 9 hour film. I recommend watching more than one in a sitting as scenes continue and overlap episodes. And no this isn’t like Game of Thrones with the constant death, there’s actual story here so if your perception of TV has been ruined by dragons and incest then you may not like Stranger Things.
Last time round we had the iconic light bulb scene and to me it’s what made the series. Season 2 even nods to that and does the same thing in a different way. All of the questions asked in season 1 eventually become answered, and the world isn’t quite what you thought it was.
Okay I get it, the whole 80’s thing is cool and season 2 expands with the nostalgia. There are nods to basically everything good about 80’s pop culture. We are treated with a Ghost Busters nod and much of the creature stuff is straight out of Alien/Aliens. We see the Goonies and Stand By Me tributed yet again without complaint.
There is cold war/Russian fear which highlights a different time and the music is on point. The original soundtrack will take anyone back to that time and let’s face it the hair styles are in between good, amazing and terrible. If you like watching a car wheel spin away you’re in luck!
The Duffer Brothers have grabbed at the opportunity to tell yet another riveting, engaging, edge of seat sitting story which keeps you watching to the very end. There were emotional lump in throat moments along with some real laugh out loud lines from a cast of wonderfully gifted performers. I found myslef smiling at the chemistry some of these guys and gals had on screen. This may be the best show on TV right now and it’s all a bit tongue in cheek.
Our return to Hawkins is an expanded coming of age story. It continues right where it left off and even excels in some parts. The universe in which the upside down world has been fully established and makes great old fashioned television, something which has nearly vanished with the mass over produced stuff we see today.
It truly shows that stories can still be told without graphic sexual content or even politics. Yes it can be scary at times, but grow up if you are bothered by that. If those kids can survive the demo gorgon and demo – dogs then you can too.
If you ask me like last time Stranger Things should be known as Better Things!