If you are reading this review, odds are, you fall into one of a couple categories of people.
1. You (like me) just finished binge watching the entirety of Stranger Things 2 in seemingly one fell swoop and need to talk to someone about it.
2. You (like me up until about two days ago) have yet to watch Stranger Things 2 because life is kind of crazy right now and you just haven’t had time, and you need that extra push to come join us in Category One.
3. You have never watched Stranger Things, season one or two, and despite missing the bandwagon on its first loop around the pop culture circuit, you are contemplating hopping on soon.
No matter which one of these people you are, you have come to the right place.
Stranger Things’ quick ascension to cult-classic status left viewers ready for season two. Many were both excited to see their rag tag group of 80’s misfits back on the screen, while also justifiably wary of whether or not a new season could live up to their expectations.
With its attention to visual detail, costume and music choice, Stranger Things 2 is sure to delight fans much like its preceding season. The monsters are back, we get new insight into Eleven’s powers (and her backstory) and there are many cool scenes and shots that will leave you breathless.
The overall product is… good. Enough. It’s good enough, but it exhibits the same characteristics of too many a second season that is forced to follow a near perfect first. All the things you loved? Have even more of those things in place of genuine development or effective writing! Watching the series is good practice for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday where Aunt Kathy will make you eat an ungodly amount of mashed potatoes simply because they’re your favorite.
The Duffer Brother approach to this season falls into that of “It’s Stranger Things, but it’s bigger and better!” Instead of feeling as though there has been any change, Hawkins (and its residents) seem entirely untouched. Will is still “lost,” though in a slightly different, giving him more screen time way; Joyce is still the grieving mother; the good ole teenage love triangle hasn’t gone away, and if anything, it paves the way for another. Even the monsters are reminiscent, if not direct call backs, to the previous season.
Nostalgia works for the show in terms of its 80’s references, but feels pretentious when simply referencing itself, sometimes even to the point of obvious, winking to the camera meta-analysis. At times an obvious homage to 1984 media fan favorites and riddled with Easter eggs (see Alien and The Terminator), this season maintains the same sensational and reverie-like look through the pop culture looking glass, but fails to recognize that simply a year between seasons is not enough to merit the same touch backs to your own show.
What the season seems to lack regarding direction and a believable plot that works with the established (though loosely and hastily) rules of the first season, it makes up for in terms of shining moments charged by character dynamic, largely driven by the show’s talented, though young, cast. These moments, however, are few and far between, at times separated entirely by subplot episodes, that they stand out glaringly against the rest of the show. Unlike season one, these moments are not tight knit, nor integral to the plot or the overall story; they seem only to happen tangentially, no longer a driving force of the plot, or even a part of it.
This is what keeps Stranger Things 2 simply in the “good” zone, and this largely drives my dissatisfaction with it. It is not bad. I am not disappointed because it is bad; it’s not. I am frustrated simply because it is not great.