The Moment We Have All Been Waiting For…

(Warning: This post absolutely contains spoilers.  Since the entire season has been made available on Netflix all at once, this is not one of my typical first-episode reviews because I binge watched the whole thing.  You have been warned.)

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After an agonizing, year-long wait (and just in time for Halloween) comes the much anticipated Stranger Things Season 2.  If you’re like me – or any Stranger Things fan, for that matter – you’ve probably already binge watched the entire season.  If you haven’t seen season 2, or even season 1, WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

This season brings back the old cast of kids as well as characters like Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and even a few appearances by Mr. Clarke (Randy Havens).  We are also introduced to a wide variety of new characters like Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), Bob Newby (Sean Astin), and even D’Artagnan the Demodog!  Whereas Season 1 showcased a normal town that had been turned upside down (pun intended), Season 2 took us back to Hawkins, Indiana a year later and showed us that the town was attempting to return back to normal.  This feigned normalcy, however, is not the same as what we saw in Season 1.  The main characters are struggling to return to their “normal” lives, but they are constantly on edge, as if all of a sudden everything could easily tip upside down all over again.  And this is exactly what happens.

Ok, so I am going to get the not so good stuff out of the way.

First of all…  I’M SO UPSET THAT DART KILLED MEWS!

That aside, there was only one part of the show that I found underwhelming and I’m sure that you’ve probably already guessed that I’m talking about Episode 7: “The Lost Sister”.  It wasn’t a bad episode, it just didn’t have the same Stranger Things vibe that is prevalent in every single other episode in the series.  In an article on comicbook.com by Joseph Schmidt you can read a bit about why the Duffer Brothers felt the need the include this episode and it absolutely makes sense.  I appreciate them wanting to experiment with the show and I definitely agree that this part of the story is necessary for setting up Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) final battle against The Mind Flayer/Shadow Monster, but I just wasn’t happy with the feel of this episode.  I think my main problem was that it was too “big city” compared to the small-town vibe you get from Hawkins.  As an experiment, it probably did not succeed but I am looking forward to seeing more experiments with the show in the future if that is what the Duffer Brothers would like to do.  I would rather that they experiment and look for ways to help the show grow and improve, than have the series grow stale over time.

Apart from that one episode, the rest of this season had everything else that fans loved about the first season: The eerie music, the otherworldly events wreaking havoc on a small town, scientific experiments, a fantastic list of characters…  I could go on and on.  Probably one of the main attributes of the show is it’s nostalgic ’80s feel and this was most certainly abundant in Season 2.  Although Season 1 focused mostly on the song “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, Season 2 did not have one “main” song in particular to keep going back to.  Instead, there was a sample of all sorts of fantastic songs from the ’80s and the use of these songs was absolutely genius.  The right songs were being used and the right time and this either amplified or even added another layer to what was occurring in that scene.  My favourite examples of this were: when “Runaway” by Bon Jovi was used as the soundtrack to Eleven/Jane’s journey out of Hawkins to find her sister Kali (Linnea Berthelsen); and when “Every Breath You Take” (The Police) was used at the Snow Ball not only to highlight the relationship between Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven/Jane, but – as the camera flipped upside down – to show that The Mind Flayer is still watching over Hawkins elementary school and the people within.

References to classic ’80s films also add to the nostalgia and the overall tone of the show, and Season 2 is certainly packed with these references.  While I was watching, there were specific scenes that reminded me of Aliens or the Indiana Jones films, and obviously there were very explicit references to Mad Max and Ghostbusters.  In fact, reading Phil Hornshaw’s article for The Warp not only confirmed my suspicions but also drew my attention to other Easter Eggs and references I hadn’t initially spotted.

The use of games is also really significant in this season, as it was in the last.  Obviously, D&D is a huge inspiration for elements of the show and after learning that the D&D campaign the boys play at the beginning of Season 1 foreshadows the events of that season, I made sure to pay close attention to the games the boys played in this season.  Although D&D was not as prominent in Season 2, arcade games filled that void and served as an ingenious way to foreshadow the events to come.  “Dig Dug” obviously lends its name to one of the episodes in Season 2 and the idea of digging around in underground tunnels becomes a major part of the plot.  “Dragon’s Lair” also foreshadows events of the show as it is primarily Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) who are arguing over both the game itself and the affection princess that must be rescued from the dragon.  This parallels their later attempts to get Max’s (Sadie Sink) attention.  When the boys are playing the game, although Dustin the one playing in the arcade he loses, and this sets up the fact that he will lose the real-world equivalent of this game later on.  In the end it is Lucas who rescues “princess” Max from the “dragon” Billy (Dacre Montgomery), Max’s brother.  By the end of the season we know that Lucas has truly succeeded on this quest as he has earned the love of the “princess” when Max kisses him.

Probably one of the most memorable moments of Season 1 was the way in which Will and Joyce (Winona Ryder) communicated using Christmas lights.  Since Will is no longer in the Upsidedown it was almost disappointing to know that this beloved element of the show would not be appearing.  However, I was pleased to see that other forms of uncommon communication were being showcased in its place.  The use of Morse Code began as a necessary means of communication between Eleven/Jane and Hopper (David Harbour) so that they could safely communicate without anyone discovering their intentions or their location.  This became a major plot device later on when Will used Morse Code to prevent The Mind Flayer from figuring out what he was trying to convey to his friends.  And, of course, Will’s drawings as a form of communication became very important as drawing his feelings resulted in a map of the Upsidedown tunnels that were so prominent in this season.

I would say that probably the element I was moist pleased about in Season 2 was the growth and development of the relationships between characters on the show.  In Season 1 we were still getting to know the residents of Hawkins, but by Season 2 some really unique and unexpected relationships formed.  My favourites were the father-daughter bond between Eleven/Jane and Hopper, and the unexpected friendship between Dustin and Steve (Joe Keery).  Jane and Hopper just felt like such a perfect match for me that I absolutely cannot wait until Season 3 when we may actual get to see them as a real family unit.  And Dustin and Steve were just so hilariously adorable as friends that I really hope that friendship continues to grow in future seasons.

I could honestly keep talking about Stranger Things for days.  In fact, I’m sure I’m not the only one.  I was not at all disappointed and Season 2 was most definitely worth the wait.  There’s just one more thing that’s bothering me though…

I DON’T THINK I CAN SURVIVE ANOTHER YEAR UNTIL SEASON 3 COMES OUT!  I NEED MORE STRANGER THINGS NOW!

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