Fans have waited what seemed like an eternity for Season 2 of Netflix’s Stranger Things to premiere. October 27, 2017 came and went — some are on their third re-watch, some are (still) complaining, some can’t wait for mother, and others aren’t quite sure. I wanted to weigh in on this because it presents a lot of conversation narratively, but also expectation wise. I’m going to go on the assumption that if you are reading this, you have watched it, so yes spoilers will follow; No I am not going to recap what happened for you. You watched it, you know what happened.
Though a Stranger Things Season 2 review was published last month, TV Source Magazine encourages diversity of opinions, and as such, opted to offer my alternative viewpoints on the new season.
I learned some lessons while watching Season 2 that I would like to share with the crowd.
- Binge Watching: Often when you watch a show week to week, you can get bogged down on nit picking things that upset you or pointing out “flaws” in the narrative. This may be why some people abandon shows and why others prefer binge watching. What you get with binge watching is the narrative, full force all at once in a concise time period. There are pros and cons to this, one of the pros being, if you don’t care for a particular episode, you’ve already moved on to the next one and you don’t have as much time to marinate on the thing you didn’t like. You’ve already passed that point and you’re onto something else. The con being, you may have a tendency to like or love something more than it deserves because you haven’t had time to really pick it apart.
- Trusting the Narrative: Something we talk about a lot in terms of story is payoff. I can be here for a story no matter how long it takes, if the payoff is satisfying. If I am fist pumping, sobbing into my t-shirt, screaming at my television, whatever by the climax of the story, I can be mostly forgiving of any narrative flaws like pacing. There is a big picture and we have to trust the big picture. We have to stop getting so irate over moments in 1 episode when we know there are X amount more to go and who knows where the story is taking us? When it’s over, if you still hate it, that’s fine, but trust the narrative.
- Recreating the Experience: Truth be told you cannot recreate an experience. I don’t care what you say, no matter how you twist it, there is nothing quite the same as the first time. For anything. You cannot recreate a baby’s first word, first steps, first kiss, first car, first anything. Because it was first. Anything that comes after it can come as close as close can be, but it can never wholly recreate the feeling you felt the FIRST time.
So when you have something like Stranger Things which awakened all of the nostalgic feelings inside our little born in the 1980’s bodies, you can try to do it again, but it’ll NEVER feel like the first time. If you went into this season expecting to feel the same way you felt the first time, you were going to be disappointed. You can make more 80’s references, use more 80’s songs, pick from more 80’s films, but in the end it’s just a redux of Season 1, no matter how you slice it. And that’s OK, but don’t fault them for it. It’s the thing you loved, so they gave you more of it. Was it the same as the first time? No. It’s not going to be. There was something “different” and special about Season 1 and going into Season 2, did you expect a full reset? I didn’t. I liked that they didn’t try to outdo Season 1, because you can’t.
Season 2 focused on characters we didn’t get as much of in Season 1. We got more insight into Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas’ (Caleb McLaughlin) families, and how adorable is Dustin’s little sister Erica (Priah Ferguson)? More of her please in Season 3. Dustin forges a bond with Steve (Joe Keery) as they navigate through Dustin’s bad decision of keeping Dart from his friends. Speaking of Steve, our unsung hero and best babysitter since Brand from The Goonies, proved that a character can be more than a love interest; just because he and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) broke up it didn’t make him irrelevant. In fact he might be more relevant than Nancy or Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) was this entire season. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) spends most of his time with Will (Noah Schnapp), which makes sense since we were told in Season 1 that Will is his best friend. Yes, in a friend group, we often have that one person we gravitate towards and Mike makes that abundantly clear in Season 1, since he’s the person that pushes the other two to find out what happened to Will. So the boys spend some time apart and one of the things that we loved about Season 1 was their interactions with one another, but they’re still interacting, especially in the last 2 episodes.
Every season subsequent to the first means new characters will be introduced. If you don’t expand your universe, you don’t have a story to tell. So listen, Billy (Dacre Montgomery) sucks. You can’t land every one, it happens. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Billy’s purpose was other than for Max (Sadie Sink) to drive his car at the end and for him to momentarily incapacitate Steve so the kids could steal the car… he’s a douche bag for douche bag’s sake and when they tried to “explain” it with father/son scene, I was beyond caring at that point. To hear there will be more of him in Season 3 makes me cringe, but let’s move on.
Max was ok. She was neither offensive nor outstanding. Remember last season, Lucas and Dustin were peeved at Mike for making goo-goo eyes at Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), so this was their turn to get all hot in the pants over a girl. They are growing up after all, and I appreciated that they weren’t swooning over some prissy girl in tights, but a bad ass skateboarding, gamer like Max. Bob was amazing. And listen, I was going to love Bob regardless because I love Sean Astin. I love that a show that borrowed so heavily from The Goonies in season one, recruited the main character of that film to play Bob. So no matter what Bob did or didn’t do, I was going to love him simply BECAUSE. But Bob managed to be the sweet, lovable regular guy that Joyce (Winona Ryder) was using to help normalize her otherwise insane existence. Who wouldn’t understand that? And Bob delivers. He saves the day and while I knew the whole time he was probably going to die, a part of me wished for a little more time with Bob.
Eleven. So a lot of people are miffed about her story arc and I get it, but here’s the thing… this is a character who has never lived a normal life, inhabits intense powers, has no family, and is a fugitive from the government. Who is she outside of the experiment? That is what Season 2 attempted to answer. She’s been locked up in a cabin in the woods for an entire year, she’s frustrated and she wants answers. This character needs to grow and discover not just who she is or was, but what she can be. Standalone episodes are hard. They are often polarizing and very hit or miss with audiences. I understand why people hated Episode 7, however I felt it was necessary to the narrative. It’s important for Eleven to see what happened to Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) and to experience what life would be like without the support of her friends in Hawkins. She is able to learn from Kali how to control her powers and she reaches an understanding within herself that home is in Hawkins, where she was loved and accepted by the boys without question. This is a very important journey for her character and maybe you didn’t like it, but it was necessary for her character development.
Sophomore are there to flesh out narratives that didn’t get told in the inaugural. They are able to provide motivations and explanations where they were lacking the first time around because the story was the main focus. Not to mention, if Eleven is there the whole time, the story falls apart. She can catch Dart, she can go into the Upside Down, and she can fight the Shadow Monster. So now the writers are tasked with this character that can seemingly defeat all the issues; she has to somehow be removed for her big entrance at the end. The payoff. I didn’t mind her being separated from the group because her return hits all the emotional points it should. For her, for Mike, for the boys, even for Max. And in that moment, I forgave her being away from them, because it was such a huge payoff. The big question for Season 3 is how do you deal with Eleven being there all the time. Does the villain have to get bigger or harder to kill? Will there need to be more special kids brought in? I’ll be interested to see how they handle this in Season 3. I’ll be interested to see where another time jump brings our characters and if Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce will finally hook up! All joking aside, I loved Season 2. It hit all the marks for me and I cannot wait for more.