Review by Grant Dillard, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
Last year, Netflix released what would become yet another one of the streaming services’ best original shows: “Stranger Things.” The show gave viewers a fascinating story involving intriguing mysteries and parallel dimensions. At the end of the first season, there were a few twists that gave a hint that there would be another season very soon. Now that time has come, and the second season of “Stranger Things” mostly lives up to the hype.
It’s been a year since the events from the last season. Will Buyers (Noah Schnapp) has been back home with his friends but is still seeing visions of the Upside Down: the parallel dimension he was trapped in. At first everyone believes them to be just visions, but over time it becomes more apparent that they’re a sign of something more dangerous to come. All the heroes from the last season, as well as some newcomers, will have to band together to fight off whatever monsters come out of the Upside Down.
What “Stranger Things: Season 2” succeeds at the most is taking its characters even deeper than before. Most of the characters have their own separate storylines that all tie in together in a way that makes them important to the overall story. Eleven (Milie Bobby Brown) has been living with Hopper (David Harbour) for about a year and goes on a journey which leads to her finding out more about her backstory. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) finds a strange creature and ends up adopting it as a pet only to find it’s a dangerous creature from the Upside Down. Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) finds interest in a girl named Max (Sadie Sink) and slowly lets her know everything about the events from last season, eventually making her a new part of the group. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) go on a mission to try and prove that the Hawkins Lab played a part in the death of Barb. Overall these storylines are very engaging and keep things from getting tiring or stale.
Then there’s the matter of Will Buyers. At first Will mainly deals with visions, but his condition gets even worse after a while, almost to the point where he seems like a different person. It’s made clear that there’s something inside Will, making him something that he’s not. It’s an interesting direction to take the Will in, but what makes it even better is Noah Schnapp’s performance. The same way Millie Bobby Brown wowed viewers in season 1, Schnapp’s performance is absolutely incredible and definitely deserving of awards recognition.
“Stranger Things: Season 2” also introduces some new additions to the cast. Sean Astin stars as Bob, who’s in a relationship with Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder.) Bob’s a loveable goofball who does what he can to give support to Joyce and her family. It’s also nice to see Joyce find someone and live a normal life after the crazy events of the last season. Max is the new girl in town who at first seems like a rude kid who doesn’t want anything to do with the main kids, but she eventually starts getting to know them more and becomes a welcome addition to the group. Lastly there’s Max’s brother, Billy, played by Dacre Montgomery, who’s best known as the Red Ranger from the recent “Power Rangers” movie. Billy’s the basic bully character and is mainly a one-note jerk who unfortunately doesn’t go through any huge changes by the end of this season. If it wasn’t for Montgomery’s casting, the character of Billy would have likely been boring.
The only major problem this season seems to suffer from is that some of the buildup to the Upside Down invaders isn’t very interesting. It’s basically Hawkins Laboratory doing more experiments on an otherworldly portal like back in Season 1. Granted, the buildup isn’t terrible but it doesn’t have the same level of intrigue as last time.
Despite its flaws, “Stranger Things: Season 2” is a very good follow-up to the first season. Ultimately, it’s the characters that make this season truly special. There’s no cliffhanger in the finale like last time, but there are certainly some plot elements only hinted at throughout this season so viewers can expect even more seasons of this great show. “Stranger Things: Season 2” is highly recommended.