Series Review: Stranger Things Season 2 (2017)

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If you’ve read my review of Season 1, well, then you know how much excited I felt for the arrival of Stranger Things Season 2. I love Stranger Things more than Eleven (Jane?) likes Eggo Waffles. I would have loved to binge the entire series, but work kept me so busy I had to act like a normal person and settle for one or two episodes each night.

The first season of Stranger Things was such a compelling hit because it was so unexpected. The shock of the upside down and the ingenuity of the writing contributed towards addiction and despondency I developed and experienced subsequently when I finished the measly amount of available episodes. Season two kept some of the elements, but loses that biggest appealing factor – the surprise. Sure the children are as adorable as ever, there are some seriously excellent scenes and flashbacks to the 80s, but the wow factor was missing save for the first episode and episodes eight and nine. The writing was off at times and felt lazy at times. Episode 7 irritated me so much I nearly didn’t finish the series. It was an absolute disaster. Removing Eleven from Hawkins and sending her to find her “sister” among a merry bunch of thieves for an entire episode? What a stupid power trip and unnecessary when there were a million other things that episode 8 could have focused on.

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New additions Dacre Montgomery, Sadie Sink and Sean Astin were welcome additions. Dacre Montgomery seems particularly well cast as Billy the Bully – he’s an 80’s bully personified with his mullet, cigarettes, blaring rock music and really tight pants (circulation could not have been easy). He was particularly good in scenes where he loses his cool and you are able to see that this kid isn’t just a run of the mill bully; he has serious anger issues and is dangerous. Montgomery lived himself into the role and is utterly convincing – excellent work from this young Aussie who donned an American accent like it was no big thing. Sadie Sink is Max, who is in the unfortunate situation of being Billy’s stepsister. She hides her stress and worry and fear under some smart mouth comments, and I enjoyed her. It is also nice seeing another girl join the male dominated cast. Sean Astin as Bob was a sweetheart and I enjoyed seeing him in something again. He had some unlikely hero moments and although he was obviously written as a bit of a nerdy, offbeat character there was such goodness in him that you couldn’t help but root for him even though clearly he’s in the way of a romantic engagement I root for.

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I really like that they promoted Joe Keery to series regular as Steve Harrington. Steve has the best character growth, some of the best lines (#FarrahFawcett) and is such a likeable guy. He’s evolved from the typical high-school prick. He still at odds with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) for the affections of Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and in season one I was unsure who I would choose, but Steve is now clearly my favorite. He has some great moments where he gets all parental and authoritative with the younger kids, and I had such a good time witnessing him. I like the mentoring relationship he’s begun with Dustin, who in himself is so darn adorable with his pearly whites.

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My favorite characters at this stage are Hopper, Steve and Dustin. My least favorite is Nancy because that girl must stop messing with Steve and Jonathan’s feelings. I won’t go on a rampage against her but my tolerance for girls who play with multiple men’s’ feelings are quite strong. She redeemed herself somewhat in the last episode, though she still makes me narrow my eyes.

I won’t discuss all the characters – seriously, my love is strong. Caleb McLaughlin gets more screen time and I loved it. Lucas is such a great character and revealed his inner strength when he stood up to Billy. Finn Wolffhard has a great career ahead of him – boy can act! Noah Schnapp is updated to series regular and boy, did little Will suffer greatly again. Poor kid. He managed to be creepy and still have the audience feel protective over him. Milly Bobby Brown is as fascinating as always – she taps so much emotion into her performance it seems unreal that she’s only 13 years old.

The 80s nostalgia makes me so nostalgic – and I wasn’t even around back then. That dance scene in the final episode made me so darn happy and reminiscent about my own primary school days – who hasn’t done those awful “close” dances? So much love. Oh, and Dustin’s hair in that episode. GOSH so darn cute.

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The last two episodes make great strides in repairing the disaster of Episode 7. It is still more lopsided than it needs to be, and the writing needs a more structured approach in season 3. I would love to have Billy get involved in what is really going on in Hawkins, that would help wipe that punk ass attitude off him. I would also like to have him evolve a bit more, become a slightly decenter person while maintaining the ‘tude. If Eleven cannot be called Jane, that would also be great. Maybe Steve can get someone who isn’t Nancy because she doesn’t deserve him? More Dustin too, with his pearly whites.

Rating: 7/10

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Series Review: Stranger Things Season 1

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Plot: When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.

I can begin this review by telling you that there is no way I will properly be able to express quite how much I liked Stranger Things. More than one person had told me I really should watch it, that I’d like it, that it was fantastic. Did I immediately listen? Of course not. It is me we are talking about here. When I finally got to it, well, everyone turned out to be right. It turned out to be a good decision at least on my part to only watch it recently – we are now closer to the release of Season 2 than I would have been if I watched it when it came out, and I would have suffered for months on end like the rest of you.

Let’s first talk about the music. It is so 80’s pop. I loved it. The tracks perfectly create a nostalgic feeling, and they highlight each situation for maximum effect. It reminded me so much of the music in The Guest, which is also rich in 80’s nostalgia and also sums up my vastly inferior knowledge of this interesting genre.

The cast is incredible, and mostly led by kids at that. Kids, entertaining me?! The majority of the cast still buy clothes in the infant section, and that is usually a safe indicator that the show is not for me. Gallen Matazarro with his amazing lisp, Caleb McLaughlin already being cooler than I will be, Finn Wolffhard working his nerdiness like a pro, Noah Schnapp as the missing kid– can we please have more of him in Season two? These kids are adorable. They have excellent dialogue, and their 80’s innocence of bikes and tapes and technology is refreshing and unexpected. A favorite scene is where Eleven accidentally starts taking off her shirt because she doesn’t have social cues and they are all like WHOAH. So.Sweet. It is a refreshing change from the children we now have that are on phones all the time and have lost all innocence.

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Milly Bobby Brown is Eleven, and I am sure that you’ve heard everyone say that she’s amazing. I am here to tell you that it’s true, she’s amazing. Eleven is such a sad character. Immensely gifted and supernatural, she’s so sad with all that power. No one ever really loved her; she’s had zero exposure to the outside world and no peers to play with, and everyone she’s ever met up until the diner guy (still mad about that) has betrayed her trust. Her friendship with Mike is so sweet and innocent and hurt my poor little heart. The trailer for season 2 has shown her face again and for that I am so thankful – she’s a key point in this show’s power.

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Natalie Dyer (Nancy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan) and Joe Kerry (Steve) are the slightly older age group in Hawkins who are involved in the Upside Down. Nancy is the pretty and smart girl, who is frustrated by her suburban existence and the knowledge that the marriage her parents have is one of convenience. Dating Steve must be an exciting thing – he’s handsome and popular and a bad boy who isn’t so bad when you take a good look. It took me a while to actually like him, but there is a great amount of character growth for him through the course of the show. Jonathan is also a great character, and he is an impressively okay result of that horrendous father of his.

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Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers and David Harbour as Jim Hopper lead the adult portion of the show. Joyce is frantic about her son, and it is only a mother’s obsession with keeping her children safe that enabled her to find what she fount. Jim Hopper starts the show by appearing as a useless cop, but his progression in the show is amazing. His story is back breaking and the more you get to know about Jim the sorrier you feel for him. He has one of the best quotes in the show, which I will use for years to come.

The first two or three episodes I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I’m actually looking at, but even while not knowing; it is too good to not watch. I would have watched the entire show in one sitting if I had 8 hours of leisure at any given time. It’s unique, creepy and flat out gross at stages, and the fight of pure innocence against disgusting darkness and meanness will keep you glued to your seat and routing for the good guys.

I actually moped when this show was done, and am not above watching it again. The show is a fantastic adventure, a tribute to old school thrillers and one of the most inventive shows Netflix has produced. I simply can’t wait for the second season, and can only cross my fingers that they create something similarly amazing.

Have you seen Stranger Things? Talk to me about it in the comments!

PS: Can we just discuss how incredible Netflix opening sequences are?!

Rating: 9/10