Note: The review has some spoilers for Season 1 though. Can’t help it!
In 2016, Stranger Things came out of nowhere and gave viewers/devourers/worshipers of Netflix (casual and/or “supa” serious!) a reason to rejoice. The show, set in 1983 in the fictional town of Hawkins, charted the journey of four friends – and fanatics of the board game Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) who go to extreme lengths when one of their party members goes missing. Their quest (pun intended) has them encountering Eleven or El, a girl of extraordinary powers, who in turn becomes one of them and helps them find their friend, ultimately sacrificing herself (or does she?)
The Gang is Back Together!
The above is a gross oversimplification of what turned out to be one of the most genuine, touching, yet thrilling achievement of a mammoth proportion. Why it should be considered such is because a simple premise of a game – DnD in this case – is turned on its head, spun just enough to use its facets like fantastical bad guys such as the “Demogorgon”, pry on children’s fears of the dark and the unknown (something which 2017’s iteration of IT did exceptionally well) and wrapped around a dramatic setting, to stellar results.
And so we come to the matter at hand: The sequel to the magnificent Season 1. Is it worthy? Let’s find out!
For the first few episodes, Stranger Things Season 2 inter-cuts between the present (1984, a year after the events of the first season) and the past (which limits itself to Eleven’s journey in the year gone by). Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will are reunited, busy doing what kids do, i.e. playing video-games, checking out girls and in case of Mike exclusively, missing Eleven. All goes well till Will suddenly starts having visions of a monster from the “Upside Down”, the netherworld he was trapped in for a better part of the last season. He believes that the monster, dubbed “The Shadow Monster”, is angry and is intended on “rotting” Hawkins. As it turns out, the said rotting is from the “Upside Down” or inside out of Hawkins, hence proving Will right and opening a Pandora’s Box of mayhem in the process.
That Damned Portal!
The show juggles three separate story-lines: Will’s encounters and connection with the Shadow Monster, Eleven’s quest to explore her past and Nancy (Mike’s sister) and Jonathan’s (Will’s brother) quest to bring justice to Nancy’s friend Barbara, who was killed in the first season. That the show is able to strike a balance between the three is not just admirable, it is commendable. For a show that started out as a mash-up of pop-culture references and broad strokes of horror-fantasy, Season 2 takes the latter element and pitches it a notch higher. The horror element, in particular, is not atmospheric anymore. There’s abundance of chilling scenery and gore and in that respect, it feels like the true-blue successor of Season 1.
The performances of the cast young and old continue to be better than anything we see today, with the kids – particularly Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) and Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) – standing out with their gut-wrenching portrayals. While the show may seem like it is focused on the battle with demonic/alien entities, it actually revolves around the stories of Eleven and Bill; stories that are separate yet intertwine more often than not, creating the basic web that all other elements and characters are tangled in. The supporting cast more than rises up to the occasion with Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, David Harbour and Sadie Sink turning out impressive performances.
The Shadow Monster!
The direction by the Duffer Brothers, Shawn Levy, Andrew Stanton (the guy who directed Finding Nemo) and Rebecca Thomas is top-notch and the production design matches the story beat-by-beat with a faithful recreation of the year 1984.
Where the show really wins is when it comes to the relationships between its characters; main or supporting. Will and his mother, Will and Mike, Mike and Eleven, Eleven and her estranged mother, Eleven and Hopper (something that was teased in the last episode of the previous season), Nancy and Jonathan, Steve and the Kids and last but not the least, the character of Bob Newby, played to perfection by Sean Austin (Yes, Samwise Gamgee!); each and all of them work seamlessly – together as well as on their own – and that’s where the real beauty of the show lies in. The writing makes you care about the characters. What happens around them is just the icing on the cake!
With an exciting cliff-hanger (No, REALLY!) and loads of things to look forward to, Stranger Things: Season 2 is a real winner. It is one of those rare sequels that upends the predecessor in quality.
Our Rating: 4.5/5
P.S: In case you’re wondering, the 0.5 deduction is for a character death that really serves no purpose except for making you wonder if humanity is dead. No biggie!
Let us know what you think of Stranger Things: Season 2 in the comments below!