I did not expect to be disappointed by the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things and I can honestly say I was not in any way, shape, or form. To be honest, I’ll probably do a rewatch/review like I just finished for season 1 and do the same for season 2 before season 3 comes out. So, knowing that, I will do my best to keep this blog post “short” and focused.
Without going into specifics and not wanting to spoil the season in any way, I’ll keep my thoughts vague and limited as best as I can.
Everything about Stranger Things Season 1 that gripped me as a fan, writer, nerd, 80s kid, etc. continued in the new season. There were references so on the nose that you just find yourself smiling when you catch them and then there were subtle ones that poked at your memory and made you trace back through childhood until you found the source. All of these were present and added, never diminishing the story and/or characters. I found myself calling out references to my wife as she watched with me and realized by episode 6 that I should tone it back.
I’m always paying attention to characters in these shows and I found the perfect amount of expansion of growth, knowing the events of the first season could not leave a lasting affect on these people. Then you have new characters who either have suspicions or do not know what happened in Hawkins a year earlier. All of these have to handled delicately in order to create believability. Once again, I was not disappointed by the directions the characters went in. They made choices (both good and bad) and found consequences for those choices. For me, if these characters had not been handled well, it would have ruined the season for me. On more than a few occasions, I found myself saying, “Yes, that is exactly how I would have written that response or character’s choice if I were writing this show.”
While the references are there, the world of Stranger Things is its own and we were introduced to an expanding world, making it feel more real. The Upside Down in itself felt more fleshed out and not just a shimmer or shadow we get only glimpses of like in season 1. By the end, we know that the Upside Down is as important to the progression of the show as the characters themselves. It is the antagonist for it seems bent on connecting to the real world.
Nothing felt forced. This is important with any sequel. Think back to movies that had sequels you just didn’t feel were as good as the first film. The magic that was captured in the first one could not be expanded on but seemed duplicated and shoved right in your face. There are too many sequels to name that do this.
The latest example I can think of is the recent Kingsmen movie. My wife and I loved the first film and its new world and originality. We were excited by the idea of a sequel but after watching it, we walked away more disappointed than anything else. Where Stranger Things succeeded and Kingsmen failed is the ability to trust the audience. Nothing felt as if it were an exposition dump for us. Instead, it felt as if the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things creators and show runners) trusted their audience to remember elements from season 1 or to be able to connect the dots by simply being observant. Here is where successful shows/movies set themselves apart. A storyteller should be able to trust in the intelligence of their audience without patronizing.
Not wanting to stretch this too long (and not wanting to kill my love for the show by over-analyzing), I’ll leave my thoughts to this: Lost is no longer my favorite show. Stranger Things has taken the lead at the top of my short list for favorite tv shows. Superior writing is the kicker here. While Lost was great (in my eyes), it did have too many instances of bad writing whether related to the plot and/or characters.
My great hope is that Stranger Things continues this strong until it’s finished. Last I heard, the Duffers are planning and mapping out 4-5 seasons. I think that as long as this show keeps moving in this right direction, it will easily sit safely atop my list.
Call to Action: Let me know what you thought of season 2! Please don’t include any spoilers.