Review by J.T. Johnson
I do try to stay away from SPOILERS, but I can’t talk about the show without at least talking about some points. Therefore, this is your SPOILER WARNING! If you just want to see my score, then just look above and RUN AWAY! If you don’t care about spoilers or you’ve already seen the season, then go ahead and check out the review!
At the end of the first season of “Stranger Things”, a couple of things were set up for season two. First off, after having been recovered from the Upside Down, Will (Noah Schnapp) has a vision before coughing up a slug from the other side. Also, I don’t think any of us truly thought that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was killed at the end, especially after Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) left some Eggos out in the middle of the woods.
When season two begins, it’s almost been a year since Will’s rescue. At first, things go appropriately slow in order to catch us up on where everyone is. This includes Joyce (Winona Ryder) trying to look after her son Will due to the visions he’s been having. The other kids have moved on for the most part, but Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is still depressed about the loss of Eleven.
We’re also introduced to some new characters, including Sadie Sink as Max, a tomboy girl that has just moved to Hawkins. She has an older brother named Billy (Dacre Montgomery), a volatile character that can be a little too over-the-top at times and really just serves as a foil for Max. Unlike Billy, however, Max is a worthy addition to the cast and is actually a potential love interest for Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin).
Joyce has tried to move on by actually having an ongoing relationship with another new character Bob Newby (Sean Astin). Bob is a happy-go-lucky guy that may actually provide the only source of stability for Joyce despite all she’s gone through. Finally, we’re also introduced to Paul Reiser’s character Owens, the new head of the infamous Hawkins Laboratory.
If you’ve seen any of the trailers or just have half a brain, then you know Eleven returns in this season. Her story, though, does go in a bit of a different direction than fans might expect. I don’t want to say much, but I will say that it is a journey of self-discovery similar to how Luke Skywalker had to go to Dagobah in “The Empire Strikes Back”.
I enjoyed Eleven’s story and where it went, but I must admit now that it does take her away from the rest of the cast for most of the season. While I didn’t mind this, I think some will be disappointed with her being away from the main action. The only other thing I will say about this storyline is that I do think that it also sets up a story thread that will inevitably pick back up in “Stranger Things 3”.
Beyond Eleven’s story, everyone else is pretty much involved with what is going on in Hawkins in some form or another. I can’t really say if the monster in this season will be as memorable as the Demogorgon from season one, but it is a formidable one. The new monster mainly works because it allows Schnapp to stand out among the cast as one of the most impressive performers.
Understandably, we didn’t get to spend much time with Will in season one due to the fact that everyone was trying to find him. Here, Schnapp has to take center stage and he gives a hell of a tortured performance. Again, I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers, but once you see the season, you’ll understand just how good this kid is now that he has way more to do.
The rest of the cast also turn in their unsurprisingly great performances. This time, though, I found that I really enjoyed Matarazzo as Dustin, a character who is good with the one-liners, the language and reigning in other characters when they’re freaking out. He also has a story that is somewhat inspired by “Gremlins” and it was fun to see that development as well.
The new season does start off a little slow and right now I don’t know if the season is quite as good as the first, but I think this is mostly due to the lack of surprise that season one enjoyed. I can say that it successfully sets up a much larger story than season one and is looking to the future a bit more this time since “ST3” has already gotten the greenlight. Finally, it was great seeing that they were able to recreate the nostalgic vibe that the first season had while also going to a slightly darker place this time out.