‘STRANGER’ RECAPS #9 – ‘MADMAX’

'Stranger Things 2' gets off to a promising start!

Cover Design by Courtney Pugh

Review by J.T. Johnson

Welcome back to ‘Stranger’ Recaps! It’s finally time to start “Stranger Things 2”, the amazing second season of everyone’s favorite ‘80s nostalgia ride. This means that we’re only nine days away from the release of “Stranger Things 3”! Before we get there, though, let us go ahead and take a look at the fun second season of “Stranger Things”.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“How can Max say no to these? Grrrrr.” – Dustin

The kids enjoy themselves at the arcade before new strange things occur in Hawkins!

THE RECAP

THE OPENING

The opening establishes that the new season takes place in October 1984. It also starts off on an interesting note. Instead of starting with any of our heroes, it starts off with a new group of characters. They appear to be a punk gang lead by a mysterious teenage girl. While trying to outrun the cops, the girl appears to use some sort of power to cause an overpass to collapse, leaving the cops behind.

When the cop who saw the overpass collapse gets out and observes the damage, he’s shocked to find that the overpass is fine. We cut back to this new group of bandits and see that the woman is wiping blood away from her nose. We also notice that she has a a tattoo that reads “008”, the same kind of tattoo that Eleven had in season one. Cue one of the season’s new mysteries and the opening credits.

THE KIDS

We reunite with the kids close to Halloween. Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will head out to the arcade. While there, Dustin learns that someone has broken his high score record in “Dig Dug” and the mystery person is known only as MADMAX. More importantly, though, Will has what he thinks is a “vision” of the Upside Down where he witnesses a far bigger threat than the Demogorgon.

Later on, it is revealed that Will is made fun of after having somehow come back from the dead. In science class, the kids meet a new student named Maxine. It turns out she goes by Max and that she’s the one who broke Dustin’s high score.

The gang spies on her, but she catches them in the act. We then learn that Joyce has to sometimes take Will out of school so that he can be examined… by scientists at the Hawkins National Laboratory.

Dustin and Lucas stake out the arcade to wait for Max. They see that she has a tumultuous relationship with her brother. They see her at the arcade and we learn that they both have a crush on the new girl. They eventually decide to ask Max to join their group, even though they know that Mike might not like it.

We learn that Mike has been on a somewhat rebellious streak. Unsurprisingly, this has to do with the fact that he still misses Eleven. He’s still hopeful to an extent because he still uses his walkie talkie to try and make contact to see if she’s still possibly alive.

THE ADULTS

Hopper arrives to work and has to deal with a conspiracy theorist named Murray Bauman. The only thing is that while he seems like a crazy person, he does know some details about a child with powers and the other strange going ons from the previous year. Hopper manages to blow him off, but that’s only because he has to go and investigate a new mystery.

Before we get back to that, though, we catch back up with Joyce. She’s still working at the general store, but she’s started a new relationship with the incredibly innocent Bob Newby, played to awkward perfection by Sean Astin. It’s good to see that she’s found some happiness with someone after the douchebag that was Lonnie, but this is “Stranger Things” and there is no way that this happiness will remain.

Back with Hopper, we learn that something has killed all of the pumpkins in a pumpkin patch. The owner thinks that it might be a rival that has their own pumpkin patch, but Hopper becomes concerned because he’s been to the Upside Down. The pumpkins look like they were taken out by the decay found in that dark alternate dimension.

THE TEENAGERS

In the world of our teenage heroes, Nancy and Steve are still together, though there are obviously feelings between Nancy and Jonathan. Soon, though, they witness the arrival of the new bad boy named Billy Hargrove and his little sister Max. Right off the bat, this guy gives off bad and creepy feelings.

Meanwhile, Nancy invites Jonathan to a Halloween party, but Jonathan declines. He uses the excuse that he has to take Will trick or treating, but we can all see that it’s because he has feelings for Nancy.

Later on, Nancy and Steve visit Barb’s parents. They still think that she ran away and both Nancy and Steve can’t say anything because they know that they’ll get into trouble if they do. Seeing that Barb’s parents have put their house up for sale in order to hire an investigative reporter (Murray Bauman) to find their daughter, Nancy’s guilt begins to break through the surface and she has to leave the room.

THE LAB

The lab seems to be ran by newer, more honest people. The lab is now under the control of Paul Reiser’s Sam Owens. Sam seems like a great person, but there is a certain amount of mystery surrounding him at first as we don’t fully know his motives.

When Joyce and Will arrive at the lab, they are joined by Hopper and we see that the lab has not only been monitoring Will’s physical condition, but that they have been studying him psychologically. They are aware of his “visions” and at first, Sam thinks that the visions are a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder.

Sam advises that he’ll probably have more episodes along with other symptoms of PTSD and that Joyce and the others need to just act like its business as usual. Hopper tries to reassure Joyce that everything is fine, but says that if anything else happens or things truly get worse, call him first.

Meanwhile, at the lab’s lower levels, we learn that the gate is actually still open and it seems to be expanding. However, the lab seems to be keeping the gate contained by having controlled burns to keep anything from getting through. Still, it definitely looks a lot worse than it did in the first season.

CONCLUSION

Will confides in Jonathan that others are making fun of him at school. Jonathan tells Will that he is his best friend and that he’d rather be with Zombie Boy Will than with some boring nobody. Meanwhile, things start going nuts in the lab, suggesting that something major is definitely going on and Will then has another vision of the Upside Down and the huge menace that is on the way.

Finally, we see Hopper driving out into the woods. We don’t quite know what he’s doing out there at first, but he eventually makes his way to a cabin that is protected by handmade traps. He then steps up to the door and gives a secret knock before going in and telling someone that dinner is ready.

Out of nowhere, Eleven appears and sits at the table and they begin to have a TV dinner together. End credits!

The boys observe Max, the newest kid in town in ‘Stranger Things 2’.

THE REVIEW

What a hell of a way to reintroduce Eleven and end an episode. This premiere is pretty solid, but admittedly it’s little more than a catch-up episode. We basically learn where everyone is at in their lives and see how our heroes have moved on since the dramatic events of season one.

We’re introduced to a very different Hawkins Laboratory than the one we saw in the first season. Reiser’s Sam appears to be a good guy, but it would be understandable for anyone to question his loyalties. After all, this lab is the reason that most of the bad things happened in season one.

I really like the introduction of the new characters, particularly Max and Bob. Astin is the optimistic breath of fresh air that these characters needed after what they went through. Max is a headstrong kid and a good addition thanks to actress Sadie Sink being able to hold her own with the rest of the kids.

The new mysteries of the show are expertly set up in this episode, including Will’s “vision” that we already know are not just visions. Then there is the mystery of the dead and dying pumpkins and the fact that the gate is still open in the lab. This all successfully suggests that our characters are about to be put through more crazy and horrific adventures.

Overall, it is a good episode even if it is just reintroducing us to the characters one year after the events of season one. It definitely promises a season that delivered the goods in the entertainment department and I can’t wait to revisit the next episodes in “Stranger Things 2”!

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at ‘Chapter 2: Trick or Treat, Freak’!

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