By Mackenzie Bath
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
People binged the first season of “Stranger Things” in less than a week. It sparked countless cosplays, memes, halloween costumes and other expressions of love. People raved about the loveable characters, the talented young cast and the show’s unending suspense. Netflix took hold of the immense popularity of their show and gave the green light for season two. The season was released in its entirely on Oct. 27 in honor of the spooky holiday that followed. Despite the Netflix countdown and the intense hype for the show, it did not explode in popularity as the first season did.
The events of this new season take place about a year after we last saw the residents of Hawkins, Indiana. There are many things this season did well, but because of the excitement and expectations, it fell short of what many fans hoped. Still, it was a great second season for a beloved show.
Season two introduces some new characters to join the cast. This includes Dart, who is a seemingly innocent slug that Will Beyers (Noah Schnapp) threw up at the end of season one that turned out to be a baby demogorgon. The most notable addition is Max (Sadie Sink). Max is the spunky redheaded girl who’s joining the kid crew. Max’s brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery), is a mysterious and creepy high school guy. They seem to want the audience to be invested in Max and her family, but there’s too much that’s unresolved with the characters we already love for us to put our energy into that. Still, Max grows on the audience as the season progresses.
The evil is the same as it was in season one. Most of the characters have experienced the Upside Down before, but no one is really discussing their shared past. There is a certain look and feel to things from the Upside Down, and all the mysterious happenings in the beginning of season two have that look and feel: shadowy darkness, floating particles and, for the audience’s benefit, suspenseful music. Curiously, Hopper (David Harbour) and the other characters don’t put that together.
Season one was commended for showing the monster early on in the show. Most scary shows rely on the mystery of an unknown villain, but the demogorgon was identified very quickly. Season two followed this pattern, and it wasn’t as effective because showing us the monster didn’t give us any new information. The demogorgon was straightforward, unlike the new monster. There was a shadow monster that only Will could see, and that didn’t tell the audience anything about the kind of threat they were facing. Yes, this ups the mystery, but almost to the point of confusion. There is no obvious threat that the villainous force poses, except perhaps the destruction of crops.
The Upside Down developed a new trait: an aversion to heat. It also seems to have lost the fact that it is upside down, and is now merely underground. In fact, almost everything learned about the Upside Down in the first season is either irrelevant or forgotten. For instance, they were only able to kill the demogorgon with the help of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), yet Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) seems to think he can kill one with the help of Steve Herrington (Joe Keery) and his trusty nail-studded baseball bat. Speaking of Steve, he is a shining light in this season. His character development is fun and exciting to watch, as he goes from barely liked to heroic.
Audiences fell in love with the El who would do anything for her friends, and who shared a special bond with Mike (Finn Wolfhard). El has mostly her own storyline for the majority of the season. It is interesting, but doesn’t have a place in a mystery show. Her backstory and development as a daughter could have been one episode, or perhaps a special. The way her backstory was done takes away from the driving plot, and takes El out of all the action. She no longer helps her friends with her abilities, and she isn’t fighting to save them for the majority of the season.
The main issue the characters faced in season one was the lack of communication between groups: the boys and El, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). Season two presented the same problem, except worse. The boys no longer communicate about big things going on, and they’re in a fight about Max. Will, Joyce and Mike team up pretty early on, and Hopper and El have been in cahoots for some time. Jonathan and Nancy team up just as they did last season, not bothering to tell anyone about their plans.
While the new season is fun and brings back the characters we love and root for, it isn’t as binge-worthy as its predecessor. Scary TV shows don’t usually last very long, but it’s a known fact that American television will go on for many more seasons than it should. When will “Stranger Things” come to an end?