Monday, 19 August 2019

Stranger Things: Season 2 (2017) - Horror TV Show Review

With the recent arrival of season 3 of Stranger Things it felt time to go back to the show, having only seen the first season. Now I absolutely loved that one, yet after watching the first episode of the second back in 2017, my best friend (who I watch the show with) decided she didn't want to see anymore. Well she has the proverbial egg running down her face as it unsurprisingly turns out now we have returned that Stranger Things did continue to be excellent, with us blasting through the eight episodes in just over a week. There is bound to be some spoilers for the previous season here as an obvious warning.

The show picks up around a year after the events of the first season, with it coming up to the anniversary of Will (Noah Schnapp) getting rescued from the mysterious twisted mirror reality known as 'the upside down'. He has frequently been experiencing flashbacks of being back in the place, which feel all too real, though his doctor at the Hawkins National Laboratory assures him, his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder - Alien: Resurrection), and sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour - Hellboy, Suicide Squad) that it is nothing to be worried about.
During the past year the psychic girl known as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown - Godzilla: King of the Monsters) thought lost in the upside down has in fact been rescued by Hopper and is staying with him in a secluded cabin, but her frustration at being so isolated leads her to want to go and discover her past.
While this is all going on the rest of the gang of school friends, that includes Mike (Finn Wolfhard - It), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and newcomer Max (Sadie Sink) discover a small creature that may have come from the upside down. Then elsewhere, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and her boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery) seek to get closure for the parents of Barb who was killed in the events of a year ago.

Much like the first time around there are several different storylines going on that all eventually meet up. However this time around things are more fragmented with the core cast of the gang spending much time apart. The focal point is Will discovering a giant smoke monster (later called 'The Mind Flayer') that intends to invade the real world. This part takes place mostly separate from everything else with only Mike really being a part of this in terms of the kids. This section is by far the most horror focussed and features possession, huge underground tunnels, and lots of 'demodogs'. Eleven was an integral character before, and despite having a complete standalone story for much of the season she still shines as someone essential to everything. The season opens with a slightly off putting out of place car chase in a city somewhere, with characters we don't know. Her journey eventually has her meet up with these new people in Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister. This episode felt so different to anything that had come before and while it was of course great it did feel a bit apart from anything else.

The rest of the show is where much of the humour comes in, especially with Dustin whose character really seems to get the most funny lines here, from the cringy growling noise he makes whenever he shows off his new teeth, to the constant unimportant points he adds in whenever anyone is talking. This was frequently laugh out loud. It was a great decision to team him up with Steve, this odd-couple relationship let to moments where things become funny without a single word being said. Most the characters here are great, it shows the perfect choice in actors when even eighties stereotypes, such as the nasty Billy (Dacre Montgomery) give off a real screen presence. My favourite of the side characters would have to be Joyce's boyfriend Bob (Sean Astin - The Goonies, The Lord of The Rings trilogy) who just grew and grew on me until he was near enough my favourite character in this season.

What makes Stranger Things just so damn watchable in a story perspective is how each episode ends on huge cliffhangers that force you to continue watching. Also some of the episode titles alone were enough to keep me watching. Seeing an episode titled Chapter Six: The Spy, I just had to watch to find out who the titular spy could be. I fully expected this season to not be anywhere near as strong but it is due to the characters that it is. Eleven's journey into her past for example is such a typical trope for second seasons of shows (Jessica Jones and Luke Cage in their respective shows both feature storylines in the second season that heavily rely on incidents from the past that haven't been brought up before). Maybe the threat didn't feel as dangerous this time around but there were still plenty of thrilling moments, and much like before it culminates in events exploding into action (this time with Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer). The show is just oozing with quality and continues to be obsessed with eighties nostalgia with everything from Ghostbusters to the punk scene thrown in, and never feeling there just to cross off a checklist of eighties things.

Having enjoyed season one so much it is not surprising that I found so much to love here. With these characters, and the pure quality of the show (everything from the perfect soundtrack, to great special effects, a great balance between horror and humour, and the loving recreation of eighties America) this was a dream to watch. My best friend and I fully intend to start season 3 next Monday so hopefully the review of that will be much more current than this review turned out to be!


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