10 Great Things About Stranger Things 2
With another season in the can, Stranger Things 2 revealed more backstory, introduced more elements of the Upside Down, and furthered the relationships and growth of its huge cast of characters. There was a lot to process and speculate, and fans were left wanting more. Below are 10 of my favorite elements from this season of the show. Hopefully, they will be able to keep these strengths going into season 3.
Hair and Wardrobe
Modern movies and TV shows set in the 80s typically lean towards the stereotypical in terms of hair and wardrobe choices. Stranger Things is impressive in their less flashy choices in these departments. The hair is big but not over-exaggerated (except for Steve). The kids and adults dress in everyday clothes of the era. The bright colors and leg warmers are dulled down to neutral colors, knitted sweaters, and short pants. Everyone looks like they have been pulled from family photographs rather than trendy magazines of the day, and you can tell that this choice is intentional, giving everyone a real world, relatable look. Nancy doesn’t need to smear on bright blue eyeshadow to show that she’s popular, and the boys don’t need to wear pocket protectors in their shirt pockets to prove that they’re nerds. They keep it simple but authentic.
Like all shows, you have your nerds, bullies, cool kids, heroes, and villains, but those titles may apply to different characters at different times. Steve Harrington has the biggest character arc of anyone, going from the bullying, slut-shaming boyfriend to the foul-mouthed protector of the pre-teens left in his charge. No character is one way all the time. Hopper can be outraged in one scene and understanding the next. Mike can be brave and forceful in one tense situation and then holding his ears in crippling fear the next, and both reactions work for him. Lucas is headstrong but forgiving. Max is insulting but longing for inclusion into the group. With so much going on and everyone holding a different piece of the puzzle, emotions and actions are mixed. This is how you pull off well-developed characters, by making their actions and reactions grow and change with them.
A Retro 80s Score
Again, this show reaches deep into the decade and borrows its music cues reminiscent of 80s sci-fi movies like Firestarter and even the darker moments of John Hughes movies. It’s electronic and brooding, sometimes scary and sometimes whimsical, but it is setting that classic 80s tone and putting you back in that world that no modern sound could pull off as well or help create that feeling of nostalgia that older viewers experience while watching the show.
New Team Ups
Everyone is gushing about Steve and Dustin, and it’s an uncommon pairing that makes more sense and is more delightful the more you think about it. Then, there is the Hopper and Eleven father-daughter relationship which was inevitable given their individual histories but pulled off in a genius back story that builds this relationship in flashbacks over the course of nearly a year. Also, who would have thought that Max would pick serious Lucas over the charismatic Dustin, but it’s Lucas’ hand that she reaches for in the bus while the demodogs corner them, and it’s Lucas who makes the first move to dance with her at the Snow Ball. Hopefully, Will is slated to get his own unusual buddy in season 3, and until Hopper and Joyce get together, we’ll need a new love interest to wedge between them for a while. Maybe it will be Hopper’s turn to make Joyce jealous.
The Unexpected Plot Twists
We all know that Eleven is going to save the group at the end of episode 8. It’s set up just perfectly and executes just as well, but who would have thought that Dart would turn into the terror dog that he became? Wasn’t he supposed to be the Gizmo of this story? Or how about the plot twists that never came? Wasn’t Bob too nice, so much so that surely, he was going to turn out to be evil? But the writers pulled a fast one, and Bob really was the goofy nerd that he presented to us and to the characters, as far as we know. Will’s story took a more Exorcist turn that I didn’t see coming, and Eleven’s mom’s condition is explained in a heartbreaking back story that explains how ended up in her catatonic state. The story serves the fans where we expect it and then pulls the rug out from under us where we don’t.
Bob the Brain became season 2’s Barb only he was given more screen time to earn the fan outrage of his untimely death. In Hawkins, being the nerd and the good guy guarantees nothing. The demodogs can come for you when you’re two inches from safety. But Mikey from the Goonies? Why? Again, at least he wasn’t a villain hiding in plain sight, but he is the living embodiment of how the Byers family can’t earn one fragment of happiness without it being ripped apart in front of them, literally.
The Final Two Episodes
My biggest complaint with the show is that both seasons tend to drag during the middle episodes before kicking into high gear to a grand finale. Season 2 had even more epic of an ending than season 1 only with a less sad outcome. Steve doesn’t get the girl, and Joyce is left mourning over Bob, but otherwise, there is a sigh of relief in terms of how things play out. Flip flopping between individual story lines pay off as the group works together to save the day in the final episodes. After all, it takes a ton of characters to fight the evils of the Upside Down, but this allows for the most humor, the most action, and the best chance for success.
Halloween is the greatest night of the year (just ask Mike) so it’s only appropriate to set the story that unfolds in season 2 around this holiday. It gave us Ghostbusters costumes, a Halloween movie ghost reference, a gremlin-type character, and an opportunity to present Will with his most horrific vision while Max makes the decision to join the group. Halloween is about trick-or-treating and atmosphere, and the town of Hawkins does it right with their plastic pumpkins and 3 Musketeers bars while unraveling plot elements and character development around this event.
Lucas' Little Sister
If Mike’s sister, Holly, is an homage to Gertie from E.T. in season 1 (where was she during this season, anyway?), then Lucas’ little sister, Erica, is this season’s Gertie, exhibiting her attitude and annoying little sister tendencies, keeping the boys from communicating with each other and telling them like it is. Erica isn’t afraid to swipe her brother’s action figures to use as love interests for her dolls, and she also isn’t afraid to shout insults at them over his walkie talkie with no shame or sneakiness.
Poor Will. Let’s hope his days of torture are over, but his visions are unsettling and prophetic. The silence and vastness of the images he sees are compelling, big trailer moments that pay off in terms of giving the characters and audience something to fear but still leaves much to learn in upcoming seasons. You have to give Noah Schnapp a lot of credit for being able to pull off such a complex part. He has to be the quiet kid, the Wizard, and a possessed being within these nine episodes. His ability to contort, convulse, and emote so violently and dramatically shows his understanding for the character and the haunting visions that he is supposed to convey.
What are your favorite moments from Season 2 of Stranger Things? Leave your answers in the comments below!