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Review: "Stranger Things" (Season 2, 2017)


Title: Stranger Things Season 2

Genre: Horror, Drama, Fantasy

Director(s): The Duffer Brothers, Shawn Levy, Andrew Stanton, Rebecca Thomas

Stars (Primary Actors): Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Joe Kerry, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser

Bias: Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) is my current celebrity crush. I have an impossible time objectively evaluating any episode that features him heavily (and most of Season 2 does).

(Overall) Grade: B+

In a Nutshell: In Season 1, a group of scrappy nerds in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana uncover a government conspiracy involving telepathic children, demogorgons, and portals to creepy mirror realms. The second season picks up where the first left off, but about a year later. The kids are all still traumatized, especially Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), whose recurring "episodes" - where he can see into the "upside-down" - become the central driving force behind many of the episodes. Unlike Season 1, which had a relatively cohesive central goal – find Will Byers – this season features the main cast splitting off into smaller groups and having their own (mis)adventures, eventually coming together to save Hawkins from evil forces.

The Critique: The decision to split characters off into smaller groups who are working on separate pieces of the larger puzzle sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. The subplot with Steve Harrington, world's coolest babysitter, is lots of fun, and collects a group of characters that we wouldn't have expected to work well together based on Season 1. The subplot with Billy and Max – step-siblings who are new to the area – doesn't add much to the show beyond introducing a love interest (Maxine, aka "MadMax") for the group to fight over. Billy (played with fully-mulleted glory by Dacre Montgomery) exists solely to irritate Steve and pick on Max, and the constant misdirection that make Max and Billy seem more sinister and more deeply involved than they really are ends up leading to a huge letdown when we realize that Billy isn't "up to" anything, he's just a garden-variety douche. Some new additions to the cast are notable – Sean Astin as Bob Newby, Joan Byers' new boyfriend and certified nerd/genius adds some awkward dad vibes to the Byers household, and Paul Reiser as Sam Owens (the new head of Hawkins Laboratory) was fun to speculate about, given the actor's history as a low-key science fiction villain (in Aliens). Overall, I think the season did some great work tying up loose ends from Season 1 and setting the scene for the inevitable Season 3, but maybe expanded too much and too quickly, resulting in some uneven episodes and weird lulls.

To Go, Rent, or to Netflix: Since this is a Netflix exclusive, this question answers itself. If you are one of the 2 people left in the universe without a Netflix account, you should get one and watch Stranger Things.

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