Stranger Things: Season 2

Am I stretching myself too thin by adding in TV reviews as well? Yes, yes I am.

2 Strange 2 Things, the follow up to the ludicrously well-made first season, premiered on Halloween. And I’m probably the last person to finally finish it.

Hawkins, Indiana has settled into normalcy. Our heroes desperately trying to pretend that they don’t need hours and hours of therapy for what they went through just a year before. Three people are hiding dangerous secrets though. Will is experiencing visions of the upside down and a giant, threatening smoke monster a la Lost. Sheriff Hopper has been hiding a very much-alive Eleven in a cabin in the woods to keep her safe from the government. And the government, well they still control the lab and the gaping dimension hole to the upside down. And it is very much open.

Honestly, the plot isn’t too different from the first season. Will is still in need of saving. Steve becomes the best again. Hopper is an inspiration to us all and Eleven is really the only answer they have to interdimensional monsters. Like the first season, what really drives the show are the characters. Every piece of the puzzle, from Winona Ryder’s stressed out walking halloween costume, to Mike’s ridiculous scene stealing dad, feels carefully and lovingly crafted.

Which is why Season 2 gets a knock down a notch right before the finale. Eleven runs off to Chicago to find a girl who was also in the child superpower program with her. This tonal shift feels super forced and like Netflix ordered a certain number of episodes but the creators only had a few ready to go. Tell the story, don’t fill it with unnecessary garbage. Netflix should know better than that.

Sadly, there’s a lot more jump scares instead of actual horror in this season. Most noticeably near the end when a major character gets offed in a gruesome and frankly gratuitous manner.

It’s a fine follow-up. But the originality and quality of the first season really makes you wish you were watching that instead. Maybe they can make the switch from small time monster to Lovecraftian existential horror, but I’m not seeing the best evidence yet. This season is good. The first is perfect. And I am extremely cautiously optimistic about a third season’s watchability.

3 out of 4 stars.

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