Disclaimer: This is a non-spoiler review. I ain’t about that life.
Netflix’s very peculiar prodigy child “Stranger Things” blesses eager fans with a binge-worthy marathon of unmatched wit, hard-to-ignore old and new characters and a surprisingly good story of heart-wrenching despair in its long-awaited follow-up that is stranger and more nightmarish than the last.
Despite its faltering moments and bouts of hair-pulling stupidity, “Stranger Things: Season 2” delivers the goods when needed, humor and 80s references when wanted, and frightening moments when viewers least expect it —keeping us on our toes well beyond the season’s end. Its talent for directing the extraordinary in new directions, coupled with its fantastically audacious unpredictability makes this season’s story and character dynamics arguably more compelling than the first.
Written yet again by the Duffer Brothers — Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer — with inspiration from horror and science fiction kings Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter, “Stranger Things: Season 2” is set a year after the first season’s events in 1983 (October 1984).
While this season has no problem delivering the “strange” with even stranger content, revitalizing the timelessness of 80s science fiction and horror, it often (almost every episode) falls on its face when the storytelling grinds to a startling halt. The slow burn exposition littering the first season is so brilliantly woven together that its cuts from dialogue between main characters like Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard) or Hopper (David Harbour) only serve to enhance the show’s intrigue. The uneven pacing in season two may burn its way through some viewers’ patience. It lacks its predecessor’s great pacing and consistency in tone, taking away some of its enjoyment and rewind value.
Nevertheless, the realistically quirky (and Demogorgon-slaying) characters redeem most of the season’s pacing flaws. With tensions skyrocketing between friends and family, emotional scars are laid bare for everyone to see. This season’s authentically tear-jerking performances dominated the hearts of fans and reminded everyone of what makes “Stranger Things” a one-of-a-kind.
Noah Schnapp is emotionally raw as Will Byers. He delivers an engrossing personification of a boy who cannot — to save his life — catch a break. From teary psychological breakdowns to frightening supernatural seizures, Schnapp leads the most heartfelt moments of “Stranger Things: Season 2” into hair-raising, heart-pounding crescendos that leave viewers shaken to the core. While he is not Eleven, Will needs (and deserves) all of the love and support he can get.
The biggest character surprise came in the form of a fiery, red-headed girl — Max Mayfield. When things hit the fan, Max is the first to take action. When someone crosses her, she has no problem standing up for herself (and her friends). Sadie Sink brings it as Max, fleshing out an emotionally scarred individual with a weaponized temper, making her stand out as one of this season’s favorites.
The characters (and acting talents) are responsible for this show’s success. That does not mean that the character and their idiotic decisions are free from my criticism. One moment, characters are smart. the next, they forget that they are smart. While I’m not blind to the implication of character development and naturally stupid decisions that are made during times of extreme stress, this does not mean that viewers will give their beloved characters a “you can do stupid things every episode” free card. The very questionable decision-making done by some more than others (constantly) weighs on the season’s likeability, making it easier to yell at screen more for face palm-worthy decisions than moments where Demogorgons show up on screen.
“Stranger Things: Season 2” burdened its viewers with noticeable pacing issues. It cultivated countable “why” moments. but that does not mean that viewers should go into this with the low expectations. What this season lacks in consistency, Season 2 outshines in character development, unpredictability and horror. Oh, yes — “Stranger Things: Season 2” delivers the horrific goods in more ways than fans would expect. One moment, you are paying respects to one of the season’s smart-alecks, and the next, you pick up a sweat. The suspense is there. The creatures are there. The gut-wrenching moments of heart are everywhere.
“Stranger Things: Season 2” is more than worth nine hours of your life.