Where do I even begin with this show? Season 1 of Stranger Things was a straight up TV masterpiece, it instantly became my favourite series of all time as there wasn’t a single minute, nor a single second of that first season I didn’t love. Whether they continued with a Season 2 or not I wasn’t fussed over, I thought it ended to where the Duffer brothers could never revisit these characters and i’d be entirely satisfied. But now that i’ve seen what they did with Season 2 i’m so glad they went ahead with it because it is an incredible followup to a first season that totally blew me away. Everything I loved about that first season is still here; the characters, the humour, the horror, the music, the score, and the 80’s references are all heavily featured alongside brand new incredible characters, a much darker tone overall, and on a much larger scale whilst still feeling like a very small contained story.
Season 1 introduced us to this world, the town of Hawkins, the Upside Down, and spent ample time in each location to where we got enough information to understand the basic nature of this world without delving too deep into its craziness. This season however goes way darker than the first, it is more traumatic, horrific, intense and our beloved characters go through some serious shit you wouldn’t even be able to dream up. Since the mystery of what the Upside Down is has been solved, this season is able to explore much deeper into the dangers of the Upside Down and oh so deep it goes. This time around we have a new looming danger threatening the lives of all who survived the Demogorgon attack and compared to this new big bad, the Demogorgon is minuscule in strength and most definitely in size. It brings the humour, the drama, the romance, and most certainly the horror all in balanced quantities in this thrill ride that never lets up. The places this season goes will have you laughing, crying, and cycling through a range of emotions as you experience what this amazing story has in store for you.
More than anything it is the characters that are the life of this series, everyone is so fleshed out with rich and unique personalities that allow you to find the positives in every role whether they be good or bad. And here on top of further developing the existing characters and relationships from the previous season the Duffer brothers introduce a number of also unique characters all of which I found myself instantly connecting with and loving. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), Jim Hopper (David Harbour), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will (Noah Schnapp), Eleven (Milli Bobby Brown) and many many more of your favourite characters return here in fine fashion. It’s been almost a year, their characters have grown, relationships have developed, and they are all in for a journey that will put them through the ringer worse than they have experienced so far. And the performances behind every one of these characters are top notch, everyone has their character locked down to perfection to where everyone feels real, you understand the nature and reasoning behind every action, and if you understand what each character has gone through there is no need to question any of their reactions.
If I was to go through each and every one of these characters and performances i’d be here for hours but one I need to mention specifically is Noah Schnapp’s Will Byers. Will was most definitely in the first season of Stranger Things but as he spent most of his time alone in the Upside Down we never really got to see a whole lot of him interacting with other people….. until now. Noah does a phenomenal job in a much larger role here and adds so much emotional weight to every scene he is in that this season would not be nearly as good without his performance. His character goes through a lot and every emotion and moment of horror is captured perfectly through his performance so where if you didn’t already love Will you most certainly do now. But where the characters themselves are incredible it’s the relationships that are explored and develop over time that tie all of these personalities together. And it isn’t just the romantic relationships (which there are a few of). All of these characters are so well fleshed out that when you pair any two individuals together you will get unique and endlessly entertaining interactions every time without fail.
Now where the previously established characters are the ones people will instantly gravitate towards at the beginning of this season it is the fresh additions to the cast that had be thoroughly entertained. You’d think that these new characters would exist in the shadows of the more iconic roles but they really don’t, they stand out and hold their own, forcing their way to the forefront of many scene having you instantly fall in love with them. Sean Astin plays a character by the name of Bob Newby and he is a great, quirky and infinitely loveable character right from the moment you meet him. Astin is an incredible actor recognised for his iconic 80’s role in The Goonies (1985) among others and this season doesn’t let you forget that. Australian actor Dacre Montgomery plays Billy this season, a total and utter dick right from the moment you first lay eyes on him. It’s a very different role for him especially coming off of his very heroic role in Power Rangers (2017) but he owns the role and pulls it off phenomenally. Experienced actor Paul Reiser plays Dr Owens and is no less than fantastic, as you’d expect from a seasoned actor such as him. But for me the standout new role has to be the young Sadie Sink who kills it as Max, a very tough young female role with a rich and charismatic personality whom I instantly fell in love with. She has a large role that gets more integral with each passing episode and I adored every minute she was on screen.
Once again the score and soundtrack used throughout this season is undeniably riveting. The synth-heavy score will suck you into every scene whether the scene have a positive tone, a sad tone, or a very scary tone the score accommodates every scene with perfection at times giving me literal goosebumps. As does the tone, the score also gets darker with each passing episode. And then you have the soundtrack which is entirely derived from early 80’s music and it is riddled with iconic music that only helps craft this world and make you feel like you really are in the 80’s. It is no secret that Stranger Things is a very heavy 80’s nostalgia trip and there are many new 80’s film, tv, and pop culture references all over the place. Once of the common criticisms the first season got is that some people saw the homages to 80’s film as a lack of originality as oppose to paying homage to iconic films of that generation. I was very far from the views of those people but I guess I could see where they were coming from, it all depended on the way you looked at things. Here however it seems as though the series as come into its own in a way, crafted its own iconic 80’s tone and style of filmmaking that rather than reminding you of other properties reminds you simply of Stranger Things. It’s started a trend now that any time an 80’s set coming of age film releases people will probably draw comparisons to Stranger Things over films from that era.
So in the end, Stranger Things Season 2 is truly phenomenal…… I really don’t want to go too far into it to avoid as many spoilers as possible but if you loved the first season you have absolutely nothing to worry about here. If what you loved seeing was the comedy and the dynamic shared between the lead group of kids, that’s in here. If you loved the more terrifying horror elements revolving around the Upside Down, that’s in here too. Basically everything you loved from the first season is in here plus some more surprises. The entire season is consistently engaging, but if I was to cave in and pick out any criticism it would be the way episode seven is handled. I still very much enjoyed the episode for how it approaches specific character development but it does feel like a departure from the main events going on. That’s all i’ll say about it as it’s better to experience every minute of this series for yourself. So strap yourself in for nine incredible episodes that will grab you from the opening scene and hold you in right up until the final seconds of episode nine. I can’t think of any other score that this season deserves……