Stranger Things Season 2 is a complete home run, the season opens on a high, closes on a high, and consistently subjects you to shock and awe with each passing episode all of which contain so much juicy content. Compared to the first season a shitload of stuff happens in these nine episodes, so much so that each episode could sustain its own spoiler review. But here I am going to go into every single episode from MADMAX to The Gate going through my thoughts at the time of having seen up to each episode and going more in depth to specific scenes and of course that goddamn ending…. so lets begin. Some episodes may be covered chronologically some may be following the specific storylines, either way it’s gonna be fun.
CHAPTER 1: MADMAX
Chapter 1 is the big return to Hawkins, the episode that reintroduces us to our favourite characters and what they have been up to since Eleven saved the town last season. But before all of this we get the first example of the Duffer brothers expanding this world as we get a cold open focusing on a group of criminals who commit a crime and must escape from the police. This is just a normal heist chase sequence until we see one of the criminals, known only as Eight use her supernatural powers to make the police hallucinate a blockage to the tunnel they entered allowing them to get away. Now the question remains…. who is Eight? how is she important to this season overall? and will we get an Eleven and Eight team-up to fight the big bad….. we’ll have to wait and see.
Following the opening scene we catch up with everyone almost one year after the events of last season and the Duffer brothers do such a great job here at making the first season flow so smoothly into this season despite the time jump. We begin to reestablish the characters we love and see how Will is fitting back in with society and more importantly we are back to spending time with Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will just being kids. We also get the introduction of Max (Sadie Sink) who takes the boys’ world by storm as she manages to shockingly beat Dustin’s high score on Dig Dug prompting them to more or less stalk her. But all the fun and games doesn’t last too long as we see Will is having much stronger and more real visions of this shadow monster looming large in the Upside Down, this poor kid just can’t catch a break.
We also see that the operations at Hawkins Lab are still going strong now with Dr Owens (Paul Reiser) at the helm of their shady evil operations surrounding the portal to the Upside Down. All around town it appears as though pumpkin farms are dying very rapidly leading locals to hilariously turn on and blame their pumpkin growing neighbours. This is definitely weird and no doubt has something to do with the Upside Down. We learn that Barb is not completely forgotten with her parents keeping up their search by hiring a reporter and Nancy seemingly fighting with knowing what really happened to her. But then in the closing moment we see Eleven again for the first time this season, she is alive and well living in what appears to be an old cabin only Hopper knows about. It’ll be interesting to see how this point develops.
CHAPTER 2: TRICK OR TREAT, FREAK
Chapter 2 gets a little more focused than the first episode as we mainly focus on a few core sets of characters but it still feels like we are covering the entire town. Lets first cover everything about Eleven here as in a series of flashbacks we learn what happened to her right after she vanished when defeating the Demogorgon. So it turns out she really wasn’t gone for long, she managed to make her way back into the school through another portal between the two worlds moments after disappearing. She chose to go into hiding, surviving on her own in the wild until I assume Hopper comes across her hiding out in the woods. Meanwhile in the present day we get plenty of time exploring the current state of Hopper’s relationship with Eleven and establish that they have developed a very strong and charming bond where Hopper is dedicated to ensuring her safety. I really want to see this relationship continue to be explored especially as there is a bit of conflict where Eleven just wants to go back to normal life but Hopper persists that isolation is best for her at the moment. Later on in the episode we see Eleven tap into her powers to see and contact Mike and when he leaves the pain and sadness in her eyes is heartbreaking…….. Season 2 bringing the feels early…… saving the tears for later.
Will seems to be still having his crazy hallucinations and on top of all that seems to be a damn good drawer when it comes to drawing evil entities purely from memory. We also get to see more of our favourite kids just be kids while they can…. It’s Halloween and all I know is I need those awesome Ghostbusters costumes. Max officially joins the crew here (much to Mike’s disagreement) and through seeing her interact with Dustin and Lucas we learn a lot about her personality and this is the point where I began to love her character. She is very layered especially when you consider her tough skater side, her fun side, and then having to deal with her brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Billy is a straight up douchebag, I mean, he’s a total asshole and the way he treats his sister makes you hate his ass in every damn moment…… he’s got such a punchable face I hope he cops shit at some point this season. Meanwhile Dr Owens is up to some more shady shit going deeper into the Upside Down where I doubt good things will come of whatever they are experimenting with. More pumpkin fields are showing up dead and this has to have something to do with what the Lab is doing in secret.
Nancy and Steve go to a party and Nancy gets very drunk to the point where she sort of admits to Steve that she doesn’t really love him. The highlight of this scene is that Nancy constantly slurring out the word “bullshit” only reminded be of Tommy Wiseau saying it in The Room. And then right at the end of the episode we are about to find out the source of those weird alien sounds we’ve been hearing at the pumpkin patches as Dustin confronts the object living in his trashcan.
CHAPTER 3: THE POLLYWOG
So in continuing directly after last episode’s cliffhanger(?) Dustin’s functioning Ghostbusters trap came in handy to capture this weird little alien like tadpole creature which is almost certainly from the Upside Down. And I mean, seriously Dustin, i’m no expert but I think it’s definitely not a good idea to keep this thing mate…. i’ve seen Alien (1979) and I guarantee this thing will have xenomorph-like growth. Next up we take another trip to the past to where Hopper discovers Eleven and takes her to his ‘cabin in the woods’ where she will be safe. On top of this we spend time further developing Eleven’s relationship with Hopper and I am loving every single minute of it. This has been a big focus of the season so far where we have seen them bonding over time to the point where they now share a very trusting father/daughter relationship. He’s the father figure she never had and she’s the daughter he lost early on.
Sean Astin’s Bob continues to be featured throughout this season and he is just such a quirky, kind hearted, and loveable guy you cannot help but root for him to have a happy ending with Joyce and her kids. Bob has a great scene in the car with Will where he tells him a story about how facing your fears head on is by far the best way to stop them. Will has a look on his face that indicates there is no doubt he’s going to try this tactic at some point in future episodes and I have a feeling it might work in saving him momentarily. In this scene there is a quick reference to Stephen King’s IT where Bob quotes “do you want a balloon”, it’s subtle and as a fan of IT I loved it. Now back to Dustin’s tadpole which he names Dart and it turns out Will has made the realisation that Dart is the creature or one of the creatures that he regurgitated in the final moments of season 1. After it briefly escapes in the school Dustin sneaks the creature back home and i’m sorry bud, but nothing good is going to come from this, I can almost guarantee it.
Finally in this episode Eleven decides to leave her safe house and find Mike so she makes her way to the school and in the end does in fact find Mike, but oh shit, she finds Mike briefly hanging out with Max then jealousy kicks in and she knocks Max off her skateboard before hightailing on out of there. Then we get maybe the most horrifying scene of the entire series so far where Will is running from the shadow demon in one of his visions and then takes Bob’s advice to face it head on. But to where I thought the tactic might work, it doesn’t and the demon then begins to flood into Will’s body in a terrifying scene that Will executes fantastically.
CHAPTER 4: WILL THE WISE
Continuing on with Will things are looking worse and worse for this poor kid, it appears as though this demon has entered Will’s body and is starting to go full crazy since being taken over by the demon. His “he likes it cold” line was chilling and delivered fantastically by the young actor. Will’s eyes moving rapidly under his eyes was a pretty terrifying image. Will then puts his artistic skills to good use an begins to draw a series of scribbles onto hundreds of pieces of paper and when connected by Joyce and Hopper they depict a series of winding tunnels, the same tunnels that appeared briefly in some of his visions. Previous to these sequences Hopper had a great emotional scene with Eleven about leaving her house and Eleven loses control. This scene is still expanding their relationship now with Hopper being the protective parent and Eleven the rebellious teen of sorts. She gets so emotional that she destroys every window in the house and Hopper punishes her by taking away her Eggos…. I loved everything about this scene as their relationship is one of my favourite parts of this season.
Meanwhile Nancy and Jonathan are waiting in the park after contacting Barb’s parents to meet them about information regarding the truth about Barb. This scene in the park is horror suspense at its finest as the Lab workers track them down and bring them to the Lab where they come across Dr Owens. Dr Owens straight up shows them the gateway to the Upside Down and explains how he is trying to contain it and prevent it from spreading by burning the vines. This got me thinking whether Dr Owens is actually doing good or if he’s still executing the Lab’s shady experiments. Later on it is revealed that Nancy and Jonathan intentionally got themselves caught in order to get a confession from the Lab owning up to covering up Barb’s death. Meanwhile Eleven discovers Hopper’s Dads old boxes under the cabin and amongst the boxes she finds one of Hopper’s boxes labelled “Hawkins Lab”. Inside the box she finds out that her mother is Terry Ives, whom we met briefly in season 1, and that her real name is Jane. She uses her powers to locate her mother who is still stuck watching tv unable to think for herself.
This episode ends with some incredibly intense moments, one of which is exploring Dustin and his relationship with Dart and as expected things aren’t looking good. What did I tell you Dustin? Keeping Dart was not a good idea as now that little tadpole has gone full xenomorph and grown into a dog sized Demogorgon and killed his family cat…… good luck explaining this one buddy. Meanwhile Hopper has visited one of the pumpkin patches and started digging as he believes the problem may in fact lie underground. After what seems like half a day of digging he discovers the tunnels that Will was frantically drawing earlier this episode. Upon entering the tunnel the camera flips upside down indicating that the Upside Down has made its way to Hawkins and is beginning to take over.
CHAPTER 5: DIG DUG
First lets just admire the awesomeness and simplicity of this title…… So Joyce is embracing her season 1 insanity and still putting together Will’s hundreds of drawings in a map that now spans the entire house. Meanwhile Hopper is one brave fucker, still searching through the underground tunnel system until he’s knocked unconscious by the plants and sealed in the tunnels……. Mark Wahlberg was right people, the plants are evil. Will then has a vision of Hopper trapped in the tunnels and uses his artistic skills to draw exactly where Hopper is, now Joyce and Mike know where he is in relation to Will’s drawings but no idea where that may be in Hawkins. And it was at this point I was thinking this scene needs a little more Bob and sure enough Bob the brain shows up and Joyce lets him in on the investigation. Upon entering the house it’s safe to say Bob is a little bit shocked but sure enough he decides to help and figures out it’s a map of a tunnel system around Hawkins. In this scene we get an incredible easter egg referencing The Goonies (1985) where Bob asks “What’s at the X? Pirate’s treasure?”. This isn’t a very subtle reference but still awesome to spot.
Back with Eleven (even though her name is in fact Jane i’ll still call her Eleven for this season) she tracks down her mother in the real world and confronts her. Now at this point I thought maybe having Eleven talk to Terry she would snap out of her gibberish state but it unfortunately doesn’t help. All of a sudden the crazy light flickering makes its way back into the show and it indicates that her mother is trying to communicate with her, so Eleven then taps into her powers once again and we get some very cool content. We see into Terry’s head and learn that the poor woman is dreaming the same dream over and over again, hence her repeating the same words. The dream covers Eleven’s birth and how she was taken away from Terry immediately and told she was dead, it also reveals that Terry stormed into the lab opening fire on guards trying to find Eleven. She found Eleven but was subsequently captured and electrocuted into the vegetative state she is currently in. This was a very emotional moment to learn what she went through to get her daughter back.
But the most intriguing part of this flashback sequence is that when she finds Eleven in the rainbow room she is sitting with another child who is most definitely Eight from the opening scene of the season. She’s a character we have yet to see come into contact with Eleven and considering there’s only four episodes left i’m sure she’ll make her heroic appearance soon. Also in this episode Nancy and Jonathan track down the reporter/investigator from the first episode to try and present evidence that would shut down Hawkins Lab. This sequence isn’t the most engaging and probably the only low point of the season so far. Now back to Hopper where this episode has an intense and explosive finale….. he’s since been grabbed and tied down by the vines in the tunnels and it looks like he doesn’t have long left…. could they shock us and kill off Hopper? Nope, because Joyce and Bob manage to find Hopper and almost get themselves trapped but not until the army from the lab show up with a flamethrower and burn the shit out of the vines. I guess this confirms the fact that the Lab may actually be good this time around and are trying to stop the Upside Down from taking over. But the big twist here is that Will instantly feels every bit of pain that the vines feel as they burn, clearly they are somehow connected.
CHAPTER 6: THE SPY
This, now this is another incredible episode with an ending that is beyond insane and I for one most definitely did not see it coming. But before we get to that point we follow Dustin and Steve who have joined forces as an unlikely duo to fight Dart with Steve’s trusty nailed baseball bat. I never thought I wanted to see this duo happen but it works so damn well and takes Steve’s character in a more compassionate direction, very different from his straight up bully status in the first season. And we also learn here that the secret to hair like Steve is to use Farrah Fawcett spray…. not taken. But of course Dart has once again xenomorphed up and smashed his way out of the basement….. good luck with this one now mate. Back at the reporters place Nancy and Jonathan continue to discuss the downfall of Hawkins Lab and these scenes still aren’t that engaging aside from furthering Nancy and Jonathan’s relationship. And then all of a sudden FUCK YEAHHHH Nancy and Jonathan get busy and now they’re officially a thing, it’s about damn time i’d say.
Elsewhere Hopper and Dr Owens take a visit to the Upside Down portal now that they know they’re both on the same page, and we learn that as they’ve been fighting back the growth of the vines on the surface the vines have adapted and been spreading beneath the surface this whole time, explaining the tunnels. Then we go and visit Will who has since stopped hurting from being burned internally at the end of last episode. And Oh Shit! Will wakes up and all of a sudden he doesn’t remember who Bob is, or Doc, or Hopper. He also has a much stronger bond with the shadow demon now and speaks for it as what hurts or angers it has negative effects on him, soon we’re going to need a priest to perform an exorcism….. What? They didn’t cast a priest this season? Well shit. Meanwhile Lucas and Max continue to bond and at this point I totally ship them together if I don’t see Max and Lucas get together by the end of this season imma be severely disappointed. Also following their journey to the crazy reporter Nancy and Jonathan return to the Byers household and are shocked to find all of the tunnel drawings on every wall floor and roof…. you two have missed a lot of shit.
From this point onwards shit goes fucking inanely nuts. So the Lab took photos of Will’s entire map of tunnels and bought them to him to analyse them. Will points out one spot in the tunnels the shadow demon wont let him see and indicates it must be important for some reason. So it looks like the Lab will be sending their army down to se what is in there. The best thing at this point is that they haven’t really explained what the monster is apart from being an all devouring threat from the Upside Down. What does it want? Probably death but we don’t really know. Away from the Lab however Steve, Max, Dustin, and Lucas have teamed up to set up a trap for Dart in the junkyard but turns out he’s not hungry for any of the bait they left him. I love this gang right here, Steve fits in so well with the kids and has a chemistry that is so entertaining to watch. So as the bait didn’t work Steve decides to go Mano a Mano with Dart but then we get the first big twist of the episode…… there isn’t just one Demogorgon. All of a sudden Steve is surrounded by around three Demogorgons and only JUST avoids being slaughtered. So the gang manage to survive the multiple Demogorgon attack as they get distracted by the guards from the Lab pressing into the shadow demon’s lair.
So in the explosive finale of this episode the Lab army makes it to the secret area of the tunnels and realises there is nothing there, and as it turns out, it was a trap designed to kill a bunch of soldiers and feed the Demogorgons. But how did the shadow demon know they’d be there? As the episode title eludes to, Will is in fact the spy and the shadow demon can see through Will and influence what he says and does so through Will he set the trap for the soldiers. Now all of the soldiers are dead and judging by the shot showing the radar there are a shitload more Demogorgons than 3, like a whole armies worth. And now this army has officially exited the tunnels to wreak havoc on the world above.
CHAPTER 7: THE LOST SISTER
So now we get to episode 7 and the approach to this episode is most definitely a shock as it takes a departure from all of the events going on in Hawkins and follows Eleven on a journey to find he sister. Now even though the plot behind this episode is almost entirely disconnected from the events in Hawkins I still enjoyed the episode for how it explores Eleven’s character more and is essential in helping develop her powers further. So in the episode Eleven goes on a journey away from Hawkins to find her long lost adoptive sister Eight who we soon learn is called Kali. On her way there Eleven uses her “mouth breather” line which is a nice small callback to season 1. And when we meet Kali it is clear that she has gone the route of using her powers for bad and for revenge as oppose to using it for good reasons. They share some nice sisterly bonding moments and Kali helps teach Eleven how to channel her strength into using the full potential of her powers.
So Kali enlists Eleven on a mission to hunt down and kill one of the men who tortured them back in the Lab, they track down the man, and Eleven uses her powers to kill him but holds back when she realises he has two children. Then we get a semi-reveal from the man she almost kills that is also eluded to again by Kali later in the episode. So this guy drops a hint that Dr Brenner from season 1 may not be dead after his run in with the Demogorgon. We don’t really get an answer either way and this is one of the mysteries that will probably be up in the air as we move on to a season 3. At the end of the episode Eleven makes the decision to leave her sister and go back home to Hawkins. Kali’s friends who join them on the mission aren’t interesting whatsoever, glad we didn’t focus on them too much here.
CHAPTER 8: THE MIND FLAYER
So now we are finally back in Hawkins for the penultimate episode where we pick right back up from where we left off. The army of Demogorgans some out of the chasm, break into the lab and go on a slaughter rampage. In everything going on Mike has the most rational idea, to put Will to sleep so that the shadow demon can’t spy through him. Will, Joyce, Bob, Mike, Hopper, and Dr Owens seek refuge in the surveillance room whilst the lab loses power and the halls are swarming with Demogorgons. Outside of Hawkins lab Steve, Dustin, Max, and Lucas track the sound of the Demogorgons there and come across Nancy and Jonathan who have also made their way to the lab. Everyone is essentially in one place now and things are getting intense. So Bob goes on a hero’s journey to turn on the power allowing a way out for Hopper and co. and he actually succeeds in making it there. Now he’s gotta make it out of the building and I don’t see it ending well for him. But contrary to my belief he actually made it to the exit of the lab…. well almost as he manages to see Joyce one last time before being blindsided by a Demogorgon and devoured by the whole pack. Poor Bob, I was genuinely sad to see him die even though we only just met him this season.
Everyone else escape the lab except for Dr Owens and now we have all of our favourite characters cooped up in the Byers household. Poor Dustin, he thinks Lucas is ‘mr steal yo girl’ but honestly the chemistry between Lucas and Max is very strong. So they all devise a plan to talk to Will without the shadow demon being able to spy on their location. What follows is an incredible emotional scene where Joyce, Jonathan, and Mike try to get through to Will by sharing their fondest memories together but unfortunately it just doesn’t work. But Hopper then discovers that Will is communicating with them sneakily via morse code. ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ begins playing over the top of everyone trying to figure out what Will is saying via morse code and they solve his message as saying “Close Gate”. Then right as they do the phone in the Byers household rings and that allows Will to figure out where he is and soon the army of Demogorgons march upon the house.
As the Demogorgons arrive there is a ruckus heard outside the house yet none of the Demogorgons are attacking. As everyone takes up arms in the house in an Avengers style lineup a dead Demogorgon flies through the window and that can only mean one thing…. Eleven. Sure enough she walks through the door to save the motherfucken day SO MUCH YES!!! So now the whole crew is back together and THAT people is how you execute a phenomenal, 100% perfect penultimate episode.
CHAPTER 9: THE GATE
This episode is without a doubt the perfect finale, every second is riveting and right down to the final second I was experiencing a range of emotions as so much happens in such a short amount of time. So first we have an emotional reunion with Eleven and Mike and oh my god here start the tears…. shit. Now everyone gets back into ‘deal with this shit’ mode and devise a plan to stop this thing once and for all. Eleven needs to get to the gate in the lab which is swarming with Demogorgons and close it (good luck) but if we kill the shadow demon Will will also die due to being directly connected with it, so they need to get the demon out of him first. This creates a plan which splits everyone up, Eleven and Hopper head towards the lab, Joyce, Nancy and Jonathan go to extract the demon from Will, and Steve is left to babysit Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Max. Everyone is accomplishing seperate tasks but all of them are important for achieving the same goal.
As Hopper and Eleven make their way to the lab we get another dialogue sequence focusing on their unique father/daughter relationship and we really see how strong it is and coming full circle this is one of my favourite elements of the entire season. And you know what, I can really get used to Eleven’s ‘bitchin’ new look. Meanwhile Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy take Will to Hopper’s cabin where they subject him to many sources of extreme heat to hopefully extract the demon from his body. Elsewhere Billy has been tasked with tracking down and bringing home Max, he visits Nancy’s house and has a hilarious scene in which he hits on her Mum and I think there may be a potential romance blossoming in future seasons….. this is a corny moment but the show embraces it. Then Billy makes it to the Byers household and wants to cause some shit but then Steve steps up to the plate and well… he takes a beating before Max sedates Billy. Even though he lost you can’t fault his courage. Max, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin then take the unconscious Steve with them as they proceed with their plan to help Eleven by luring the Demogorgons away from the gate.
Over at the lab Hopper and Eleven make their way though and miraculously find Dr Owens who is still alive but in a wounded state. They then make their way to the gate which is of course swarming with Demogorgons. Over at Hopper’s cabin one of the most intense and horrifying scenes is occurring where Will begins shaking and reacting badly to being subject to a tonne of heat and rather than allowing Jonathan to turn it down Joyce makes the tough decision to turn it all up and this results in the shadow demon choking Joyce but ultimately escaping the body with Nancy’s help and spiralling off into the sky. Steve and co. make their way through the tunnels in a scene reminiscent of something in Alien or Aliens and begin to burn the shadow demon’s lair. As they do this all of the Demogorgons leave the gate allowing Hopper and Eleven to proceed. Amongst all of this intensity we do get closure to the Dart storyline as our gang in the tunnels are prevented from escaping by Dart. But it turns out the compassion Dustin showed Dart and the love of nougat he gave him allowed the group to pass by safely, so in the end, in a way, I guess Dustin was right to keep Dart…… even though i’d have still killed him. And then in the final moments Hopper protects Eleven as she uses what she learnt from her sister to focus all of her power into closing the gate and does so successfully saving the town once again.
The final 15-20 minutes of the episode flash forward to one month later and we get satisfying update after satisfying update in what is as good of an ending as I could have hoped for. The lab gets shut down and is convicted of being involved in and covering up the death of Barb who finally gets a proper funeral. Dr Owens did survive in the end which is really good to see another good character make it out alive…. he provides Hopper with a birth certificate for Eleven giving him custody and completing their father/daughter connection. Everyone seems to get a positive ending and considering the amount of shit they all went they fucken deserve it. Dustin is now sporting a new Steve inspire hairstyle and it is the bomb. At the school dance Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ and The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ are two perfect songs to close out the season. All of the kids find a girl to dance with, even poor Dustin manages to get a dance with Nancy after other failed attempts. And finally Eleven enters the dance, stunning as ever and now her and Mike are finally together in a beautiful reunion where they share a proper kiss.
But of course not everything can be sunshine and rainbows as in one incredible final shot the camera turns upside down to reveal the shadow demon is still in the Upside Down and has his eyes set on the school hall where he is watching all those who just foiled his plan of taking over Hawkins. This opens the possibilities for season 3 up even larger where now the threat is going to be even more ruthless and we could see the effects of the Upside Down in locations outside of Hawkins. And the fact that we know Kali survived the experiments at the lab maybe other test subjects are out there too, we may have a full team of super powered people taking on the threats of the Upside Down in the future. Whatever happens I know I will be there to binge every minute of it non stop. If you are looking for my regular review and the score I gave season 2 you can find that by clicking HERE.