Last Friday, Netflix released the much-anticipated follow-up season to last summer’s hit show, “Stranger Things.”
The first season of the Netflix original series was popular with both critics and casual fans alike, with it currently sitting at a 94 percent on popular review aggregator website “Rotten Tomatoes.”
While not quite universally acclaimed, the show clearly struck a chord with audiences across the country. Many were cautious prior to this new season’s premiere, wondering if “Stranger Things 2” would match season one or hit a sophomore slump and leave viewers disappointed.
If you were in any way worried about “Stranger Things” season two not being as a good as season one, you can put your mind at ease.
Writers and show creators Matt and Ross Duffer (credited as “The Duffer Brothers”), along with Justin Doble, Paul Ditcher, Jessie Nickson-Lopez and Kate Trefry, crafted a beautiful story this season, encapsulating the same charm, humor and horror that the first season so elegantly portrayed on screen.
Returning writer Justin Doble’s two episodes, “Chapter Three: The Pollywag” and “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister,” stand out this season as particularly heartfelt episodes and establish Doble as a creative force in this show.
On screen, all of the important cast members return for this season.
Winona Ryder delivers another stellar performance as Joyce Byers, mother of Will and Jonathan. David Harbour returns as Sheriff Jim Hopper, with a performance that far exceeds that of season one. The scenes with Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, provide an emotional center for the show as well, with Harbour and Brown producing the most heart wrenching and heartwarming scenes throughout this season. Noah Schnapp does a spectacular job as Will Byers, portraying a kid who is clearly still shaken and dealing with the traumatizing experience of being kidnapped in the previous season.
As the first season focused mostly on Mike, Will, Eleven and the fight against the “Demogorgon,” season two allows for more character development in some of the minor characters from the previous season.
Even though they were friends with Will and Mike, Dustin and Lucas did not get much in the way of character development before, and this season gives them a bit more depth and personality, rather than just being friends with Mike and Will. Even new characters Maxine Mayfield and Billy Hargrove get backstories and character development.
The biggest surprise this season comes from Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington, who becomes a series regular this season as opposed to last season when he was a recurring member. Steve experiences the most growth out of any character this season, going from just being known as Nancy’s boyfriend to becoming a protector of the kids and someone the audience actively roots for instead of rooting against. This speaks volumes to Keery’s ability as an actor, as his transition from antagonist to protagonist is done with artistic subtlety. Billy Hargrove helps provide a foil for Steve, flaunting dark, borderline psychotic tendencies that Steve rejects in himself.
One thing “Stranger Things” was always praised for was its portrayal of children. The writing in this show also deals with these characters coming of age, and they are all beginning to learn that their actions have consequences, a subtle yet pervasive theme this season. Also, following the trend from season one, season two leaves some questions open for a third season, which the Duffers say is “already in the pipeline.”
While “Stranger Things 2” is a fantastic season, it is by no means groundbreaking. It puts a new spin on the same storytelling techniques as before, and still keeps viewers interested. Overall, if you liked the first season, you’ll love the second.