WARNING: Contains Spoilers for Season 2
Last year when I binged watched Stranger Things, I was simply amazed. I grew up during the 80’s and loved movies like E.T. and Goonies. Television and movies today can’t seem to capture that adventurous spirit those of us old enough to remember existed back then. That’s probably because it really doesn’t exist today. Back in the 80’s kids lived outside with each other. We built forts and went everywhere on bikes. Society in suburban America has changed since then and kids today don’t get to experience the problem solving of fort building, rope swings, and the minor medical emergencies that go along with them! Stranger Things convincingly takes us back to 1983!
Season one of Stranger Things quickly became a cult classic and overwhelming success. It came as no surprise there would be a season two. It’s so hard to reproduce magic in a series like this one. Many shows start out strong with a seasonal arc without much thought to a continuing through story. While season one of Stranger Things ended with a tease, the show did wrap up everything in case it failed. Could season two live up to the awesomeness of season one?
I recently finished watching season two and I have mixed feelings as to it living up to season one. The production design remained epic and the character dialog was really good as I couldn’t get enough of Dustin and his smart mouth. However, there are two major elements of season two that didn’t work for me.
The first was Eleven’s story arc. Her character in season one became an instant fan favorite. Anyone attending comic conventions since it aired can tell you of all the characters from Stranger Things, hers is cosplayed most. While the character of Will in season one was the driving motivation, Eleven was the means to get him back from the upside down. Her character and how she interacted with the three boys was the heart of the show. In season two, Eleven has her own story arc. While she pines away wanting to reconnect with Mike, she doesn’t get to interact with the boys until the end. Even when she finally reconnects, it’s short lived as her part of the climax is carried out with Hopper rather than the boys. For a majority of the season, she goes off on her own self-discovery tour. She meets her mother and finds Eight, an older girl with different psionic abilities who was part of the same program that raised Eleven. I’m guessing this story thread will become relevant in future seasons as it didn’t seem to connect with everything else happening in Hawkins.
The second element that really didn’t work for me was the dynamic between the four boys and the addition of Max. I actually like the character of Max and having a girl compete with Eleven is a really awesome story trope. Yet as I mentioned earlier, Eleven wasn’t with the boys for most of the season so Max was just competing with a memory. In addition, the four boys themselves didn’t interact as much as season one. Each of them had their own arc and while they spent more time together than Eleven, that “group character” dynamic was really missing. For me the best parts of E.T. and Goonies are the interactions of the kids as they face adversity on their story adventure and season one of Stranger Things was entirely that. The kids carried the show largely together and that was awesome. I just didn’t get that same feeling from season two.
The principle story arc itself for season two was a good one as far as the upside down and the machinations of the Hawkins Lab went. I felt that Will’s story arc was a necessary one and a logical progression from season one. It would have been nice to see his arc interact more with Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven but at least Mike was there for most of it.
I did like season two but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I liked season one. The Duffer brothers plan on a season three and four with the potential for a fifth but as the principal actors age, keeping the show credible beyond that is nearly impossible. That’s my perspective anyway.