If you’re anything like me, then you probably spent your weekend binge watching all 9 episodes of the new season of Stranger Things. I mean at this point who isn’t watching this show. In fact over the days leading up to and following its release, Stranger Things became the most tweeted about streaming show in history. I would be remiss if I didn’t put my thoughts out their before the grave is cold, so with that in mind: here are 4 things that were better in season 2 and four things that weren’t.
Better: New Characters
Stranger Things 2 gave us a bevy of new characters, some were good, some were great and some were very bad. Bob, Max, Erica and Dr. Owens all fall under the “good” category. Who knew that Rudy (Sean Astin) himself would work so well in the Stranger Things universe as Joyce Beyer’s short lived love interest? Who knew that a cool skateboarder from California was the perfect addition to our favorite gang of nerds? Who knew that Lucas’ sassy sister would be the perfect band-aid for excluding his whole family in season 1? I certainly didn’t, but Stranger Things 2 was full of great things I didn’t know I wanted.
Worse: New Characters
With the introduction of all these new characters, there was bound to be missteps. I’m just gonna briefly recount Kali aka 08 because the unfortunate tragedy that was episode 7 has will be touched on later. Kali showed Eleven how to harness her emotion into her powers, but her intentions were so misconstrued that it practically nullifies it. Billy was acted to perfection as a classic 80s villain but his motives for being such a douche were unclear until the very end. When the audience learns about his dad, it’s too little too late. Bob Newby was great, but he also falls under a bad new character because when he came on the scene it was obvious he was either a villain or a dead man. The acting was great and Sean Astin brought a level to Bob that most actors would fail to do, but because Bob’s fate was predictable for the start it depreciated his impact. His death was sad and all but he got no funeral, Bob deserved better.
Better: Character Development
Overall, the fluidity and rhetoric of the writing went up from season 1 to season 2. Perhaps the biggest improvement in writing was the character development of a couple of the main stars. Last season, towards the end, we started to see a more sentimental side of Hopper in some of the flashbacks to his daughter. This season we saw dad Hopper in full force when he took in Eleven and started to care for her. Joyce also grew as a character in Season 2, mainly from the death of Bob. When the shadow monster possesses Will, Joyce gives in to all of its demands. She really turned around when she put her feet down to lead the way in curing Will, in a way that some characters didn’t have the stomach for.
WORST: Episode 7
Holy. Crap. What was this episode? The whole time you’re waiting for the script to flip back to Hawkins….but it never does! Every character here is forgettable and over the top in the worst way possible. The Duffer Brothers say it mirrors Luke and Yoda from Star Wars Episode V, which is an insult to Star Wars as a whole. If Eleven’s mother had assumed the Yoda role here things might’ve gone a different, better direction. Let’s just forget this episode ever happened and move forward.
Millie Bobby Brown was nominated for an Emmy last season after saying just 246 words (most of which were ‘papa’), which is definitely some sort of record. This season she really flexed her muscles as an actress, in some of those really emotional scenes towards the end of the season, like the return of the aforementioned Papa. Millie Bobby Brown has more acting ability than most adults do in Hollywood right now (and probably more integrity too). Expect her off season to consist of countless award shows and countless awards to go with them.
This is the deciding factor that makes season 1 better than season 2. In season 2 you lose the tension of Will Beyer’s abduction and when you lose that you also lose the common denominator of every main character. In season 2, every character group has a different goal. Nancy and Jonathan want justice for Barb, Hopper wants to protect Eleven, Joyce wants to protect Will, the kids want to… find Dart… I guess. Each journey produces iconic moments by themselves, but thing feel so split up. Even though they do come together in the end, it’s just not as cohesive as season 1.
Better: Steve Harrington
This ties in with the character development aspect of season 2, and Steve has by far the best development of anyone on the show. In season 1 episode 1 Steve was painted as the classic 80s villain. Two seasons and a heartbreak later, Steve turned from a cliché to single mom of five. The interactions he had with Dustin on the Railroad, and again in the car before the Snow Ball were some of the best dialogue pieces in the show. Who knows what the future holds for Steve and his perfect head of hair, but there’s probably a fair share of babysitting involved.
Worse: The Party
No, not the party with the “Pure Fuel guy”, the Party with the famous little kids. Something big that was missing from this season was having all five (four?) kids back together all at once. Eleven and Mike only saw each other twice during the whole show and the season 1 squad of Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Eleven never had a true interaction. Each character evolved separately and with the Party all back in Hawkins we can expect much more screen time in season 3.
Season 2 did an excellent job of advancing each character in his or her own way. In that sense it did a much better job than season 1 ever did. It’s because every character has grown so much that I’m looking forward to season 3, maybe even more than I was in the build up to season 2.
I would love to hear what you guys’ thoughts on the season as a whole and how it measured up to season 1 in general.