“Stranger Things” season two has been out less than a week, but binge-watching fans have already watched (and sometimes rewatched) all of the episodes. The build-up and hype around this season were high, and so were the expectations after the wild success of the first run. Season two doesn’t disappoint, giving us more characters to love and villains to loathe.
“Stranger Things” is set in small-town Indiana in the 1980s and follows a group of friends as they deal with the normal parts of growing up while battling the shadowy forces of governmental evil and paranormal horror. Packaged in a healthy dose of kitsch and nostalgia, the series manages to use weird subject matter to make sense of the mundane.
The first season introduced us to Hawkins and a group of four young friends who live in that town. Will Byers disappears on the way home from a friend’s house, and what should be a simple missing-child case quickly turns complicated.
Hawkins hides a secret government lab that has opened a portal to an alternate and dangerous realm. Eleven, or El, as she becomes known, escapes the lab and we learn she has extraordinary powers. The local sheriff and Will’s mother work together to find and rescue him, and his friends Mike, Lucas, and Dustin band together with El protect the town from the true source of danger.
Loose Ends Tied and Created
Season two picks up a year after the events of season one, tying up loose ends and creating others. Normalcy is elusive a year later. Will experiences vivid visions of the Shadow Monster coming to claim him and the rest of the town. Eleven finds answers about her past, and learns what having a family looks like. The boys wrestle with dynamics about crushes and what friendship truly means.
For a show that on the surface is all about paranormal and horror, in a very narrow time period, “Stranger Things” manages to provide clarity and commentary on deeper and more lasting issues. Season one was all about examining politics through families, and families continue to be a central theme for the show. Blended families are important in this season, and that fits the ’80s framework well. Both marriage and divorce rates were high that decade, and “Stranger Things” does justice to the difficulties inherent in blended families.
It’s worth noting that the first season had pretty unflattering portrayals of fathers. The dads in the first season were absent, whether in actuality or from work, or evil. This season gives good fathers more of a chance to shine, and it’s refreshing.
Keeping Fans by Not Ruining the Mood
The mood and relationships help distract from some glaring plot holes, as well weird slips. No one in the ’80s called Kentucky Fried Chicken “KFC,” because that shift happened in 1991. If you’re going to make a decade so integral and visible as a plot point, don’t make silly mistakes. Die-hard ’80s aficionados will notice errors like this, and it’s best to catch them in pre-production.
“Stranger Things” avoids the pitfalls and traps other series are falling into, like Star Trek. “Discovery,” the current offering in the long-running Star Trek franchise, is making mistakes so many others have before. Introducing better technology, fancier graphics, and visuals that eclipse later eras makes the whole show feel off. “Stranger Things” isn’t falling prey to this, and the mood and vibe of the show is unrelentingly ’80s.
Kudos to all involved with the production for keeping things authentic and enjoyable, and proving that things don’t need to be fancier to be spectacular. It’s a breath of fresh air right now while other franchises are running down long-established storylines and enraging fanbases.
The biggest problem with the new season of “Stranger Things” is that it’s so short. Why weren’t there more episodes? With a probable wait of a year to follow the lives of our young heroes more, it’s disappointing to have a season that can be watched so quickly.