‘Stranger Things 2’ makes things stranger and better

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Stranger Things, what the heck was Stranger Things? It was the question running through my mind as it trended on the net amidst other shows like Supernatural, Agents of SHIELD and The Walking Dead. This little unknown show became a runaway hit for Netflix when it aired last 2016 and quickly catapulted its child actors to fame. So I decided to check it out only to wind up binge watching it.

In a word, Stranger Things is engaging. Set in the 80s, the show resonated with a large demographic which includes yours truly and gained the interest of curious millennials giving them a glimpse of an era with no smartphones. If the first season of Stranger Things was engaging, Season 2 is even better. When I have the time, I intend to binge watch both seasons. This show is highly recommended, and it’s hard not to binge-watch. So if you still haven’t seen it, please do. If you’re not familiar with the show, get a hold of Season 1 first. If you are, let’s agree and disagree with Season 2’s finer points. Minor spoilers ahead.

So what’s the deal with Stranger Things Season 2? Of course, things inevitably should get more interesting now that the show has a bigger budget and it did. What we thought was a happy ending for Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) in Season 1 turned out to be a prelude to something bigger, literally. As seen in promotional shots, the boys if you can imagine, have to deal with something that looks gigantic along with a phenomenon that covers or exceeds the boundaries of the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. The season is set just about a year after the events of Season 1. The story picks up naturally from the first season where Noah and some of the other cast continue to deal and cope with past events.

Season 2 further gives deeper character to some of its cast like Jim Hopper (David Harbour) who is given more screen time, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) whom many disliked due to a certain incident and Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) became someone we really like from being an ass in the first season. Nancy and Jonathan Byers’ (Charlie Heaton) relationship is expanded. The main cast Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) have really been put through the ringer by the show’s various directors. Their performances have really been upped a notch, especially for Will who continues to struggle with the Upside-Down, described as the then-less-understood PTSD; and Eleven who finds a father-daughter relationship with Jim and undergoes a journey of maturity.

Those of you who don’t understand #JusticeforBarb, you’ll get it soon enough and fans who do get that justice at the end of this season which I think was satisfyingly handled without putting pretty Nancy through the grinder. There’s still #JusticeforMews though.

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There are also some interesting new characters. There’s Maxine (Sadie Sink), a tomboy introduced in the first episode as a love interest for Lucas and Dustin and becomes a point of conflict for Mike and Eleven. There’s an air of mystery to her as well as her older messed-up brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), the show’s other Mullet and takes over the ass duties from Steve who is too busy with Nancy.

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We have Bob Newby (Sean Astin) who becomes a new love interest for Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) as she and her husband failed to get together despite the events of Season 1. Bob is an electronics salesman and good-hearted character. And then there’s Dart, Dustin’s pet from another world who puts Dustin in the same position as Nancy among cat lovers. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) takes over director duties from Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) at Hawkins Lab relegating the latter to more flashbacks. And lastly, there’s Kali or Eight (Linnea Berthelsen), the psychic illusionist which is a pretty interesting power who is introduced to expand on the experiments done in Hawkins Lab and as a plot device further in the story. Each of these characters expands the narrative and provide viewers a strange new curio to focus on.

Aside from the new characters, the show is engaging to many partly because of nostalgia. There are plenty of pop culture references in this show aside from the awesome 80s soundtrack and the mullets. The show is often described as The Exorcist meets Aliens due to a possession theme and more Demogorgons. Like Aliens, if one can do plenty of damage, what happens if there’s more? Also, some of the episode titles alone refer to 80s pop culture like MADMAX, Dig Dug and The Gate and early promotional shots show the main characters in Ghostbusters uniforms. One episode ends with The Ghostbusters theme song.

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The show is not perfect. There are some obvious bumps that keep Stranger Things 2 from being entirely that. An entire episode in fact. Not that the episode was bad, but it was sort of detached and out of place. It was a necessary episode that could have been handled better. And while we’re stuck figuring out two of the mystery of two newer characters, we’re left with an anticlimactic reason for their behavior. Let’s not say who for the benefit of others. But don’t let these little bumps keep you from enjoying the show.

Overall, Stranger Things Season 2 is engaging and interesting because it is stranger, exciting and more horrifying.