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Stranger Things Season 2 review: demodogs, dads, and more

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The Stranger Things Season 2 viewing statistics came out Nov. 2 and they’re just as massive as the buzz around the new season of the beloved Netflix original. Many teens and adults, including those at York, impatiently watched the clock tick down on the TV/movie streaming base in anticipation of the long awaited next season for our favorite characters and new ones whose introductions were rumored on the internet over the past months. The new series paid off for Netflix as 15.8 million people went to their site to watch the highly anticipated premier.

So just how was the second season?

Photo courtesy of Spotern
Billy, played by Dacre Woods, surveys his new turf with a memorable entrance to Hawkins High School. The actor had the iconic mullet pasted on every day before shoots, and helped the Duffer Brothers to choose the song that would play during his introduction: Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”.

The first episode, “MADMAX,” introduces Max, a skateboarding, video-game-record-scoring redhead that transfixes the gang with her Dig Dug-playing prowess. (Well, all except a hesitant Mike who doesn’t want anyone else in the “party”, let alone a girl who could take Eleven’s place.) Max comes into town with her step brother, Billy, whose introduction and overall character aesthetic – hyper-80s mullet, faded jean jacket, constant cigarettes, single dangling earring – are more impressive than his overall character arc as a whole. He is redeemed from the classic trope of just being a jerk by a scene with his father that explains his aggression, and a hilarious scene with Mrs. Wheeler, that paint him as a more complex character than just a bully.

Also at the high school are couple Nancy and Steve, still struggling to come to terms with the guilt of Barb’s death a year later. Due to #justiceforbarb becoming such an internet phenomenon after the first season aired, the creators tried to give her memory a nod with a dinner that lights a fire in Nancy to avenge her friend, as Barb’s parents still hold out hope her daughter is coming home.

Nancy’s vengeance tears Steve and Nancy apart as Nancy grows more and more contemptuous of the secrets they have to keep about the truth behind Barb’s death. Steve’s perspective that they need to be able to move on, and Nancy’s inability to do so, is the ultimate breaking point in their relationship. They break up during the beginning of the season, and Nancy and Jonathan go on a mission to expose the doctors that did this to their friend. This mission finally draws them together, a couple that many have been rooting for since the first season.

However, some aren’t necessarily saying “Finally!” about Nancy and Jonathan due to Steve’s excellent character development throughout the second season. He goes from ignorant teenage boy to heroic babysitter and caring older brother/fatherlike figure, and many are stuck with how to feel about Nancy’s decision. (And if you saw Steve Harrington fighting off demodogs single-handedly to protect the gang, along with his swooned-over Farrah Fawcett hair, you would have doubts as well.)

Photo courtesy of indiewire.com
The bat is back! This time, Steve and his amazing hair use it to protect Dustin, Lucas, and Max from the hordes of Demodogs; this heroic turn for Steve earned him the title of “Dad Steve,” and, as he says to Nancy: ““I may be a pretty s—ty boyfriend, but turns out I’m actually a pretty damn good babysitter.” Head here for some amazing Dad Steve memes.

Steve is an excellent example of the character development that Stranger Things writers specialize in: taking advantage of their excellent host of actors to create complex characters that fill their sometimes gimmicky 80s world. His relationship with Dustin, in which he assumes an older brother-like role to help him with his hopeless crush on Max, brings out a loveable side we had yet to see in the character. He takes a beating for the kids defending Max, fights off an army of demodogs BY HIMSELF, and nearly gets himself eaten by sending all the kids up to Earth first. And, of course, the bat with nails makes a second and important appearance.

But, alas, Nancy does not choose Steve, and instead ends up with Jonathan on the second night of their mission to avenge Barb. They spend the night at Murray Bauman’s house, a recurring character that tries to solve the mystery of all the strange goings on at Hawkins. Nancy and Jonathan end up in the belly of the beast and are taken through the lab and explained the mission with threats from Dr. Martin Brennan that if they share any of this information, they will come to regret it. But Nancy comes out from the experience with a tape recorder that exposes their plans, their mission, and the things that they’ve done to the people of Hawkins – including Barb’s unfortunate death.

Photo courtesy of Newsweek
Nancy and Jonathan ended up together in the second season due to their mission to expose the secrets of the lab and Barb’s death. Their efforts were assisted by new and eccentric character Murray, whose line in this scene provides for one of the most comedic moments in the season. Check it out here.

The lab is still a central part of the story, the setting of Eleven’s triumphant save of Hawkins, and Joyce, Hopper, and Will’s triumphant escape from the demodogs. Sadly, Joyce’s new beau Bob Newby is less lucky, a sad character death that angers audiences as well as Joyce, saying she’ll take whatever steps necessary to free her son from the shadow monster virus that infects him.

This virus is contracted by Will in one of his Upside Down encounters when he decides to face the eerie and gargantuan shadow monster that lurks in all of his episodes. Instead of getting rid of this monster, he is possessed by it in a fit of exorcist-like shaking and screaming. The monster takes over Will, and they are luckily able to get rid of it in the finale by burning it out of him – but is this the complete end for Will’s ties to the Upside Down? That’s unclear.

Photo courtesy of Digital Spy
A concerned Joyce finds her son in a field by the school in another one of his episodes in the Upside Down. He was advised by Bob to face the monster, but this ideal solution does not vanquish the terrifying shadow beast. Instead, the monster invades him as a host and compromises Will for the rest of the season until they burn it out of him.

One character who has come back from this alternate universe is Eleven, one of the biggest uncertainties at the end of the first season.  She sacrificed herself and seemed to be gone forever in the Upside Down, but it was never clarified. This mystery is answered in the second season as it shows Eleven’s escape, her trek in the woods to hide from the men who want to kidnap her again, and Hopper finding her and taking her in.

This relationship between Hopper and Eleven results in some of the warmest moments of the season, the characters a surprisingly good fit for each other that bring out the humanity in each other. Eleven, a stranger to the world of parents, kindness, and affection, and Hopper, still affected by the tragic loss of his daughter, live together in the woods and build a surprising but fitting domestic dynamic.

There are heartwarming scenes of Eleven and Hopper sharing waffles and watching movies and eating gross (but very 80s looking) foil-wrapped TV dinners, along with less cheery scenes that have the relatable dynamic of a father and a rebellious teenage girl – she wants to go out on Halloween but Hopper knows it isn’t safe; he waits outside the school dance with Joyce while Eleven slow dances with Mike and shares the familiar feeling of nervous parents with an extremely talented Winona Ryder (yes, she kicks this season out of the park too). The care Hopper has for Eleven lies with the heart of this season.

Photo courtesy of Newsweek
Hopper and Eleven share a breakfast with a nod to Eleven’s obsession with Eggo waffles. The second episode goes into detail of how Eleven came to escape the Upside Down and be taken in by Hopper, transforming an old, run down house into a home for her.

In the second season we are also introduced to more characters from Eleven’s past as she is introduced to them as well. Angry at Hopper, Eleven takes off to find her mother and not only meets her, but she is met with visions from her childhood and how she was taken away from her mother at birth. Another character in the story Eleven meets is a woman named Kali. She was initially shown at the very beginning of the series, kicking it off with a chase that ends with Kali, who has a tattoo identical to Eleven’s that reads “008,” toppling a large concrete object with only her mind.

Photo courtesy of basementrejects.com
Kali, a mysterious figure from Eleven’s past and her gang were a crucial part in Eleven’s journey to discover her past. They opened the first episode with a rattling chase scene, and didn’t return until the seventh episode when their connection with the story was revealed.

Eleven eventually finds her long lost “sister” and her gang of misfits that are on a mission to assassinate all the men and women who were involved in doing cruel things to Eleven and Kali. Eleven is transformed into one of their gang and taken on a mission, but finds that she can’t kill the man because she finds it to be morally wrong. She escapes from the city of Chicago and her newfound telepathic friend to return to Hawkins in perfect timing to shut the gate and save the universe. Impeccably good timing for the sole reason of plot convenience.

In the end, the gang is able to all divide on their separate missions that, in the span of one episode, are able to tie up all the conflicts throughout the season. Eleven and Hopper need to shut the gate but are hounded by demodogs? Steve and company (Max, Will, Dustin, and Lucas) lure them away by lighting the tunnels on fire in an attempt to do more than just sit around and wait at home. Perhaps the most effective thing Max’s older brother does in the entire season is knock Steve out so that they can drag him to the car unconscious, no longer awake to protest their unsafe mission (an unfortunate failure for babysitter Steve). Can’t close the gate because it’ll kill Will? Nancy, Joyce, and Jonathan burn it out of him right on time.

In the end, we’re left with a final episode that ties up plotlines and gives viewers conclusions that leave them waiting anxiously for a third season. With an eerie shot of the Upside Down in the last few seconds of the show and new relationships being built between characters, the Duffer Brothers has built another fantastic season that breathes life into their carefully curated 80s sci-fi world. After binging it in a day (the eternal problem with a Netflix series), it’s going to be a long wait to see what comes next.

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