One year ago the first season of Stranger Things premiered on Netflix. Set in an era long gone, with a mostly unknown group of young child stars (most of Thom’s known work had been Broadway performances) and a story premise influenced by science fiction and fantasy themes that most modern day viewers aren’t exactly accustomed to, Stranger Things took a lot of risks.
No one could have predicted the show’s almost overnight success among viewers everywhere, so when Netflix announced the production of a second season, my first question was: Could the Duffer Brothers recreate the magic of the first season while delivering something fresh and new? The answer is yes. Stranger Things’ second season not only meets expectations; it absolutely surpasses them. The Duffer Brothers have taken the mystery and mythology set up in the previous season to new and exciting places with each character changing and growing in ways that feel natural and make them even more three-dimensional.
Like many great pop culture sequels like Empire Strikes Back or Temple of Doom, this season takes a turn towards some darker tones and themes, tackling many ideas and concepts that were alluded to but now go full force. There are scenes that make your heart pound, cringe with discomfort and fear, and swell up with tear jerking emotion. Like its predecessor, Stranger Things season 2 plays heavily on the nostalgia of 80’s culture, and amps it up to Eleven.
Speaking of Eleven, the young cast brings it all this time around, taking their characters to unexpected places. Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, gives an outstanding performance as the super-powered psychic as the show delves more into her shady origins and breaks new ground in regards to her place in the world the Duffer Brothers have created. Noah Shipp’s Will Byers pulls off a complex performance that mirrors that of Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And newcomers Dacre Montgomery and Sadie Sink, playing siblings Max and Billy, are both fine additions to the cast. Max brings a fun female dynamic to the group of children and Billy shows a different side to some of the older teen characters like Nancy, Jonathan and Steve.
Steve, played by Joe Kelly, especially brings a whole new dimension, taking a character that many found unsympathetic but charming and becoming possibly the most likeable and relatable character of the season. The second season takes great steps to use the full strength of the actor’s charisma, partially because he actually wasn’t meant to be a big character, even back when developing season 1. Thankfully the creators and writers loved the young actor’s charming personality and acting ability, which is a testament to the kind ability each and every actor involved in this show brings to the table.
The Duffer Brothers plan to continue with a third season and hopefully conclude with a fourth, leaving many fans to ponder the fates of Will Byers and the rest of the residents of Hawkins for another year and a half until we can all sit down for another weekend binge of the hit Netflix show that has managed to captivate so many, like the best Stephen King novels or Steven Spielberg blockbuster.