by Katia Kutsenko
While Should I Stay or Should I go is still a must in our playlists, Stranger Things brings a whole new level of ‘80s into our life. Not only with a whole new range of music and pop references but with a new, compelling season that completely overshadow he first episodes that made us fall in love with the series last year. Because if Stranger Things was “great”, Stranger Things 2 is closer to “magnificent” or “spectacular”. You can even choose “brilliant”, if you are up for it. And, let’s be honest: who’s not?
The new season of the Duffer Brothers’ drama explores a new side of Hawkins and its residents. After Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Materazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) managed to save Will (Noah Schnapp), Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) disappeared. Almost a year has passed since the boys discovered the existence of the Upside Down, its monster – the Demogorgon – and tried to move on from the traumatic experience that changed them forever. Mike has been calling Eleven every day of their being apart, not knowing the girl was a few miles away, safe in Sheriff Hopper’s (David Harbour) cabin and almost as sad to be away from him as he was from her. Joyce (Winona Ryder) follows Will almost as a shadow, too scared to let her precious boy away from her side and Nancy (Natalia Dryer) is not so happy anymore with her boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery) and more and more involved into her feelings towards Will’s brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton).
What Season 1 was missing was mainly a deeper understanding of the characters as their own entities. Last season we saw, instead, what great machine they make when working together. We saw a friendship cut into pieces and glued together with emotions and care and love. But we saw them together, always, all focused on solving the same big mystery and fighting the same big evil. Season 2 takes a step forward: we already know who the characters are together and so we see who they are on their own.
We see Mike being a good friend to Will and being still focused on his memories on Eleven. We also get to see Lucas and Dustin fight for a girl, newbie ‘Mad’ Max (Sadie Sink), showing their lives from a different perspective. Same thing for Nancy and Jonathan, who acknowledge (finally!) their feelings for each other and let go of the cover story “we are just friends”. A thing, unfortunately, Joyce and Hopper don’t get to do, even if their friendship gets deeper and more and more intense every second. Sure we are sorry for Bob (Sean Astin) and all the “death” thing but nothing seems more pure than the Joyce-Hopper relationship. Except maybe Steve.
Among the characters that are better defined in Stranger Things 2, Steve Harrington wins the gold medal. We learned to see him as a villain in Season 1, always ready to be a douche to Jonathan and an “ok” boyfriend to Nancy. Season 2 is the stage where Steve gets finally his deserved spotlight. Without Nancy he finds himself in a new position, one he definitely doesn’t choose (basically the job description would be: babysitter) but one that gets him much deserved attention. Defending the kids on the bus with the bait: right choice number 1. Being friends with Dustin: right choice number 2. I think we all agree in considering Steve and Dustin the unofficial ship of this season, correct?
Someone who also gets their own storyline is Eleven. While missing Mike, she and Hopper do not always see eye to eye and that drives her to a new path. One that brings her into the life of “Eight”, her sister from those lab experiments, and of course her mother. The “filler” episode, as I guess we can call it, serves nothing more than to prove that wherever she goes, Eleven has no other family then the one she chose, the family in Hawkins with Mike and Hopper and the other boys.
Another proof of the good work on the season is definitely the polish and attention to detail. I’m not talking about the mere references to the ‘80s anymore but more subtle hints that are not necessarily references. We see Ghostbusters, sure, and listen to a soundtrack that reminds us again of how great the ‘80s actually were, but we also see the kids playing at the arcade (that game is a real struggle people, I’ve tried) and the Winter Ball at School and many other small memories. While Season 1 used those references to gain public and attention, in Season 2 their presence is not so consistent anymore, giving the story space to breathe and evolve.
Stranger Things 2 is a series impossible not to binge-watch. It has all the elements of a great series and the right amount of suspense at the end of each episode. The Duffer Brothers were able to take something already great and make it bigger and greater. A series that’s impossible to watch just once, which provides an amazing stage for all the characters and their actors. Thank you Netflix (again). So, when is Stranger Things 3 out?
Katia Kutsenko / Writer (Cherkassy, Ukraine – 1992) Raised in Italy, Katia graduated from Politecnico di Milano. Architecture is her profession, movies and TV shows are her guilty pleasure. She loves period dramas more than anything and never misses the last Marvel movie. She travels a lot and enjoys photography, when she’s not busy writing her opinions for Telefilm Central.