Chapter One: Madmax
Chapter Two: Trick Or Treat, Freak.
Chapter Three: The Pollywog
Chapter Four: Will The Wise
Chapter Five: Dig Dug
Chapter Six: The Spy
Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister
Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer
Chapter Nine: The Gate
After its surprise success last year, it was all but inevitable Stranger Things would be green lit for a second season. Although it never quite reaches the same high standard it set for itself last year, Stranger Things manages to pull off another successful season chock full of action and suspense. The plot never feels as tightly refined though, with a few misfiring subplots and a less clear objective for the returning cast. Despite this, there’s some excellent characterisation all round again but it feels more like the second part of the same season than a new season of entertainment altogether.
The story picks up a short while after the end of the first season with Will (Noah Schnapp) still reeling from the ordeal he underwent in the upside down. With crops dying and Will’s recurring visions of a giant shadow creature threatening to destroy our world, what transpires is a desperate struggle from the returning cast of characters to stop Will’s visions from becoming a reality. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and all the other familiar faces from last year return to stop the forces of evil from spilling into our world before its too late. The plot is a lot more apocalyptic and epic this time around but with the higher stakes comes a less focused approach on the individual subplots for the characters. Part of what made Stranger Things such a hit last year was the care put into crafting each character’s story into a cohesive whole that all merged for the climactic finale. The second season, whilst still trying to hold onto this formula, loses some of the charm for each story line with the world-ending plot engulfing a lot of the nuance evident in the characters’ stories.
Set in the 80s, the first season of Stranger Things managed to nail the aesthetic and general mood and feel of the era perfectly. It was subtle; the archaic technology that was such a hit back then and the rock-fuelled soundtrack were particular highlights. This year, there’s a more conscious effort to try and bring in a lot of this nostalgia and whilst there’s some brilliant examples of this, there’s equally a few misfires too. Seeing Nancy and Jonathan eating a KFC, praising the taste of the chicken before declaring it’s “finger looking good!” is one particular example of this. That’s not to say there’s a lack of nostalgic bursts this year; the costume design in particular is outstanding and encapsulates the mood of the era brilliantly.
In many ways, the second season of Stranger Things feels like the second part of a single season and perhaps it works best viewing it as such. As an individual story, the second season just doesn’t have the same tight cohesiveness that made the first such a hit. The actual plot line is good though and the ending is satisfying enough to tie up any of the loose ends, even if it does feel a little rushed with its conclusion to stopping the threat. There’s a good effort made to give each of the characters a respectable amount of screen time though and the chemistry between the actors is excellent again, maintaining the same charm that made the first season so good even if the character journeys aren’t as refined this year.
The second season of Stranger Things never quite reaches the same lofty heights the first achieved but its still an enjoyable watch throughout. There’s a more conscious effort to inject 80s nostalgia into the season too and it doesn’t always hit. Thankfully, the characters are all brilliantly acted and the new faces this year do a great job of slotting in alongside the regulars. With more action and a bigger world-ending story line, the second season does feel more like the second part of one season and as such feels like it starts in the middle of a story rather than at the beginning. Despite a few minor gripes, Stranger Things boasts another confident season that’s an enjoyable ride from start to finish and well worth a watch.
Verdict - 8/10