In this piece I’ll be spoiling the hell out of Stranger Things season 2, so if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, now would be the time to read one of the other articles on this site, or, better yet, read a good book written by a fine writer.
This was the season where nothing happened. None of the principal characters changed in any significant way, and many of the same events from the first season repeated themselves in this one. Just like in season one, a new girl (Max) enters the friend group and causes chaos among the pre-adolescent protagonists. Will Byers is once again held prisoner by a horrific, otherworldly force, and is freed only at the very end. Once again Will’s mom trashes the whole house to solve Will’s terrible mystery. Nobody died except for characters introduced in this season, so it was a wash (I was kind of hoping that Bob Newby would turn out to be Soviet spy, but that didn’t happen). We learned very little about the main monster, the smoke-thing looming menacingly over the town like a post-Christmas credit card statement. Apparently it’s referred to by the writers as The Sentient, which is about as silly a name for something as The Situation.
It took an entire plot-miring episode, The Lost Sister, to give Eleven a badly-needed makeover. Why does Eleven’s left nostril bleed when she uses her powers? Because both nostrils bleed when she really, really uses her powers, that’s why. John Byers and Nancy Wheeler finally hook up despite a lack of chemistry that I can’t believe isn’t deliberate. The introduction of Max (a diversity pick? I ask, you decide) diluted the friend group (“the party”) such that Mike Wheeler ended up becoming entirely unnecessary the entire season, which was a shame: the show needed his vulnerability and childish stubbornness. Mr. Clarke, one of the only grown-ups in the show who wasn’t full of shit, was pretty much written out of the season, replaced by moderately-amusing conspiracy nut Murray Bauman.
Steve Harrington stepped up as a decent, even heroic character, even if he had to be saved by a little girl from being beaten to death by Billy, the unnecessary antagonist. (Note that Billy is the only human bad guy in the show; Paul Reiser’s ineffectual, uninteresting replacement of Matthew Modine eliminated all major human antagonists.) Dustin turned out a bit more likable than expected. Lucas wasn’t tested enough in this season to make him interesting, though his little sister was hysterical.
So what’s next for season 3? More teenage psychics, no doubt. #8’s Shadow-like powers were very neat, if not terribly well thought-out. What is the Upside-Down, anyway? It can’t just be a whole other universe that just happens to have its own rules and ecosystem; it’s clearly a horrific reflection of our own. What does The Sentient/Situation want? Will Hopper and Dustin suffer ill effects from breathing in the demonic farts of the disgusting tunnel-anuses? Will the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who this show is clearly aimed at get their fill of 80’s nostalgia in depictions of old-style candy bar wrappers and coin-op arcade games?
We’ll find out late this year, I suspect. I’ll be there. Will you?