Stranger Things became an unexpected favourite when it appeared on Netflix last year. I loved the Alien-meets-E.T.-meets-The Goonies vibes, that it incorporated one of my favourite hobbies (Dungeons and Dragons) into its storytelling, and that it featured some awesome characters, particularly Eleven, Joyce and Hopper. If you want to hear more things I loved about season one, you can read this blog post).
This meant that for season two, my unexpected favourite had expectations, and they were pretty high. In the rest of this blog post, which is going to be full of spoilers for season two of Stranger Things, I’m going to talk about everything I loved, didn’t love, or thought was particularly notable about the season. Here goes.
Babysitter Steve’s redemption arc
In season one, I hated Steve. He was a bully to Jonathan, and even though he redeemed himself a little at the end of the season by fighting the demogorgon with Nancy and Jonathan, it in no way made up for his past sins. This season, somehow, Steve turned things around. Gone was the Steve who bullied and mocked other students: here was a lovesick Steve who tried to take flowers to Nancy to apologise, a Steve who was mocked by his classmates, who stood up to the real jerk of the series, and who gave Dustin the secret to his gravity-defying hair. I am a big fan of this version of Steve.
Eleven and Hopper
I loved the dynamic between Eleven and Hopper this season. It was really sweet to see Hopper protecting and teaching Eleven at the start of the series, and it’s obvious that in some ways, Eleven filled some of the hole left by the daughter he lost. This whole dynamic had some real Ellie-and-Joel (from the video game, The Last of Us) vibes, which is something that in my books is always a winner, because it’s so sad. Of course, it wasn’t all smooth-sailing for Eleven and Hopper, and their arguments were pretty distressing. But in the end, they looked out for each other.
Horror game vibes
Speaking of video games, the final couple of episodes in this season really reminded me of some of the horror video games I’ve played. The scenes involving creeping along dimly-lit corridors to avoid the demodogs, and the creepy and atmospheric setting of a now-abandoned lab facility are horror game staples, and I thought this worked really well.
Max and Billy
I liked the character of Max, and it was good to have a new girl join the boys’ friendship group. Billy, meanwhile, has to win the award for most repulsive character of the season. Billy’s character felt like it was made to be hated, and it definitely worked. I was glad to see Billy taken down by Max at the end of the season. I’ll be interested to see how the pair fit into the story in the future, since it still feels like there are a couple of loose ends here.
I’ve seen a lot of hate for this episode on the internet. While my views aren’t quite as extreme as a lot of viewers’ seem to be, I didn’t love this episode. This was the episode that saw Eleven join her “sister”, Eight, acquire an edgy makeover, and be roped into some criminal activities.
This episode didn’t particularly fit in with the rest of the series, and felt like a strange tangent for the show to take. I understand that it was probably intended to show an alternate route that Eleven could take if she used her powers for vengeance, and it gave her a sense of perspective that allowed her to forgive Hopper and drove her to help her friends. However, it all felt a little weird and out of place to me. My guess is that the writers were trying to give us a gentle introduction to Eight, who I imagine we haven’t seen the last of.
Justice for Barb
Oh Barb, poor, poor Barb… Another thing I liked about the season was that we saw the effect Barb’s death has had on Nancy (and on hers and Steve’s relationship). We often see mourning glazed over in this kind of TV show, so I’m glad we actually saw how distraught and wracked with guilt Nancy was. And even better, we got (at least some form of) closure for Barb.
Nancy and Jonathan
Obviously I’ve been rooting for Nancy and Jonathan since the start. And as much as I’ve somehow grown to like Steve, I’m still firmly in the Nancy/Jonathan camp. I was surprised when the pair didn’t get together at the end of the first season, so it was satisfying when it finally happened. There was also some humour to this situation, which lightened the mood a little.
And they all lived happily ever after…
Finally, we come to the ending of the season. Stranger Things season 2 ended with the kids slow-dancing at the school dance, at which Max partnered with Lucas, and Mike and Eleven shared a kiss. While this ending wasn’t bad, it felt way too cheesy for my liking. For kids this age, kissing and slow-dancing just doesn’t seem quite right, and I would have rather seen the gang playing an epic game of Dungeons and Dragons, or something along those kind of lines. I’m just not a fan of the idea that the be-all–end-all for kids that age is slow-dancing with a girl. (Actually, I’m not on board with that being the be-all-end-all for any age.)
Overall, I thought this was a great season. It maybe didn’t capture my imagination in quite the same way as the first season, and I guess that’s mostly because some of the novelty has worn off. There were a lot of great aspects to this season, and I found myself eager to watch more between episodes. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what happens next, because I don’t doubt there will be a third season.