Like many of you, I spent my entire weekend in the Stranger Things world. At first, I planned to only rewatch the pilot episode, but then I kept going and before I knew it, I had rewatched the entire first season. Feeling emotionally trained, and positively charged with emotions, I then continued with the second season. That is a lot of Stranger Things for two days but I regret nothing.
This post contains massive spoilers!
Last year I did a long recap of the first season, this year is no different. But first I have to briefly touch upon the fact that I think the first season was still stronger than the second. I’m not saying that I disliked the second, not at all, I’m just saying that the first season was simply a bit more passionate. That’s not to say the sequel didn’t have its strengths. With a bigger budget, the second season managed to throw in a lot more special effects, add to the Upside Down world, widen the story line visually and deliver stunning scenes that borrow from the past but manage to be unique to the Stranger Things world. The theme of Stranger Things 2 is definitely bigger, but that’s not always better in my opinion.
THE EXPANSION OF UPSIDE DOWN
As mentioned, the second season widens the whole concept of Upside Down and it’s sort of an expansion of the parallel world visually but also plot wise. I loved the concept of roots growing out of the Upside Down, the idea of it being almost like a plant that is infesting our world. What I found interesting was also the fact that our monster villain from season 1, the Demogorgon is actually just a soldier, and we meet a much larger villain in the second season, the Mind Flayer. While we don’t have a name for it throughout most of the season, the presence of a large shadow like spider is terrifying. And of course poor Will has to be the witness and the host to this awful creature.
Visually speaking, Stranger Things 2 ups the game to a whole new level. When the first season literally had just one CGI guy working part time on the show, the second season has a whole team of people and it shows on screen. This allows the show to add more Demo-dogs, more tunnels and more epic shots for us to enjoy, but also to emphasise the sheer magnitude of the Upside Down potentially taking over of our world.
JIM AND JANE HOPPER
So, as said, massive spoilers in this post and I guess if you ignored that message you’re a bit confused by the first character pairing I’m going to talk about. Well, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) becomes Jane (such a plain name for her, they should have gone with Elle) and Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) becomes her official dad!! When I saw that name on that birth certificate in the end, I was just squealing with joy, because it’s such a perfect character development moment for them both. During my rewatch of season 1, I noticed Jim trying to grab for Eleven’s hand when she’s in the salt-pool, and I had missed it the first time around. In that moment I knew.
Last season ended on a cliff hanger with Jim Hopper leaving out Eggos for Eleven, and at the end of episode 1 of the new season, we witness them living together in an isolated cabin. Their dynamic as father and daughter was so obvious from that very first scene, to the teenage tantrum to that reunion after their big fight. Both of them have lost important people in their lives, both are really looking for a place to fit in and both yearn for family. To allow them to find each other, and to build upon those aspects of their characters, was a joy to watch. Especially since both are really strong characters separately but clearly even stronger as a duo.
Jim Hopper continues to be the best chief ever! He is smart, brave and isn’t afraid to go the extra mile to save his people and his town. David Harbour continues to deliver scene after scene, and the second season was filled with emotional moments where he was able to shine in. The character development was great, and his detective skills were spot on yet again. I’m glad the second season focused so much on his character as a father figure. It was important to develop that aspect of him, to bring it out more, since it was skimmed over during the first season. Season 3 can be about Jim Hopper being a boyfriend, wink-wink!
Favorite scene: When he radios to Eleven in his car after their fight. Bonus: When he confronts Mike.
Eleven aka Jane Hopper was a bit all over the place this season and I say this with utmost respect. When we first met Eleven she was a stranger to the world, and in a way, she still is. She is learning new words every day, she still sticks to the knowledge she learned from Mike in season 1, and yet she branches out on her own to find her mama. Which brings me to the only negative comment I have towards the show – the stand alone episode with Eleven in the city. I hated that episode. It felt disconnected from the rest of the season, it introduced too many characters at the same time and it felt rushed and forced. Millie Bobby Brown looked a little too punk in that episode as well, but her acting was of course spot on. That scene with papa (mental mind games played by Eight), was eerie and stunning at the same time.
When it comes to Eleven’s powers, I found it all making sense in terms of slowly being able to do more. As we meet Eight aka Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), she is clearly able to do a few things with her mind without having a nosebleed and it’s apparent with Eleven in this season as well. Small things don’t drain her as much anymore and I’m eager to see how far she is able to push herself mentally. I do think that the aspect of “channeling anger” isn’t going to be the end-game for her. It’s so cliché but I think “love” will be what conquers all and I hope Stranger Things realises this along the way.
Favorite scene: Closing that gate! Bonus: EVERYTHING SNOWBALL!
This little precious cinnamon bun gets his own segment because my poor baby deserves better! With him being the leading figure in the first season, in this second we see Mike (Finn Wolfhard) fall into a sort of emo-state (Emo-Mike is what the actor himself called his character). He is a lovesick puppy but a precious one, because I think he mostly misses his friendship with Eleven. Seeing him radio her, counting the days that she has been gone was heart breaking, and his distance from the rest of the gang was just as sad. He positioned himself into the background throughout the season, but when the stakes got high, he slowly and gradually found his strengths again.
His chemistry with the entire cast is admirable. Mike, despite being in the background, got to do a lot this season by being pretty much everywhere. He was supporting Will when he most needed a friend, he stayed with Will when he was at the hospital, he told the story when he first met Will that made me tear up, and he had a gut wrenching scene with Jim Hopper. Mike also gets back his mojo when the boys are left behind on the bench with Steve, and he forms a plan to help out Eleven. Meanwhile his parents are literally clueless again, which is another insightful glimpse into Mike’s life. But nobody can argue with the fact that THE moment for Mike this season was when Eleven walked into the Byers house. My heart broke into million pieces seeing that precious little face and I have no shame in naming that my favourite moment of the entire season! Finn Wolfhard did an amazing job with Mike this season but that moment, he knocked it out of the ballpark and proved that he might as well start collecting all those awards!
Favorite scene: When Mike sees Eleven for the first time after 353 days!! Bonus: Him and Will talking on the couch with their Ghostbusters costumes!
Again I was floored how amazing Joyce (Wynona Ryder) was. Sure, she was a little insane in the first season, a bit over the top, but she seemed a lot more put together in the second one. She is the best kind of mom, the best in the entire Stranger Things parental gang, because she not only trusts her boys but she is willing to risk everything to save them. She’s also very resourceful and smart, and her unconditional love for her sons is the rock that holds their family together. Even when her son is possessed, she isn’t afraid to turn up those heaters, and it’s that kind of strength that makes Joyce Byers a force to be reckoned with.
Favorite scene: When she tells Will the crayon story. Bonus: Joyce saving Jim Hopper.
This brings me to Will (Noah Schnapp), who is also a precious cinnamon bun, because the poor boy has had two very difficult seasons. First he gets taken to the Upside Down, then he gets possessed by the Upside Down – please give him a break in season 3, please! That being said, I don’t think any other actor besides Schnapp could have pulled off that story line better. He was able to be so subtle with his changes, and I bet when I rewatch the second season I’ll be able to look out for those small moments of “evil Will” I might have missed the first time around. His chemistry with the boys was great, and finally we got to see more of them together, and it was like seeing them as whole again.
Favorite scene: When he uses Morse code to communicate! Bonus: Him flashing into Upside Down.
Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) fell to the background a bit this season as he was mostly helping out Nancy with a subplot of bringing Barb some justice. It was a nice touch from the writers – the main plot would have gotten too crowded otherwise, but it meant that Jonathan wasn’t around that much. Also for me, it felt like Jonathan was the weakest link this season, and it’s not because of the acting or anything, it’s because his character didn’t develop anywhere. The only purpose he had was to explore his chemistry with Nancy, and I’m Team Steve so I hardly cared for it. I think in terms of season 2, the writers didn’t know what to do with him, it showed, and now I’m not really looking forward for him in the next season.
Favorite scene: When he and Nancy go undercover! Bonus: Him awkwardly kissing Nancy.
STEVE THE BABYSITTER AND THE BOYS
Honestly, who now regrets not liking Steve (Joe Keery) in season 1? Then now is the time for you to admit that you were wrong and I was right! I said in my season 1 post that I was team Steve, and look at what I got in return, an even more amazing Steve with such character development that I just want to hug him!! Sure, he might not be as smart as the kids, but damn, he is brave and honest and all around good guy. To think the writers had him written in as the douche jock, who doesn’t make it to season 2, unbelievable.
Joe Keery really embodies Steve at this point. There’s just so much likability to him as a character, and the fact that Nancy treated him like shit this season, and yet he still stuck around!? Oh Steve, my third precious cinnamon bun, you deserve better than Nancy anyway! But I guess his biggest strength surfaces when he interacts with the kids, becoming their babysitter of sorts, because all those scenes were brilliant. Keery clearly has great chemistry with all the kids, and he brings that sort of childlike mind to Steve’s character, which makes him like the perfect addition to the group. It never felt forced, it felt natural, and it’s great to have Steve as sort of a role model for Dustin.
Favorite scene: When he wakes up in the car after being beaten up, again. Bonus: Him giving Dustin hair care advice.
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) had a lot to do this season, not to mention he sort of saved the day by almost making a Demo-dog into his pet. His enthusiasm for science could be seen as a flaw but at the same time, it was kind of cool. We are also shown his home life with his single mother, and their cat Mews. Seeing the fact that Dustin is raised by a single mother makes his newly formed bond with Steve even more precious, as he clearly starts to gradually see him as sort of a big brother/father figure. Oh but that Snowball scene where he is brutally rejected and cries, that’s just awful. Luckily Nancy saves the day, and rightfully so, because poor Dustin doesn’t deserve to be left alone.
Favorite scene: When he tries to cover up Mews’s death. Bonus: Hijacking Steve for his bat skills.
Then we of course have Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), who really got to open up this season. For me he is still the grumpy grandpa, but he is more open to changes this time around. He also gets his own little subplot with a new cast member, giving McLaughlin his first ever kiss. His determination and his focus in this season was admirable, but his little sister Erica almost stole the show from him. They both clearly have great parents, as also shown in a few scenes, since they both feel very grown up and put together. Again, Lucas was the voice of reason a few times in this season, and him practicing asking Max on a dance in front of that mirror – priceless!
Favorite scene: When he poses with his Ghostbusters costume. Bonus: When Max opens up to him.
JUSTICE FOR BARB
Like I mentioned before, there is a whole subplot with Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan finding justice for Barb. I though it was a nice aspect to the second season, as it felt like it was a gift for the fans. While I did enjoy this story line, it didn’t really interest me and I guess it was because Nancy, as well as Jonathan, weren’t really risking their lives this season. They were just solving a mystery, gathering information and bringing down the government lab in Hawkins.
Also, one of the scenes I hated, in addition to disliking the seventh episode The Lost Sister entirely, was when Nancy got drunk and told Steve it was all bullshit. Sure, I disliked it because it hurt Steve, but also because Natalia Dyer made a very unbelievable drunk. I don’t know, maybe it was because it felt so unlike her character, or that her character is still very unclear to me, but she just became utterly annoying in that moment. One thing I’m glad for is the fact that she didn’t cheat on Steve with Jonathan, and she at least had the decency to break up with him. Though the way she did it makes me wonder if she had done it sober, which makes me think she isn’t a very nice person for misleading Steve.
Favorite scene: When she’s visiting Barb’s parents. Bonus: When she helps Joyce and Jonathan with Will.
THE FRESH MEAT
There are three new characters introduced to the mix and one of them is Bob Newby (Sean Astin). There is already a little inside joke going around that if your name starts with a “B” you’re pretty much screwed in the Stranger Things world. Because like Barb, Bob finds himself eaten by the Demo-dogs. Despite my initial lukewarm feelings towards his character, I was rather emotional by the time we see Bob die (quite annoyingly I might add). Because like Steve in season 1, Bob grew on me gradually and I thought he actually deserved a lot better. He was nice to Joyce, he was a nerd, he was the founder of the AV club, he walked into the house covered with drawings and didn’t ask any questions but instead was willing to save the day! Sure, he was not seemingly brave, and the situation he was in freaked him out, but he was willing to do everything to save Joyce and Will. And again, just like with Steve’s character, Sean Astin changed the outcome of Bob because he was so likable! Well, he was always going to die, but he got a hero ending which wasn’t originally planned. Oh and Jonathan disliked him, which is another reason I didn’t appreciate Jonathan this season. Sure, Bob might have not been the “coolest” guy, but he was the right guy for Joyce and Will.
Favorite scene: Solving the puzzle with those drawings. Bonus: When he tells Hopper he will do it.
Another pretty great addition to the show was Max (Sadie Sink), who became the newest member of the gang and actually a well deserved one. Sure, I was a little hesitant, just like Mike, but her presence was well balanced throughout the season, and she got to have her badass moment in the final episode by stabbing her *sshole step-brother in the neck with a needle. I think the main aspect of her appeal was the fact that she is a tomboy, great with arcade games and on the skate board, but also because she is curious. She is curious about what the boys are up to, and despite Lucas’s story being unbelievable for her, she’s still willing to go with him to see it for herself. Also, she’s tough, and I hope she and Eleven get to bond in the next season because they would make great friends.
Favorite scene: When she opens up to Lucas. Bonus: When she confronts her brother.
And like mentioned, the *sshole step-brother to Max is of course Billy (Dacre Montgomery), who is the douche jock Steve was meant to be in season 2. He clearly has a lot more issues though, and we see a glimpse into his home which shines a light to his wrongful behaviour. What I do look forward to with his character is the “wakening” moment, because there are clearly some unsolved issues within this character. But if he ends up dead at one point, I wouldn’t mind it either, because he hurt precious Steve!
Favorite scene: Him and Mrs. Wheeler. Bonus: The homoerotic moment in the showers with Steve.
I think, as I said, that the second season of Stranger Things was not better but it was nearly as great as the first. It didn’t have a lot of those moments which I was waiting for the most, and yes, I mean Mike and Eleven because I’m having some sort of mama bear moment with those two. But it also wasn’t as great because it made everything bigger. Not only the visuals and the story line, and the danger, but it broke apart the characters into smaller groups, creating a lot of sub plots which eventually sort of combined into one. It broke up the ultimate foursome of Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven, and I really needed them to be together again.
But the second season gave us a lot more to love about Stranger Things and its main foursome, since we got to sort of see these boys and Eleven develop as characters and friends. We got to see their homes, we met their parents, we saw them dress up as Ghostbuster characters which gave us the most brilliant Polaroid images of the boys. The second season gave us Jim Hopper’s parental side, and proved to us again that Joyce Byers is the best mom ever! It showed us that the boys are very interested in science, and that they are willing to risk their lives to save their friends. But the second season also felt a bit too busy because it showed us so much of so many things. There was a moment in the show were almost everyone was separated, and it made me a little sad. Maybe the fact that I rewatched the first season right before played its part. But I think for me personally, the strength of the show, which is ultimately the kids solving the mystery, was lost a little in the second season. Only at the very end did we start to see these kids in action, and it was brilliant!
Then again, if we viewed the two seasons as a whole, and left out episode 7 in season 2 (I really did not like it at all), we’ve got ourselves a 16 hour movie because it does progress naturally into changes. Yes, I might not be as willing to go with the flow of things, but I understand the need to develop these characters further. But most importantly, let’s not forget that season 2 delivers us the ultimate OTP moment and sets up a great story line for Eleven and Hopper! Also, I can just imagine Hopper giving Mike “the father talk” about Eleven, and that makes me excited for the next season. So yes, Stranger Things sequel is almost as amazing as its first season, it delivers great moments, has a few missteps along the way, but eventually gives us what we all wanted: a happy ending for Mike and Eleven. Well, it was a happy ending until that camera started to tilt into the Upside Down…
OTHER COOL STRANGER THINGS THINGS
There is a spoiler-filled after show called Beyond Stranger Things I recommend watching
The cast of Stranger Things answer a few questions