We return to the universe of the Upside Down, synthesising soundtracks and permed hair for the second season of the Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things. Middle school children were unlikely but absolutely suitable heroes who unwittingly uncovered a sinister laboratory experiment only to be forced right back into secrecy while the happenings and disappearances around town were treated as juvenile runaways. Fans of Barb Holland will finally be served some justice, but may feel equally frustrated that after everything that Will Byers (Noah Schanpp) experienced last year, he finds himself facing a similar monster that inhibits him from the inside out. Inner demons and the pain of buried trauma run in the veins of many characters who all share the knowledge that their greatest battles are yet to come.
Romance still tugs and pulls in the series. Winona Ryder immortalised the shreiking Joyce, but it is heartwarming to see her with new beau Bob (Sean Astin) and his eagerness to accept her family and the baggage that accompanies it. Amidst the lurking demigorgans beneath the surface, tender moments between Johnathon and Nancy ease the gore of more bloodshed that does not hesitate for a second to usurp any comfortable notion that for a second the town might not be so cursed after all. It’s still unclear whether the past year is fresh in any of the citizens who live there, whose blatant disregard can be cosntrued as a plot hole or lack of continuity.
While Eleven remains seemingly out of the picture, other characters redeem themselves in unexpected ways. Steve Harrington is less of a bully than he is an alpha male threatened by a new leader Billy (Aussie fan favourite Dacre Montgomery). We feel more admiration and sympathy for his ability to keep cool and his hair well maintained even as his status and love interest are taken from him. He transforms the dynamic of the AV club, and is the perfect antithesis to Billy.
Much like the first season, the second quarter of the series faces a slight lull, as we are once again given clues into Will’s episodes in the form of drawings and not Christmas lights. The penultimate episode is about the gearing up before the final (at least of the series battle) while a familiar, nosebleeding silver bullet saves the party from what should be doom.
Nostalgia abounds and the references to arcade games and Ghostbusters Halloween costumes remind us that 1984 was still a fun time to be alive even if marred by tragedy.
If you’re going to binge, at least put some eggos on.
A Netflix Original Series