The second season of Netflix’s fall flagship show, Stranger Things, does exactly what a sequel needs to do; it surpasses and exceeds the first season. The SAG-winning ensemble returns, meet new challenges, and once again saves the world. The Carpenter-esque score is back, as loud and haunting as ever, and a plethora of seminal 80s tunes play over episodes in a way that is so brilliant it fits perfectly. Everything is superior to the first season; the writing, directing, and performances from the old and new cast members.
There are new additions, one an overly macho antagonist that is heavily steeped in everything that makes an 80s teenage bully great, and Sink as the newest member of the crew of our young heroes. Rounding out the new cast members is Paul Reiser as a doctor who steps in for the absence of Matthew Modine’s Dr. Brenner. Reiser’s turn in the series is wonderfully akin to his role in James Cameron’s Aliens but with a twist.
Speaking of James Cameron, as much as the first season of Stranger Things was a homage to John Carpenter (among many), the second season pays a lot of respect to James Cameron. This season pays its respect to what makes Aliens great. It’s a sequel that takes a swerve for the original Ridley Scott film, while still staying true to the horror and character progression of Ripley. That’s exactly what happens this season, while all the characters progress organically, Eleven gets two episodes that are essentially standalone that focus on her, and her origin. Including a bit more from a character who may or may not have been killed in the first season.
Stripping away all the horror, all the brilliant 80s homage (blatant and coy), the series develops two sweet love stories. One is a love triangle between Dustin, Lucas, and the new heroine of the crew played by Sink, Mad Max. The second is the simmering and not forgotten love story between Eleven and Mike. When both of these love stories come to a head, expect to hold back tears or just let them flow and wipe them off your cheek. They are very sweet and tender moments that make you forget about everything else happening in the show.
The CGI effects in this season are on par with the best CGI on TV. Think Game of Thrones or Westworld, that’s how good the effects are in this show. Not only are they believable, but they are downright frightening at times.
The threat is bigger, the monster in the abyss is bigger, and the show’s heart is bigger. Sure, there might be a little filler here and there, but that’s as to be expected from a gargantuan hit show, but what separates this show is that when it comes down to the heart of the matter, it’s not fluff, it’s warranted backstory and progression. The second season of Stranger Things isn’t only the best second season to one of Netflix’s series, it very well could be their best original programming to date.
Review by Frank Mengarelli