Now that people have had the better part of a week to binge season two of Stranger Things, we thought it’d be a good time to discuss some of our favorite parts, things that we needed to leave out of our spoiler-free review. With that said, it should clue you in that this article, will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The Duffer Brothers’ 9-episode second season was great, but it wasn’t without flaws. There was a big break in pacing during the divisive seventh episode, which was sandwiched in just as the main story was really picking up, and then there are the complaints that the brothers can’t write non-cliched girls. Max doesn’t get treated the greatest, especially by Eleven, and that’s a bit of an old trope. But all in all, the show delivered everything the first season did and more. So here were some of our favorite things…
The Steve Harrington Redemption
In season one, Steve Harrington, was to start, a stereotype ’80s High School douche, showing shades of James Spader from Pretty in Pink. By season’s end however, he had changed his colors and joined the fight to save Will and defeat the Demogorgon. Steve and his trusty spiked bat played a pivotal role helping Jonathan and Nancy fend off the monster until Eleven could eventually end the thing.
When season two began though, some were surprised that he and Nancy were still an item, given her obvious chemistry with Jonathan, and when she got drunk at the Halloween rager, and let the beans spill that she doesn’t love him, it seemed like screentime for Steve Harrington might be coming to a close. Then something wonderful happened – Steve became his own character, independent from the eldest Wheeler daughter, and set on a collision course with the evil mullet wearing, denim-clad Billy.
Not only would Steve act as protagonist opposite Billy, but he would unexpectedly become den-mother to our group of adolescents. When first recruited by Dustin in the hunt for Dart, few people envisioned that just episodes later Steve would be taking punches to protect Lucas, crawling through tunnels to save Mike, and giving dating advice on the railroad tracks. It might be hard to narrow down your favorite character this year, but odds are, Steve Harrington is at the very least in the running for most everyone.
What’s Next: So what happens for Steve in season three, as he’ll no longer be in High School. Some have predicted that he skips college and goes to work for Hopper, giving the Hawkins Police force some much-needed competency. We already saw how anti-climatically he spoke about college, and given his recently found popularity among fans, it’s unlikely he gets written out next year.
Millie Bobby Brown is a Powerhouse
Eleven’s powers aside, young star Millie Bobby Brown really got a chance to shine on her own this year. Spending the first half of the season locked up with Hopper, which is one of the best dynamics on the show, a truly touching Father/Daughter relationship, of which we’re not sure who needs the other more. Then striking out on her own adventure to the big city, Eleven isn’t reunited with her friends until near the end of the season – and this much solo time onscreen gave her a chance to really build on the character before returning to Hawkins to save the day, again.
But we all already know how awesome Eleven [or Jane] is, but what about the actress who plays her – Millie Bobby Brown? If you’ve seen any of the several group interviews the kids have done or watched Netflix’s Beyond Stranger Things, you’ve likely gotten a feel for how much fun they seem to have together, and how much they genuinely like one another. But when not in the group, Millie Bobby Brown really gets to shine, as she did recently on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon…
What’s Next: Well, it seems like Hopper and Joyce might finally get together, so that could mean
Eleven Jane and Will could be step-siblings, which would be a new dynamic, since of all the kids, they are the two that have been onscreen together the least amount of time. Also, perhaps Jane finally gets to go to school and lead a more normal life? We’ll have to wait and see if when her superpowered sister (Linnea Berthelsen) shows up and what happens with Papa (Matthew Modine).
This is a fun one, cause in season one we already had Winona Ryder, who starred in such iconic 1980s fare as Lucas, Beetlejuice, and Heathers – but for season two, a couple more familiar faces from the decade of Cyndi Lauper and Ronald Regan appeared.
First, Paul Reiser (Diner, Beverly Hills Cop, My Two Dads) who was likely cast as a callback to one of the greatest movies of the decade, 1986’s Aliens. This is a nice allegory since you can compare the one upright Demogorgon in season one to the Xenomorph from 1979’s Alien, then the many, more animalistic demodogs in season two are a perfect comparison for Aliens. Reiser was, of course, the sleazy traitor Burke in Aliens, so when he’s suspiciously presented here as Matthew Modine’s successor Dr. Sam Owens, it’s easy not to trust him, and it’s all that much more moving when he redeems himself at the end of the season by helping Hopper and crew.
The other, more tragic character that was instantly recognizable was Bob ‘The Brain’ Newby, played brilliantly by Sean Astin. Long before his days escorting the ring to Mordor in Lord of the Rings, Astin was the lead in 1985’s The Goonies, undeniably one of the biggest influences on Stranger Things. Bob, just like Reiser’s Dr. Owens, is a character we’re not quite sure we trust early on, but eventually Bob not only proves himself but makes the ultimate sacrifice for Joyce and the kids in one of the most tragic scenes in the show’s history.
What some worried might be gimmicky, turned out to be really strong casting. And as revealed on Beyond Stranger Things, The Duffers originally didn’t want Astin BECAUSE he was in The Goonies and it seemed a little too ‘on the nose’ – but Sean Astin actually sent in an audition tape and they were so impressed they ended up writing Bob into a larger role.
What’s Next: Will the Duffers bring in more ’80s stars for season three? We’re thinking YES. Given all the James Cameron stuff in season two, Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss) would have been a good pick, but now might be a little overkill since they’re likely to change styles again. If season one was Spielberg, and season two was Cameron, perhaps season three will have more of a John Hughes feel? Maybe we see Emilio or Molly Ringwald show up? We’re always in favor of more Judd Nelson…
Dustin Henderson and The Snow Ball
What coming of age story would be complete with an awkward school dance to cap it off? This time around we saw all of our kids experience something different here. From Jane and Mike’s long-awaited reunion kiss to Maxine planting one on Lucas, and Nancy coming to the rescue of Dustin ala Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer, this was an all around feel good scene with the music to boot.
It starts with Steve dropping off Dustin, imparting him with some confident advising, and displaying his own level of heartbroken maturity when he sees Nancy just inside the door. Of course, Steve’s advice works better when you look like Steve Harrington, but sweet Nancy Wheeler shows up the middle school girls and plays the hero for everyone’s favorite, oft-rejected Dustin, who’s sending off some serious Duckie-vibes in this scene. This is kind of cathartic for anyone who was rooting for Jon Cryer’s character in Pretty in Pink, as Molly Ringwald never ended up with geeks back then, so at least ol’ Dusty earned a better ending than the Duckman.
What’s Next: What this will all mean going forward, we’re not sure. Middle school romances aren’t usualy built on the strongest foundations, and Hopper certainly doesn’t seem ready for his new daughter to be making out with the Wheeler kid. And we don’t know if Max and Billy will still be around next season, but it was nice to see the kids get a night to enjoy, monster free.
The Cinematic Storytelling
As much as we loved season one, Stranger Things 2 had a deliberately more grandiose scale and was filmed in a much more cinematic style. While season one saw the search for Will (and to a lesser extent Barb), season two was about saving the world from a threat almost no one knew even existed. Hawkins lab goes from shady adversary to reluctant ally, and the death of Bob Newby, as well as countless shady Lab employees, added to the magnitude of the story.
As our cast expanded, it allowed for more stories to be told consecutively, breaking into multiple groups – Jane and Hopper, Dustin and Steve, Lucas and Max, Mike and Will, Jonathan and Nancy, etc. As these pairings intertwined, they found more impressive ways to weave the storytelling and advance the plot along. It makes it that much more rewarding whenever they reunite – really paying off towards the end when Billy has his fight with Steve, or when Bob tells Hopper to get Joyce and the kids out of the lab.
Violent deaths and potential planet threatening invasions tie nicely into adolescent arguments about school crushes and video game scores. The kids deal with this massive, though never really seem to get downtrodden by the weight of it all, letting Hopper shoulder a lot of that. And while not all the parents are as clueless as the Wheelers, Joyce and Hopper do act almost as defacto parents for the whole crew, adding into a family dynamic that seems to up the stakes.
What’s Next: It’s not likely that they would scale back, and we wouldn’t be surprised if season 3 takes our heroes outside of Hawkins as Dr. Brenner will no doubt make a return, same with Jane’s sister Kali. The Mindflayer certainly wasn’t defeated, only contained, and that leaves lots of story left for the next three seasons if things stay according to plan.
So what was your favorite part? Did you prefer the first or second season? How turned on does Billy make you feel? Answer these questions and comment on whatever else you want below!
Images: Netflix, NBC, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Warner Bros.
Honorable Mention: This scene…