Netflix’s hit original series more than lives up to the hype.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the last year or so, you’ve definitely heard of Stranger Things, a Netflix original series full of 80s nostalgia, an authentic small-town atmosphere, and complete with just enough government conspiracy theories and paranormal activity to really shake things up. I’d heard of it, of course, but I hadn’t really been interested until I saw the trailer for the second season, which came out around Halloween. I ended up binge watching the entire series after Season 2 came out, and, as you can probably tell from the little tag line at the top of this review, I loved it.
Fair warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Season 1: Missing kids and monster hunts.
Season 1 introduces us to three sets of characters, who all work toward similar goals throughout the story and often meet and crossover with one another: the kids, the teenagers, and the adults. The kids are Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, a group of outcast middle-schoolers who love watching Star Wars and playing Dungeons and Dragons. When Will goes missing on his way home from a D&D game with his friends, his mother, Joyce, calls up the local law enforcement, lead by Chief of Police Jim Hopper, to find him. Will’s remaining friends go on the hunt for him themselves, meeting up with a strange, lost girl called Eleven, who has telekinetic powers and knows the one thing everyone else has missed; Will has become stranded in a parallel dimension called the Upside Down. He was taken by a monster called the demigorgon, which is now on the prowl in the small town of Hawkins, looking for new victims. Adults, teens and kids alike must band together to stop this monster, and uncover the sketchy goings-on at the high security government lab situated just too close to the town for comfort.
While Stranger Things is certainly a slower-paced show, the writers always find new ways to kick the suspense up another notch. I came into the show knowing several pretty big spoilers (they’re quite hard to avoid on the internet these days), but the show still surprised me and kept me on the edge of my seat at every turn. It perfectly balanced elements of psychological horror and tense, nail-biting scenes with freaky, in-your-face jumpscares.
The writers also do an expert job of weaving the different threads of the story together into a tightly-knit tapestry, and even though the cast of characters is quite large, all of them are well developed and interesting. Even though the teenagers’ section of the story wasn’t my favorite, it is only fair to say that this is just personal preference, as all the characters were fleshed out and played very well by their respective actors. Maybe I was just a bit disappointed when what I thought was the message of this portion of the story ended up falling flat. The writers seemed to have planted a subtle message about modern hook up culture (a teenage character hooks up with her boyfriend, only to regret it later on and also have her negligence basically lead to her friend’s death), but it was later subverted when she just ended up back with that same boyfriend at the end of the season. This supposed message was undermined even more in Season 2, when she hooks up with another character, apparently without any consequences or regrets at all.
But all in all, Season 1 was a fantastic intro to a fantastic show, complete with all the scares, tears, and feels you could wish for. I finished it still wanting more, and, thank goodness, there was a whole new season just waiting for me to dive in…
Season 2: A new challenger approaches…
It’s been a year since we last saw our friends in Hawkins. Season 2 starts off on Halloween of 1984, catching us up on all the small town happenings and introducing a few new characters, including a brother and sister from sunny California who instantly become the coolest, most envied kids in town, and Joyce’s new boyfriend, Bob (played by Sean Astin). Will is no longer missing, but he’s still feeling the aftereffects of his journey into the Upside Down, which include terrifying visions of a great shadow monster that fills the whole sky. Meanwhile, a strange blight is spreading across Hawkins, attacking crops with rot and slowly transforming the landscape into the likeness of the Upside Down. Hopper, who has been hiding Eleven in a house in the woods for the past year, is called out to investigate the blight, and Eleven endeavors to escape her quarters and find her mother and her past. Hawkins must once again face the darkness from the Upside Down, and, with Eleven’s help, hopefully defeat it.
Season 2 really ramps up the threat posed by the Upside Down, broadening the scope of the show for a much more epic, cinematic experience. This time, our heroes face an intelligent evil instead of a mindless monster, an villain easily capable of destroying all of Hawkins, and maybe the entire world. I really enjoyed this broadening of horizons, and I honestly liked Season 2 even more than Season 1. It almost made the first season feel small in comparison, as characters venture outside of Hawkins and a new set of friends and threats are introduced. The writers once again managed to craft an extraordinarily tightly-woven storyline out of a massive cast of characters, and still made sure that every character had their own distinct personality and backstory. I really enjoyed how they allowed different characters to take the spotlight in Season 2; where as Season 1 was more focused on Mike, this time around it’s really Will’s story, with Steve and Dustin and a few other characters playing much bigger roles. The creators of the show are not afraid to mix things up, while still retaining all the awesome aspects of Season 1 that made the show good in the first place, and Season 2 more than lived up to all the hype. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“The hype is real! And, surprisingly, quite justified this time.”
Content note: Stranger Things is rated TV-14, and not without reason. There is a lot of language, some violence and scary images, and, as I said before, a character who hooks up with two different boys. Although the show stars several young actors, it’s definitely not a kids’ show, and I would personally say it would be better for older teens.
Thanks for reading my review of Stranger Things! Do you like the show? Which do you like better: Season 1 or Season 2? What are some of your favorite characters? Let’s chat in the comments!