Stranger Things 2

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been watching Stranger Things 2 with Elliot.  Like the first series, I feel like the second series really pulls off dark fantasy quite well.  There was a fair bit less mystery this season and a bit more reliance on the character dynamics to make the show work, but I thought it worked out well enough.

Standard spoiler warning applies – after the jump.

When I started watching series 2, I was afraid that it was going to rely too much on the plot of the first series – i.e. it was going to use the same formula and try to make it seem new.  After seeing the whole series, I do think that it did partially fall into this trap – there wasn’t anything really that new or that mysterious that wasn’t borrowing from the earlier series.

What Stranger Things 2 lost in mystery, it made up in character dynamics.  In particular, I feel like the older generation of characters (Hopper, Joyce, etc) evolved more in this series than in the prior series.  Here, they understood the danger, and were learning to react to it, which gave them a very interesting relationship with the younger generation.  I also really liked Steve’s character this season – he has become the trusted semi-adult to the youngest group, and that’s something that brings him pride as well.  Max and her step-brother, Billy, were an interesting addition to the group in that their role appeared to be to shake up and strengthen other character dynamics.  I feel like this worked exceptionally well, though…  …Billy just comes across as evil, it needed just one or two more scenes of something that better explains why he’s mean but not evil (like, how he’s protecting his step-sister from his father’s wrath).  But, we never got that, which left me with the feeling like his character is just as evil as his father, which I’m not sure the show really needed.

Finally, I feel like this season wrapped up a little too nicely.  It’s weird because I liked the tidiness, but it came across as a bit surreal, which makes me think that everything after Dustin got spored is wishful thinking.  To recap, here is my list of “too convenient” during the finale:

  • A final reunion with Dart, where Dustin’s friendship with a demodog (and nougat) saves the day.
  • The Middle School Snow Ball – what are Nance and Jonathan doing there?  Serving punch and taking pictures?  Why did Dustin get a ride to the Ball with Steve?  And then getting to dance with Nance?  Mike/El, Lucas/Max – all a little too convenient.
  • Where’s Billy? Max’s presence at the ball with Lucas and without Billy lurking somewhere is pretty suspicious.
  • Everything is fine a month later – Dr. Owens “will have to give up his football career” (sure, we never saw him walk, which I think will be important), Hopper gets a birth certificate for Jane (presumably for El), Barbara gets a funeral where the DOE is implicated…  …It’s all a little too clean.

On the one hand, I hope they don’t go this route – these scenes provide the catharsis the show really needs at the end, but the contrivance was just a little too noticeable this time around; to retcon though it will just feel cheap (and worse than contrived).

Overall – I did enjoy the show.  It tells a great story (even if there was a whole episode or two of extraneous material – this is my conciseness needed filter butting in), and does so in a way that flows well with the format Netflix has mastered.

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