Rippling the mid-fall television lull, Netflix’s long awaited series “Stranger Things” returned Oct. 27 with it’s second season—and was received fairly well, with only a few major criticisms. When the show’s first season came out last year, it gained instant, immense popularity due to the new group of young actors, fascinating storyline and ‘80s nostalgia. Since the show was so popular the first time around, the expectations for the second season were fairly high, yet the season did not disappoint.
The storyline and general pace of the season was faster and more engaging, as opposed to the first season which was much slower in order to establish setting and develop characters. With everything already set up, the second season had more liberty to speed up the pace of the show and focus more on the plot and deeper character development.
The first episode starts with a scene of an unknown girl who seems to have a similar set of abilities as one of the show’s favorites, Eleven. The scene shows the escape from a bank robbery in which the girl, Kali, gets away with her group because of her abilities to manipulate people’s minds to see things that are not actually there. Then the show shifts to more familiar characters. Kali would not be mentioned or seen again until a few episodes later.
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Along with Kali, the show also introduced new characters such as Bob, Joyce’s new boyfriend, and step-siblings Max and Billy who have just moved into Hawkins. The integration of these three characters felt natural, smooth and complimentary to the already existing character dynamics. Bob quickly became the lovable character who everyone likes, and he deserved better in the end 一 essentially this season’s Barb. Max is the same age as the rest of the main boys; so they meet her, and they all eventually become friends, even though their relationship gets off to a rocky start. Billy is this season’s “misunderstood bad boy,” taking Steve’s place, who the audience eventually grew to love toward the end of season one. However, the two characters clash and rival constantly throughout the season.
With the integration of these three, new characters felt natural and beneficial to the show, Kali and the rest of her misfit group, as well as the revisitation of Eleven’s mother felt completely unnecessary to the plot. Kali is later revealed to be Eleven’s sister, and after a terrible fight with her current guardian, Chief Hopper, Eleven seeks out her mother. When she finds her mother, it is also revealed to her that she has a sister, Kali. After finding Kali and going on a vigilante-like expedition, Eleven realizes that it is time for her to return home to help Mike and the rest of the group. These plot points did not develop Eleven’s character or progress the plot, serving essentially no purpose. Eleven has a few flashbacks to the time she spent with her sister and what her mother revealed to her at the end of season two, but the flashbacks seemed to be the writers’ attempt to make this sub-storyline seem important to the plot, which it clearly was not. Even though it was not crucial to the plot or any character development, it was interesting entertainment-wise to see more from Eleven’s past come to life.
Courtesy of Screen Rant
This season also explored new character relationships. Eleven has been living under the care and protection of Chief Jim Hopper. The connection between Eleven and Hopper is introduced at the end of season one when Hopper leaves eggo waffles in a small chest that he has dedicated to her. The audience sees a father-daughter relationship begin to develop in a heart-warming, but also realistic manner. Chief Hopper losing his young daughter to cancer and Eleven’s abusive and lack of past parental guidance makes the relationship more appealing to the audience and forms a strong unlikely bond between the two characters. Nancy and Jonathan reunite as a team in an attempt to get justice for Barb. After season one, fans grew obsessed with the idea of Nancy and Jonathan being together as more than just friends, and they got their wish. Although their romantic relationship was written in a sensible way, it still felt like fan service. Nancy had no interest in Jonathan last season, but magically seemed to realize she liked him and not Steve, in a drunken state at a Halloween party. Another unlikely pairing, or group rather, is Steve and the kids, Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Max. Steve is essentially put in a position where he becomes the babysitter, or as the “Stranger Things” Instagram page calls him, “Dad Steve.” This develops his character as a kind and considerate person who is even less like his despicable beginning of season one version.
“Stranger Things 2” has come a long way from season one with extensive character and relationship development, but the show has so much room to grow, especially regarding plot fluidity. The audience will just have to wait another year to see how the show evolves.