By now, you have probably completed your binge of “Stranger Things 2”. It felt like forever, but finally, the characters we know and love are back, along with some new friends we are sure to be dressing up as in the next Halloween celebration.
WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for “Stranger Things 2”. If you haven’t watched it yet, go watch the show! And then come back and read the article, of course.
“Stranger Things” follows a group of pre-teens and their families as they deal with unexplainable phenomena in their small town of Hawkins, Indiana.
“Stranger Things 2” picks up a year later as the residents face new obstacles while still recovering from their ordeal the year before. The Duffer Brothers do quite a bit brilliantly throughout the series, but the most impressive aspect of season two is character development.
Our favorites returned, all having learned something and grown in the year since the Upside Down first crept into Hawkins, Indiana.
Take Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) for example. A bully and an all-around creep, Steve was not a likeable character. But when Billy (Dacre Montgomery) rolls into town and roughly dethrones Steve as king of the school, Steve has a change of heart. He befriends Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and assists him in the hunt for D’Artagnan, Dustin’s new mysterious pet.
While Steve’s change is the most dramatic of the bunch, all the characters demonstrate growth throughout the season. Rather than functioning as a group like they did in season one, the “kids” – Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Dustin – all have their own storylines. They are forced to mature and make decisions without the help of their lifelong friends, some with more success than others. They also add a member to their party, Mad Max (Sadie Sink), fiery redhead and voice of reason. She is the only person to query, “why are we running to the sound?!” when the group hears ominous roars in the forest.
We also meet Dr. Owens (Paul Resier), a head scientist who runs Hawkins Laboratory and genuinely seems to want to help Will recover from his ordeal the year before. And Bob (Sean Astin), manager of Radio Shack and more-than-friend to Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), who stays calm in the face of monsters from another dimension. Meanwhile, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) hasn’t given up on Justice for Barb. She and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) seek out conspiracy theorist, Mr. Clark (Randy Havens), to expose the shady happenings at Hawkins Lab.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has the best individual storyline. We quickly learn that Eleven escaped the Upside Down and has been living in a secret cabin in the woods with Police Chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour). Telekinetic or not, Eleven proves to be a typical teenager and a rebel, running away to find her mother in Chicago. Her mother isn’t the only person from her past she finds in Chicago, and Eleven’s story takes a dark turn.
By the penultimate episode, all the storylines come together, and the whole cast meets in the Byer house to use their combined intelligence to defeat the creatures from the Upside Down for good.
The Duffer Brothers beautifully balance the fantasy world of the Upside Down with real people dealing with relatable problems.
Does “Stranger Things 2” have moments that test the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief? Sure. But these moments are outweighed by the audience’s investment in the characters and our desperate need for everything to work out.
The season ends with just enough unanswered questions to leave us wanting more. Will our beloved characters finally be able to lead normal lives? Or will Hawkins, Indiana and its residents be forever plagued by the creatures from the Upside Down?