Stranger Things 2: A Fan’s Delight And A Sumptuous Retro Treat
I remember Stranger Things as a Netflix series which had the least bit of promotion or fanfare when it came out last year. Slowly, of course, the retro 80’s SciFi fare gained immense word of mouth popularity and soon turned out to be Netflix’s biggest phenomenon of the year. The bunch of four kids, the serene and eerie town of Hawkins, the desperate mother of a missing boy, and a near mutant girl called Eleven, all became the stuff of cultish fervour across the world.
The vivacious casting and the fable-ish unwinding of the fiction drama captured the imagination of many fan theories and bolder ventures to be placed confidence in. Stranger Things thus initiated a thought process of vivacious storytelling, which through time was replicated by the Hollywood studios in their own tune. Season 2 of this fare, thus starts with what it does best and enhances upon it. And for the most parts, it does an incredible job doing so.
Right Where We Left Off -- Eleven’s Return And The Evil Lurking
Most viewers would remember that the show in the previous season paid a deft homage to Steven Spielberg in creating an environment full of swooning charm and mysticism, celebrated mostly in movies like “ET” and “War Of The Worlds”. So the Duffer brothers, the makers of the show, had their task clearly cut out before them, as far as setting the environment was concerned. And they deliver. As simple as that. You see, what we loved about season 1 was replicated more gloriously than ever in this season.
The retro pop string soundtrack (which suddenly has become a rage thanks to Thor Ragnarok employing it) by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein returns to its haunting fiesta. One particular track towards the end of the fourth episode, as the Halloween celebration reaches its peak, is unshakeable.
Once the environment is set, we understand the impending doom that our four kids from season 1 face. Viewers might remember that the season finale ended with Will Byers, played by Noah Schnapp, returning (rather rescued) from his trip to the Upside Down intact courtesy the bravado of Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and his mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder).
This series picks up right where it left off, as the protagonist in Will Byers starts to see the manifestations of his past take form and pull him down into distress. The seemingly normal town of Hawkins is taken alive with Halloween fervour, as our band of boys, made up of Dustin Henderson, Lucas Sinclair, Mike Wheeler, and Will take a new direction of dealing with the lurking evil. But that’s not all we are waiting for. The star of the show, as was the case even before, is Eleven (played with perfect stoicism by Millie Bobby Brown). And boy is that girl talented. She returns to the proceedings albeit a creepy looking placental Upside down portal wall, and there in the series starts to pick up steam.
What Does Stranger Things Season 2 Do Better?
Stranger Things 2 is almost impossible not to fall in love with. Much like the previous season, you bring in a laid-back town, bunch of free spirits, and you are struck, with all the happy nostalgia you need. But what the season goes beyond is the fact that the story does take its own leisure time
in unfolding. As Will (who went missing earlier) suddenly falls down with fits of the past, as Eleven responds to a call from the other world, as deeper darker shadows loom large over the serenity of the town, as Bob’s relentless optimism is questioned, we are confronted with questions which are uncomfortable. However, as one by one, the central story arch starts solving each of these questions (with a terrible sacrifice halfway through the season) you are left with a greater sense of relief and joy.
It should be noted that Stranger Things 2 is far more frightening than the first season, but it isn’t scary. There are more jump scares and grotesque imagery, but its no IT. Stranger Things 2 is still rooted in the traditional, almost trope-like ‘80s sci-fi genre that inspired the first season. That means elements of the season are lifted from the horror of ‘80s films, but it doesn’t ever devolve into a traditional scary movie.
The fantastical elements, the scientific experiments (much resembling the famous Area 51 of the lore) and Eleven, who we see is trying to harness the abilities to be the most destructive, get a remarkably stunning upgrade. With enough open-ended discussions, to entertain further seasons, Stranger Things 2 at this point, delivers on its promise. That of a lazed up slow-burning supernatural drama, which picks up steam in the latter half and checks all the boxes of a jolly good ride. Stranger Things 2 thus becomes more of a character study than anything else. A nostalgic trip down the woods becomes a bumpy and fearful ride, but it’s one helluva ride, which you just can’t miss.