Review: Wonderful character development in long-awaited ‘Stranger Things’ season
“Stranger Things” was last year’s most talked about show, both on the Internet and by word of mouth. It became the most searched for show on Google and won Show of the Year at the MTV Movie & TV Awards.
Now, the gang of young kids are back in season 2 of the Netflix series. If you have not gotten to bingeing this season yet, I will try not to give too much away, but watch out for spoilers ahead.
It has been a while since viewers watched the first season. The esteemed first season premiered on July 15, 2016. More than a year later, the second season was released on Oct. 27, 2017.
Anyone who is a fan of the Science Fiction genre can tell that “Stranger Things” has a plot much like many other films and shows in the category.
Supernatural creatures, paranormal dimensions, mad-scientist-like villains, a band of buds trying to save the day and the colliding of two worlds.
So what made “Stranger Things” blow up like it did?
If you ask me, I think the popularity of the show has as much to do with the off-screen factors as much as the on-screen.
For one, the cast is phenomenal. Casting a bunch of young kids, all born after 2000, was what drew attention to the show in the first place.
Then there are prominent actors like Winona Ryder and David Harbour.
I also think the way the show is edited and where it is set, in 1983-84, gives the aesthetic that fans were initially attracted to. The cast and the imagery are only upgraded in season 2.
Season 1 ended with the return of Will Byers, who was kidnapped and taken to the other-dimensional world called ‘the Upside Down,’ and the disappearance of Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, a girl with psychokinetic powers who was used as a lab rat for most of her younger life.
One of my favorite things about this season was the character developments from season 1 to season 2.
I want to start with Will. At the end of the last season, Will was home safe but experiencing side effects from being stuck in the Upside Down, a sign that more was to come in season 2.
In this new season, Noah Schnapp, who plays Will, gets much more of a role. Will experiences traumatic flashbacks, which he calls now memories, from his time in the Upside Down.
His mother Joyce, played by Ryder, does everything she can to find help for her son, even resorting to going to the laboratory where the whole mess started.
The acting by Schnapp is absolutely stunning and makes you wonder what we were missing in season 1.
There are moments where Will is visibly agonized by what happened to him, and the viewer can’t help but to feel heartbroken.
The next character who caught my attention this season was Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, the curly haired kid with the lisp, who viewers will fall in love with the moment they meet him.
Dustin, a member of the original gang, plays a much bigger role in the plot of season 2.
In this season, Dustin is as funny and quotable as ever, but he also takes on a lot more as he is basically responsible for the chaos that ensues in this season.
After finding a lizard-like creature that is actually from the Upside Down, Dustin has to go on a journey, sometimes on his own, to stop the creature, and more like it, from killing everyone in the town.
Sometimes referred to as Dustin’s sidekick is Steve Harrington, played by Joe Keery.
Last season, fans saw Steve as the jerkish boyfriend of Nancy, who served no real purpose.
In this season, however, Steve has one of the best character developments. After having his heart broken by Nancy early in the season, Steve shows a nicer and more vulnerable side as he teams up with Dustin to stop the creatures and acts as an adorable babysitter to the children.
Next is Lucas, played by Caleb McLaughlin, another member of the group of friends, who continues to act as the reason of the group.
This season, however, Lucas finds a love interest in Max, the new girl in town.
Max, or Maxine, played by Sadie Sink, moved to Hawkins, Indiana, from California with her rude and violent step-brother, Billy, played by Dacre Montgomery.
(I can’t quite figure out the purpose of Billy’s character, but I have a feeling he will play a bigger role in the next season.)
Although some of the other members, especially Mike, of the ‘party’ of boys do not want another girl in the group because they want to honor Eleven, Lucas welcomes Max with open arms.
Another character is the newby, ironically named Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin. Before the season even came out, entertainment outlets were reporting that Bob would be the Barb, Nancy’s best friend who unjustly died at the hands of the Upside Down, of season 2.
Bob is Joyce’s cheesy new boyfriend, who adds a bit of comedy relief to the show. It may have seemed like Bob had no purpose in this season, but it was nice to see someone like him emotionally support Joyce and her children through all their hardships.
The next and possibly best character of season 2 is Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper, played by Harbour. Last season, Hopper was a grumpy and lonely man, focused on searching for the missing Will.
This season, viewers see his softer side as it is revealed that he has taken in a lost, not missing, Eleven.
The relationship is one that fans never saw coming, but is undoubtedly the best bond of the season.
There were some characters that I was kind of disappointed with in terms of their involvement in this season.
Mike, for one, plays a much less significant role then he did last season. For just about the entire season, he is distraught and distracted by the disappearance of Eleven.
Since he was advertised as kind-of the leader of the pack of friends last season, I would have liked to see a little more of him. But I think many fans can agree that Mike’s scarcity in this season was all worth it the moment he was finally reunited with Eleven.
Another pair of characters I was disappointed in this season was Jonathan and Nancy, played by Charlie Heaton and Natalia Dyer.
Don’t get me wrong, I was rooting for them in the first season, and when they finally got together in this season, I was ecstatic. Regardless, their union lacked the flare and attention they deserved.
Last, but certainly not least, is the already-iconic character of Eleven.
In this season, we learn more about Eleven and her past, just as she is learning about life outside of a lab.
Packed with more words in her vocabulary and stronger powers, she becomes more and more independent of her traumatized younger self.
Her father-like relationship with Hopper is definitely a highlight of the show, but what shone for me was Eleven’s stand-alone episode.
In her episode, Eleven runs away from the sheltered and safe life she had with Hopper to search for her mother and ‘sister,’ a girl who was with Eleven in the lab.
Her mother, who is catatonic, as fans learned in season 1, gives Eleven directions to her sister through her subconscious.
Viewers also learn a little more about Eleven’s power, her ability to find anyone, anywhere, with just a thought.
Eleven goes to her sister, Kali, in Chicago. There, Eleven finds out that Kali has the ability to make people see and not see whatever she wants them to.
Kali is also a part of a band of criminals who are on a mission to kill all the people who hurt her and Eleven in the lab when they were younger. Kali encourages Eleven to use her abilities and make the people who did her wrong pay.
In the end, Eleven concludes that she has to go back to save her friends, but not before gaining a new style and a beloved sister.
A lot of people have negative thoughts about the stand-alone episode, believing that it was not necessary.
I, for one, loved the episode. I liked having a little more insight into Eleven’s earlier life. Also, I feel the episode was the boost that Eleven needed to finally return to Hawkins to save her friends.
I could go on about every episode, but I believe the characters and how they develop played a large part in the development of the story as well.
For those who always love a good sci-fi plot, “Stranger Things,” season 1 and 2, adds a fresh spin on a timeless genre.