Stranger Things 2 expanded its universe and characters, entering adulthood – TV series review

Picking up one year after the events of season 1, Stranger Things 2 brings back all the characters we fell in love with (besides Barbara… #justiceforBarb).

ST 2 featureAs the cliff-hanger at the end of the first season showed us, Will had been affected more than we thought by the Upside-Down and he’s now living a life full of visions from that nasty dimension. Meanwhile, Chief Hopper had rescued, helped and hidden Eleven for almost a year, to keep her safe from the bad guys; Mike and the losers club (ops, wrong pop reference!) are trying to understand what Will’s going through, deal with Eleven’s absence and contend with Madmax, a new girl gotten in town that both Dustin and Lucas have a crush on; meanwhile Steve, Nancy and Jonathan are caught up in their love triangle.

When The Fog Monster appears in Will’s visions, the picture seems to be more dangerous than one year before: this time, the “good and bad guys” may have to collaborate in order to stop a bigger evil…

If you read my review of Stranger Things, you’d know I’m a big fan of the series, however I approached season 2 with an aire of caution, since second seasons are usually good but they rarely get better than the first ones.

Stranger Things 2 is one of the exceptions: it works better than its predecessor on every, single level.

ST2 1Before getting into the story, I was impressed by the technical features of this Netflix TV series. The cinematography is gorgeous, with a few breath-taking shots that would make famous movie directors blush; the camera-work is brilliant – easily the best I’ve seen since Twin Peaks 2 – with courageous angles, extremely well-executed close-ins, perfect combinations between wide takes and close-ups; the soundtrack plays an even bigger role than in season one and the music choices are always spot-on.

ST2 2Despite, Stranger Things 2 being over-bloated with lead characters, they are all well-rounded, compelling and realistic: the introduction of a bunch of new characters that play pivotal roles in the story (Bob, Billy, Max, Dr Owens, Murray Bauman…) isn’t distracting at all because the creators of this series give them traits, motivations and reasons to do what they do. Just to give you a hint about how much this series has broken through pop culture, the hashtag #JusticeforBob had been in the Twitter top 10 for 79 hours overall – #prayforLondon, for instance, had been there for ‘only’ 56…

Mostly, though, this series is able to complete the character arcs that started developing in season one. Obviously, Mike and his crew are still one of the main focuses of Stranger Things 2, but they share more screen time than before – in other words, Mike isn’t the show stealer anymore. Yet, Nancy – one of the weakest and least relatable characters in season 1 – and Steve are now fundamental protagonists in the story and they can shine as well. Eleven and Hopper (with their relationship being pivotal in the plotline) have evolved and become the characters we wanted them to be in the first eight episodes. The biggest surprise, at least for me, was Will: he could have been the weak spot of Stranger Things 2, since he nearly didn’t perform in the first season; on the contrary, he steals the show with a fantastic performance that conveys emotions, shivers and tears.

ST2 3Nonetheless, what’s truly impressive about Stranger Things 2 is the evolution of the story. The creators decided to expand the universe set up in season one, obviously, but they also heightened the level of the enemies, sharpened the danger and boosted the tension. Therefore, our beloved characters had to evolve with the story and the perils they were facing – which they did, brilliantly. This series is also extremely smart in making its protagonists avoid most of the clichéd routes and that brings realism to both characters and plot.

Sometimes, when a TV series tries to improve upon its first season by going bigger, it risks betraying tone, characters and so on. Stranger Things 2 avoided said risk and combined the best elements of the first season with enthralling additions in the second.

As per flaws, I personally thought episode 7 (although very well made and interesting) served more as a filler or an advert for a future third season, rather than working on the same storyline as the other episodes.

Furthermore, certain characters’ choices seemed driven by convenience in episode 6 and 8: simply put, they make stupid – or, at least, unreasonable – decisions that carry the plot along without too much effort.

However, both these complaints are rather tiny and don’t trivialise Stranger Things 2. This is a fantastic TV series, which you should watch back-to-back or even as a stand-alone product, since it works both ways. Thus, I’m giving Stranger Things 2 8.5/10.

ST2 4Nevertheless, I loved each one of the episodes and I experienced this season as one of the best second seasons ever – it’s up there with Twin Peaks 2 and Lost 2. (Now, I’m holding my breath for The Exorcist season 2…)

Stranger Things 2 compelled me to the point that I cried during the last few scenes of episode 9: therefore, my personal grade is a 10/10. Cheers!