“Stranger Things” gets stranger and better

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As was true of the first season, I can’t tell if “Stranger Things 2” is great sci-fi or an elaborate metaphor for childhood trauma. The show’s strength is balancing 1980s nostalgia and surprisingly pointed commentary on 2017.

The show’s much-anticipated second season picks up a year after the events of the first. On the surface, the town of Hawkins, Ind. seems to be back to normal. Behind the scenes, however, the main characters are dealing with everything that has happened. Will (Noah Schnapp) is still haunted by his time in the Upside-Down, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is searching for Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is working to forgive herself for Barbara’s (Shannon Purser) death and navigate her relationships with Steve (Joe Keery) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). They have to put all of these problems aside when a new danger appears, threatening Will and the town’s existence.

One of the show’s best assets has always been the acting, especially of the younger characters. The four central boys Will, Mike, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), as well as Eleven, are joined by a few new faces this time around. Sadie Sink is great as tomboyish Max, who gets caught in a love triangle between Dustin and Lucas. Priah Ferguson steals the show in her few scenes as Lucas’s younger sister, Erica. The teenagers are equally great in their roles, showing a grit that few young adults have. Nancy’s transformation from princess to warrior was great to watch last season, and the show continues that arc quite nicely. The adults are typically great, too. Possible exceptions are Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour). Otherwise, they are really the supporting cast.   

In a lot of ways, “Stranger Things” lives up to expectations. Beyond the great ‘80s references, most of which are often lost on this generation, the show provides commentary on PTSD, journalistic integrity and freedom of information in a way that’s subtle enough not to detract from the main plot. The highlights of the season were learning more about Eleven’s past and the final episode, which is pure fan service. But as a fan, I didn’t mind.

The downsides were few and far between. The increased violence may cause the show to lose appeal for some viewers (I’m personally not a fan of slasher, but it didn’t go too far into that realm), and at about 50 minutes per episode, it is kind of a time commitment. Overall, though, season two didn’t disappoint, and I would definitely watch a third. I would also recommend “Beyond Stranger Things,” which gives great insight into the minds of the cast and producers as well as discussions of important scenes. Don’t watch until after you’ve finished the season. This companion series is full of spoilers.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cover photo courtesy of engadget.

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