I am not just being facetious, the “totally tubular” reference is a quote from season two’s Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo). And it fits on many levels. The return of Netflix’s Stranger Things will not let views down. The suspense, 1980s references, and character development are just as entertaining as the previous season. Also, by the end of episode four, the tubular reference begins to take on a new meaning. As follows is a review on the first four episodes from Stranger Things 2.
Part of the experience is that, like season one, the series is smartly presented as one long horror movie from the 1980s. The advertising has focused on labeling the season as Stranger Things 2. The audience does get the idea that they are watching a sequel. The time is now October of 1984. A year has passed. The first episode reintroduces familiar characters while adding in a few new ones.
Season Two opens with “Madmax.” Will (Noah Schnapp) is the central focus of the first episode. Season one dealt with his disappearance so there was a limited scope available for getting to know Will. We knew his friends. His family. His bullies. Now, the viewer gets a chance to know him better. Schnapp does a fine job in finding a spot with his group of friends. His spot is aptly created by being the misfit in a group of misfits. As the first four episodes of part two unfold, Will is just as important as ever, and we are able to see the horrifying Upside Down through his eyes.
Sean Astin is a welcomed addition to the cast. With Stranger Things having consistent homages to films like The Goonies, it is fun to see a star from that film such as Astin. He plays Bob and in the show, he is dating Joyce (fellow 1980’s star, Winona Rider). Bob seems like a nice guy, but in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, everyone is suspicious. Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery also join the cast this year as Max and Billy, respectively. By the end of episode four, the audience is still unclear to their relationship, but one imagines this duo has had a volatile past. Replacing Matthew Modine is Paul Reiser as Owens. Owens is a scientist attempting to close the portal through to the Upside Down. His motives are unclear; however, one leans more towards Reiser’s part in Aliens than in his broad comedy roles.
The returning cast continues to shine in their continued attempts to understand the parallel world around them. While Joyce is dating Bob, she has forged a bond with Hopper (David Harbour). Ryder portrays an apologizingly vigilant mother unwilling to compromise in letting her guard completely down. Harbour has built a new relationship this season. This relationship is revealed as a “surprise” by the end of the first episode, however the rightness of the moment overcomes any shock the viewer might feel.
The younger cast are as fun as ever. As they age, some of the cute factor has subsided, however this is replaced with a more genuine charm. Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas join up in their shared distraction of Max. Finn Wolfhard is still the sensitive leader, Mike, and is dealing with the loss of El (Millie Bobby Brown). Millie Bobby Brown continues to steal the show as Eleven.
Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) move the plot forward yet again. This time they are delivering the main message of the first four episodes. The message is that things always must change. When the second season opens, the main characters have attempted to go back to before when things were “normal.” By the end of the third episode, they start to realize that normal does not exist anymore. Everything must eventually change, and these characters have had to deal with such fantastical horror, that normal is a thing of the past.
One thing recreated from the previous season is the fact of how every time it appears that you as the viewer are about to lose patience, the Duffer Brothers manage to reel it in. There are moments that start to stretch a little thin, and then a character or scene appears that helps to switch away from any impatient attitude. The series continues to be addictive in nature. This review was intended to only cover the first three episodes, yet I could not stop myself from watching four.
The music by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein continues to help the show stand out from other programs attempting to recreate such an iconic decade. The 1980’s synthesizer adds an extra flavor to Stranger Things. Depending on the scene, the mood switches from an electronic tune hinting of something tender to suddenly thumping like a heart ready to explode. Other references from the decade remain. From Ford Pintos to Dragon’s Lair at the arcade, there are several pop culture goodies to keep the audience entertained.
The first few episodes present a larger landscape than the first season. Other parents have begun to appear and there are more townsfolk playing a part. Hawkins becomes a metaphor for the everyday kind of horror people in a smaller town face. As well as the horror that lurks underneath. The first four episodes build a tension that climaxes by the end of the third episode. The fourth episode leads the viewer to believe that the ride is only beginning. The Duffer brothers have brought back an acclaimed series that continues to intrigue and shock the viewer. The character development is realistic. The terror is thrilling. Stranger Things 2 is a compelling return in which I look forward to watching the remaining five episodes.
A complete review of Stranger Things 2 will follow.
Wicked Rating: 9/10 (episodes 1-4)
Director: The Duffer Brothers, Shawn Levy
Written by: The Duffer Brothers, Justin Doble, Paul Dichter
Stars: Wynona Rider, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Studio/Production Company: 21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre
Length: Approx. 50 minutes
Sub-genre: Science Fiction, Thriller