“Carter Burke and The Goonie: What You Better Not Be Missing on NETFLIX”
STRANGER THINGS 2
(2017, TV-MA, approx. 9 hrs, NETFLIX ORIGINALS)
At times, this job of reviewing streaming media can be difficult. Partly because I only get paid in “Likes” (which is why I always like my own stinkin’ reviews), but mostly because it involves watching enough films or shows to put together a list of things you should watch. Based on my opinion, of course.
Last year, I was skeptical going into the first season of “Stranger Things”. The premise seemed a bit worn, the references to the eighties too obvious, the acting questionable—and all that was just from the trailers. But after ten minutes, I found myself hooked (and I obviously wasn’t the only one, as it did not take long for the programming geniuses at Netflix to option a second season).
That first season was a mind-blowingly original love letter to the Eighties. It worked splendidly on 89% of the levels it was attempting to attain; that 11% was due a few minor issues, and my irritation at Winona Ryder’s “Joyce Byers”, a mother whose frantic search for her missing son involved a whole lot of crying. I was always a big fan of hers, and to see her reduced to a character that didn’t seem proactive until the very end saddened me. In the sophomore season of the show, she is absolutely everything I wanted her to be the first time around, and more.
In fact, that is a good summation of the new season: it is more than the first. So, so much more. Whereas the effects in the first season made you feel as though you were watching a film from the eighties, this time the effects are bigger, stronger, visually smoother. There are more chills this time around; there is imagery here that will stick with you, moments that may actually produce a shudder or two. Or five. The story is broader, the music even more inclusive, and the score… the theme is recognizable enough, but the underlying music by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is all the setting you need as far as mood goes.
And the acting… we did not get to see much of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) in the first season, but his range as an actor is noticeably pervasive here. All the kids do a wonderful job with their roles, and the adults get their moments to shine as well. Caleb McLuaghlin (Lucas) shares more screen time and more involvement rather than be angry for most of the season, Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) doesn’t look so confused, and Finn Wolfhard (Mike) gets to explore different aspects of his truly layered character. Yet my favorite, once again, is Gaten Matarazzo. Dustin is… well, he’s me when I was that age. Awkward and unsure of himself and the world around him, he gives out his trust when he maybe shouldn’t, and encapsulates the age wonderfully (probably because he is that age, duh…).
I only have two complaints about this season, and they are rather minor irritants: every car peels out (even the family Pinto, fer cryin’ out loud), and Eleven gets so many nose bleeds you start getting used to it. And that’s it.
Now, I normally don’t do spoilers, so I’ll do two things here. First, a quick synopsis: the boys are back together, Eleven is missing, and Will is having issues stemming from the time he spent in the Upside Down. Now, here comes the bit with the potential spoilers, although all I’m going to do is give you a few character points. (And, here comes the longest sentence I have ever written in my entire life) Dustin grows teeth and gets a new pet, Mike is sad and angry, Will is going bonkers, Lucas likes a girl, Eleven gets a badass makeover, Chief Hopper tries the single daddy routine, Joyce gets a Goonie for a boyfriend (Sean Astin), Jonathon gets a girlfriend, Nancy gets drunk, Steve starts babysitting, the boys get a new member to the group, Barb is still “missing” (sorry, not sorry), and Paul Reiser (“Carter Burke from ALIENS, wouldn’t you know) gets to be a scientist.
I gave the first season of the show a “B+”, and I stand by that grade. Even after having watched it three times. But the second season… The Duffer Brothers have taken their original creation and literally turned it into a monster. An awesome, sprawling, fantastically engineered monster.
The only thing that sucks is that I now have to wait another 357 days until the third freaking season comes out…
Season 2 Grade: A
Series Grade: A-