Critic’s Corner: Stranger Things 2 Is an ‘Eleven’ Out of Ten

Nine episodes of “Stranger Things 2” were released on Netflix on Oct. 27, just in time to relish the eerie special effects used to illustrate the alternate world of the upside-down for “Halloweekend” binge-watching.

COURTESY OF COMICBOOKHERO
COURTESY OF COMICBOOKHERO

The second season of “Stranger Things” picks up where the first season left off. The common notion that sequels never live up to the original does not apply to this series.“Stranger Things 2” continues to elevate its storyline by including just as many spine chilling scenes as the last and its complex storyline remains unpredictable.

This season, the characters are confronted with issues that are relevant beyond the 1980s setting of the show. For example, one of the new characters this season, Max Mayfield, experiences emotional and physical abuse within her family. The audience watches the different impacts abuse has in her life and the way she tries to cope with her pain.

Will Byers, Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair and Dustin Henderson are again exposed to ridicule, threats and physical abuse from school bullies. Their strange interests and association with the unexplainable events that occurred the year before label them as outcasts.

Will discovers a newspaper clipping in his locker with his eyes crossed out and the words “Zombie Boy” written below his picture. Paranoid and upset, Will tries to overcome his emotions on his own through drawing his version of “Zombie Boy.” Upon discovering Will’s drawing, Will’s brother Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) provides emotional support and understanding for Will by reassuring him that being called “Zombie Boy” is good because it makes him different.

“Nobody normal ever accomplished anything meaningful in their world,” Johnathan said to Will.

Throughout the season, each character searches for a sense of belonging and a place to call home. Embarking on a journey to find her home, Eleven reunites with her mother Terry Ives along the way. To her disappointment, she discovers that her longing for a home is not with her biological mother, which sends her further away from her home. She attempts to leave her past behind by traveling across the state, but she realizes that she needed to leave behind the pain and revenge she was holding onto to recognize the joy in her life and where her home lies.

Paying tribute to Barbara Holland’s death in season one, Barbara’s parents, Nancy Wheeler, Jonathan and Steve Harrington navigate the different stages of grief. Unconvinced that their missing daughter is dead, Barbara’s parents open an investigation to discover Barbara’s whereabouts, which forces Nancy to acknowledge her repressed feelings towards Barbara’s death and try to reconcile the situation.

“Stranger Things 2” also builds upon the powerful strength of the female leads that were introduced in the first season. Joyce and Eleven were the main beacons of strength in season one, exemplified by Joyce’s persistence in the pursuit of her son and Eleven’s choice to put the needs of others before the needs of herself.

This season, The Duffer Brothers wrote Nancy as a more courageous and bold character. She opposes standards in her life that she had previously reluctantly abided by. She fights against the injustices done by the Hawkins scientists and the expectations generated by the high school hierarchy.

Max is another powerful female lead. Max is a praiseworthy character because of her rebellious and individualistic personality. She breaks gender norms in the 1980s by skate boarding through the halls of Hawkins Middle, playing and dominating the leaderboard in arcade games and dressing up on Halloween as Michael Myers from “Halloween.”

“Stranger Things 2” leaves room for a third installment in the series, as the final scene sparks many unanswered questions for the viewer. The last moments of the series quickly juxtaposed a safe and warm moment with a startling reminder of the menacing world that still exists.

The nostalgic feeling of “Stranger Things” along with the intricate and emotionally raw storyline keeps audiences engaged and wanting more. Optimistic that the Duffer Brothers will continue in their two-season success, it will be thrilling to see what other horrors and character developments “Stranger Things” has in store.

Hunter may be reached at
huechi@su-spectator.com

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