Stranger Things Season 2 Part 2: Familiar, Yet Deeper (Spoiler Review)
Stranger Things 2 has, in some ways, been The Force Awakens. It goes through many of the same story beats and arcs as the original -- once again, it takes forever to believe mom, Steve goes from douche to hero, so does Hopper (sorta), and Eleven remembers a bunch of stuff about her past and shows up in time to save the day. And yet it's more satisfying: also like The Force Awakens, it deepens the drama by having everyone traumatized and dealing with patterns in their lives. New characters Max and her big brother Billy epitomize the extremes of dealing: she responds to an abusive environment by getting good at everything, while he turns it all into rage and becomes literally the worst in every way.
Most satisfying, though, is that even though questions still remain about the Upside Down and the lab kids, it's easy enough to fill in the gaps with inference. What we're not explicitly told, we can guess, except maybe why Paul Reiser's not in jail by the end. And in the subplot involving Dart, the pet Demo-dog raised by Dustin, we get something to explore in the future -- the notion that a part of a hivemind can defect, even if only briefly, when bribed with chocolate.
Discussions remain as to whether binge-watching or individual episode viewing is best, but here's one of the pluses of making something at least available to binge-watch. Remember Lost, and how it might end an episode with a cliffhanger, and you'd wait all week to see what came next, only to get an irrelevant side-quest because "It's not about the plot; it's about the characters"? This time, you know that once the episode about Eleven's side-quest is over, you can get right back to the next one and not have to wait two weeks to resolve whatever happened last. And those of us who had to wait till nearly the end of Twin Peaks season 3 to get Cooper back needed not spend two months to see Eleven reunite with all her friends for that last episode.
Was it wise to begin the season with a tease of "Eight"? It made for great speculation, but considering she didn't figure into the climax and was just a side-mentor, having her discovered during the course of the show might have been more effective in the long run. The reveal of why mama says the things she says on a loop was, however, masterful and devastating. As was Eleven asking Hopper "Who's Sarah?", revealing that even as he took care of her for a year, he never mentioned his dead daughter.
Do future seasons, if any, have to deal with Demogorgons? Could we have the kids maybe face different creatures next time? And how long before they get too old for this to be the same kind of show?
In the meantime, just one complaint: most of the references to other movies are so subtle and well done that they're nicely unobtrusive. However, once another movie has made a song its own, as Quentin Tarantino often asserts despite repurposing so many tunes himself, you shouldn't get to use it the same way. So, Duffer brothers: "Time After Time" as the school dance song that finally gets the lead couple together is owned by Napoleon Dynamite. Gosh.
Previously on Wizard:
-Our take on the first part of Season 2.
-A creepy cover of a significant song this season.
-The Stranger Things action figure we want the most.