Looking for nine hours of television to get you in the spooky spirit? Fear not, “Stranger Things” is back with bigger hair for Steve, teeth for Dustin and traumatic flashbacks followed by slug vomiting for Will Byers!
It’s been over a year since we last binge-watched the “E.T.”/”IT” mashup known as “Stranger Things.” Hopper grew a beard and Eleven has curly shoulder-length hair now, so we know time has passed. Season two begins a year after Will Byers was first kidnapped, and focuses on how Will and his family are adjusting to life after the trauma inflicted by last season.
What trauma, you might ask? Well, if you’ve been living under a rock for over a year, Will Byers was kidnapped by a monster called a Demogorgon and held captive in another dimension. Eventually, Will was rescued with the help of his mom (the frantic and brilliant Queen of the 1990s herself, Winona Ryder), Chief Hopper, his ragtag group of best friends and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, the charming tween girl that raps on all those late-night shows).
In episode one, Will is struggling to adjust to life in Hawkins again, suffering traumatic episodes and coughing up slugs. We learn that Will, Joyce and his surrogate dad, Hopper, travel to Hawkins National Laboratory often to meet with Dr. Owens, the head scientist and the world’s most insensitive trauma psychologist.
The lab visits introduce the most intriguing question of season two: what happens when horror movies end? All the films that “Stranger Things” borrows from end after about 90 to 120 minutes, with the villain slain and the heroes alive. “Stranger Things 2” keeps the camera rolling and captures what regular life is like after an adventure.
Apparently, it’s not that great. While some of the characters have moved on and are making out with fat Rudy (looking at you, Joyce), others are still guilt-ridden for hooking up while their redheaded best friend (and breakout star of the season) was taken by a monster (#JusticeForBarb).
However compelling this question of normalcy after adversity is, I have a hunch this group of misfits will find themselves in another series of wacky mishaps and wild misadventures. No spoilers please!
“Stranger Things’” charm lies in is its willingness to pay homage to cultural touchstones in order to craft an original narrative heavily imbued with nostalgia. Safe to say, it works. Despite being born in 1997, I found myself nostalgic for 1984, when I was not on Earth but Earth had lots of arcade games and Devo.
“Stranger Things 2” expands the best parts of the first season, by focusing on the relationships between characters and their places in Hawkins. Will and his friends are adjusting to middle school, Joyce is getting used to allowing Will out of the house, Hopper and Eleven are adorably cohabitating and Jonathan is still pining over Nancy.
A couple new faces include “MADMAX,” aka Max, the tomboy who just moved to Hawkins and has already beat Dustin at Dig Dug. I would like to note that if Max were a kid today, she would have Charlize Theron as her Mad Max hero. Sometimes progress is cool.
Another newcomer is Max’s objectively awful older brother, who does a keg stand for 41 seconds (I’m calling bullshit) and has a stringy mullet. Despite his hair and aggro vibes, he is still objectified and deemed hot by three female students who are thirsty as hell.
If you faithfully watched “Stranger Things” in one or two days last summer, you’re going to love “Stranger Things 2.” It manages to play the greatest hits of season one while delightfully surprising with new twists. And if you do not squeal with joy when the boys dress up as Ghostbusters for Halloween, your insides are as dead as Barb.