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COLUMN: 'Stranger Things' season two lives up to high expectations


After the release of season 1 July 15, 2016, the Netflix original series “Stranger Things” instantly became a pop culture phenomenon, captivating audiences with stellar performances, a compelling story and a nostalgic vibe reminiscent of author Stephen King and director Stephen Spielberg. 

Once Netflix renewed the show for a second season, the excitement and expectations rose for what was in store. 

Season 2 of "Stranger Things" released the morning of Oct. 27, with many fans staying up all night to binge watch the series. Fans went into season 2 expecting a set of nine chapters on par with the first season, and they received all of that and more. 

From the initial cold opening of chapter one alone, it is evident the show's writers and directors, Matt and Ross Duffer, have a clear vision to expand the "Stranger Things" universe beyond Hawkins, Indiana. 

Chapter 1, titled “Madmax”, introduces viewers to a number of new characters and subplots, including the titular Max, played by child actress Sadie Sink. 

Serving as a love interest of Dustin and Lucas, Max adds tension and a different perspective to the boys' tight knit group. Within an already stellar cast of child actors, Sink is a welcome addition, constantly showing her ability to convey emotions and drive a storyline forward. 

Also joining the cast is Max’s stepbrother Billy, played by Dacre Montgomery. Billy, much like Steve Harrington from last season, fills the role of Hawkins' new high school bully, complete with a muscle car and mullet. Montgomery plays a convincing troubled teen with a lot of emotional baggage.

Season 2not only expands the storyline laid out by the first season, but also goes much further within the minds of each character. Stand-out performances from Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, and David Harbour as Chief Jim Hopper are able to evoke the serious emotions each character is experiencing. 

After the events of season 1, every character close to the situation is permanently affected. Mike has lost his first love, Eleven, and constantly seeks her out over his transistor radio, while Will is dealing with constant nightmares of the Upside Down and bullies calling him “Zombie Boy." 

Furthermore, Will’s family is driven mad trying to help him overcome these fears and visions. While Schnapp did not get consistent screen time during season one due to his disappearance, his full range as an actor as well as his chemistry with Winona Ryder, who portrays his mother Joyce, and Charlie Heaton, who plays his older brother Jonathan, are on display in season 2. 

A large part of the show’s first season was the nostalgia for 1980’s pop culture that influenced every episode’s soundtrack, costumes, props and storyline, and this season is no different. In one of the season's first scenes, Mike is seen stealing money from his older sister Nancy in order to go to the arcade. 

The boys are excited to play games like Dig Dug and Dragon’s Lair, capitalizing on '80s nostalgia as the song “Whip It” by Devo plays in the background. 

The casting of this season reflects the nostalgia the show is so known for, with Paul Reiser and Sean Astin joining the group’s core group of adult characters. Reiser, best known for his role in the 1986 smash hit "Aliens," is cast as the man chosen to take control of Hawkins Lab. 

The other not-so-subtle nod to the decade is Sean Astin’s character Bob. 

During the 1980’s, Astin starred as Mikey in "The Goonies," a movie with a group of adventuring young kids similar to the main boys in "Stranger Things." While this casting may seem almost too on the nose at first, Astin is convincing in his role as Joyce’s new boyfriend from his first time on screen. 

The actor does a great job of playing a slightly naive, sweet boyfriend who just wants a family. However, Astin is not a one-note character, carrying a lot of emotional weight and appearing in some serious scenes throughout the nine episodes as well. 

Once again, Netflix and the Duffer Brothers have conjured up a smash hit sure to connect with audiences while avoiding the trope of fan service. Every moment in season 2 feels organic, and no lingering questions are left unanswered. 

It is clear that the show’s entire production team has a vision for this storyline. They are comfortable letting the story grow organically while still offering insight into burning questions, as well as character’s everyday emotions and actions. Now the wait for season 3 begins. 

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