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‘Stranger Things 2’ adds more depth

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This is a continuation of a story published in the second edition of The Lion’s Tale newspaper (Nov. 3, 2017).

Eggos, Eleven, and Christmas lights: three things for which the popular Netflix original, Stranger Things, is most notable . Well, those and its brilliant blend of 80s pop-culture nostalgia and character-driven story arcs that intertwine to deliver a strong plot. As a period piece, the writing was neither prone to unintentional anachronisms or historical inaccuracy, which minimizes flaws.  The writers’ room had very minor changes from the first to the second season, and this allowed consistency in the show to remain in place.  With all those factors, the renewal of the series provided an astonishing new season.

Characters

A remarkable dynamic emerges between Sheriff Hopper and clairvoyant, psychic, telekinetic lab escapee Eleven. Hopper has a tragic backstory. He starts to treat Eleven–with good intentions and unconsciously–as a surrogate daughter, in place of Sarah. Eleven also starts to make connections between her new father figure and her previous one: season one’s big, bad Dr. Brenner, better known as “Papa.”

Billy, a normal-world antagonist for the kids, was portrayed very well, but wasn’t really necessary for the series. The Duffer brothers made an attempt at making a villain we could sympathize with. This, however, produced a shallow and disappointingly underdeveloped character; his reason for being rude and crass with others is a result of child abuse. This is such a prevalent issue that it seems approachable to place it in a character’s bio-psycho-social history. This was not how it was addressed. Instead, viewers were hastily shown that Billy’s father beat him–and that was it. Billy never grew, he never addressed it and it leaves a lot of loose ends in the season’s attempted wrap up.

As for Dusty: so what if he messed up in raising a literal hell spawn? He owned up to the consequence that unfolded, which displayed character flaw and growth. An interesting parallel is the heel-turn arc that once-bad-boy Steve displayed. Each–while albeit conversely–made a mistake and then redeemed himself. Unfortunately, both were still be unable to get the girl. That didn’t cause their growth to revert, however, which displayed their true levels of maturity.

Plot

The arc featuring Jonathan and Nancy searching for justice for Barb seemed like an “author’s saving throw,” where an unfinished resolution is brought back to clear up plot holes and continuity. To make matters worse, the writers created a disjointed single-episode arc that entailed Eleven traveling to find her long lost sister, Eight, for a day. The two sisters didn’t see eye to eye on everything, which prompted Eleven to venture out and return to her “good moral-standing” friends.

There was a bit of catharsis involved, too, with subplots featuring tragic antagonists getting what they deserve. When Billy got sedated by Max, for example, it just goes to prove the show’s ability to evoke emotion, to make any tense or uncomfortable situation an opportunity for the protagonists to rise beyond the problem.

Setting

Hawkins is so well-developed that it truly feels like a real town. The way all the characters’ stories weave into the history of the town creates a solid fabric of backstory.

What to watch next

The success of the series’ first season spawned a “behind the scenes” show called Beyond Stranger Things, which I recommend to everyone.

 

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‘Stranger Things 2’ adds more depth