“Stranger Things 2” Turns Netflix Upside Down
Warning! This article contains spoilers for seasons one and two of “Stranger Things.”
At midnight on Oct. 27, season two of “Stranger Things” released. With a new antagonistic force to fear, new characters to get to know, and more than enough Eggo waffles to go around, the new season was nothing short of brilliant.
The showrunners of “Stranger Things,” the Duffer brothers, know how to combine elements of plot, character and theme to create an immersive story that pulls the viewer in from beginning to end.
The plot of season two, like season one, follows several storylines that build upon one another and eventually come together seamlessly in a satisfying conclusion. The balanced pacing keeps the viewer engaged every episode.
While the show stays true stylistically to season one, the fundamental nature of the conflict has changed. Whereas the first season’s “Demogorgon” operated mainly out of animalistic instinct, the second season’s “Shadow Monster” is something else entirely.
It is a sentient creature that has plans and motives, yet is too otherworldly for the characters to comprehend. The character of Will Byers even describes it as “more of a feeling.”
This does several things for the story: it presents more of a challenge to the characters by raising the stakes; it expands the universe; and it sets up a larger conflict to be resolved in coming seasons.
It also adds an interesting element of Lovecraftian Horror, a subgenre of horror that plays off humanity’s fear of the unknown and inability to do anything in the face of a cruel, indifferent and incomprehensible universe.
I personally love these changes to the plot and thought that they brought a whole new layer to the story.
Season two didn’t drop in the character development department, either. The same characters we fell in love with in season one return, now with the baggage of their first ordeal.
Much of season two focuses on the growth of these characters as they deal with their past experiences, while also confronting new challenges.
Though all the main characters undergo change to some extent, the stories that really stood out in this season were those of Will, Joyce and El.
Will’s story focuses heavily around the theme of fear. He’s diagnosed with PTSD after experiencing recurring visions of “The Upside-Down.” He constantly flees in terror from this monster during his visions, yet these terrors won’t seem to leave him alone.
It’s when Will decides to face his fear that the “Shadow Monster” overtakes him. This goes against the traditional trope of facing your fears to overcome them. However, Will’s story is closely tied in with Joyce’s in this season.
Joyce must watch her child suffer, unable to do anything for him and deal with the fear that she’ll lose him again; it is Joyce’s same unwillingness to succumb to fear that eventually saves Will at the end of the season.
El’s story focuses around the idea of home, and is more of a coming of age story, as she struggles with finding her place in the world. It was one of my favorite aspects of the season because we saw her grow.
After being stuck in a cabin and isolated from society for about a year, El begins to feel trapped, just like she did in Hawkins Lab. She decides to take off on her own, first in search of Mike, then of her mother, and then of her long lost “sister”—another child who was also held prisoner in Hawkins Lab and who has supernatural powers of her own.
What we find that she is really searching for, however, is a place to belong. This comes to a climax when she realizes her friends are in danger, and that danger accelerates her decision to return to Hawkins.
Her sister attempts to get her to stay by saying, “They cannot save you.” El’s response is, “No, but I can save them.”
When she returns to Hawkins and is reunited with Mike, she knows she is finally home.
Finally, this season keeps the themes of the first season going strong: the cinematography, the 80’s pop culture, the allusions to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. It’s all there, backed by a killer soundtrack.
One of the truly unique things about “Stranger Things” is its ability to construct this thematic world on the shoulders of other media, and yet not feel derivative.
While an adult audience may be drawn to the show because of nostalgia for growing up around the period the story is set in, “Stranger Things” has also attracted a young adult audience.
Yet, when watching both seasons one and two, I feel a strange sense of connection to the characters and a remembrance of my own childhood. This is because at its heart, “Stranger Things” is not about being a kid in the 80’s—it’s just about being a kid.
The second season of “Stranger Things” gave us a lot to love, with new dimensions to the plot, character growth and a strong sense of theme. So, do yourself a favor and buy a tub of ice cream along a box of Eggos while you marathon season two.