The second season of Netflix’s pastiche of 80’s pop culture, “Stranger Things,” is streaming as of Oct. 27. To quote the show itself “I liked it … I just wish it had a little more originality.” It’s no surprise that this line applies as a critique of the show, but it’s also no surprise that this new season maintains the high quality of production that allows the show to transcend its uninventive plot. It’s a mixed bag of tricks and treats this season but it’s an enjoyable story from beginning to end.
The story this season revolves around the aftermath of Will Byers’ disappearance into the mysterious alternate dimension known as “the Upside Down.” He now suffers from sporadic visions into this hellish landscape where he catches glimpses of a gargantuan shadow monster posing a threat to them all. With the help of the once nefarious Hawkins Electrical Company, now with more benevolent leadership, the Byers try to figure out how to cure Will. As this and other “stranger things” occur in Hawkins, Indiana, the whole gang mobilizes to unravel the plans of the shadow monster and save their small town from interdimensional evil once again. Many side plots run parallel to the main plot, and they mostly revolve around continuing loose threads from last season. Rest assured this season is consistent with the last one, in terms of story and aesthetic quality.
As with the previous season, every scene looks amazing, and the flashy nostalgic, sci-fi imagery never gets in the way of what really takes the spotlight in this show: the characters. This season takes the iconic characters from last season and spins them around in surprising and emotional ways. Unlikely pairs form to pursue various subplots and new characters arrive in Hawkins to shake things up. Dacre Montgomery’s character, Billy, adds a great deal of tension to the mix. Each performance from the actors is better than the last, the viewer to have a hard time deciding which character is their favorite. It’s lucky that the viewer has such engrossing debates to distract themselves from the lack of originality in the plot.
If the viewer is looking for a novelty in the science fiction or horror elements of the plot, this season will disappoint. It borrows a lot of elements from predecessors without putting any good twists on them. Specifically, this season draws heavily from Lovecraftian horror, a style that capitalizes on existential dread. The show fails to live up to its inspiration because everything feels so safe and stakeless. In fact, Montgomery’s character adds a much greater sense of danger to the show than the main monster does. This points out that “Stranger Things” can scare only those inexperienced with sci-fi and horror, which is fine, but it’s not satisfying for seasoned viewers.
Still, you’ll love this season if you loved the first one. And if you haven’t seen this show yet, start with the first season, because you’ll be completely lost otherwise. It’s some of the best-looking television out there with some of the most beloved characters, so cheers to the second season.