One of the most popular TV shows of 2016, Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” is back in time for Halloween with a second season. Never fear—no spoilers for this season, but if you haven’t seen season one yet, sorry. I have no remorse for you.
Playing off all the best 80s archetypes, “Stranger Things” follows the disappearance of middle-schooler Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). His best friend, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), feels the police aren’t taking the disappearance seriously and convinces the rest of the rat pack, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), to go searching for him. Armed only with flashlights and walkie-talkies, the three scour the woods where Will’s bike was found. But they don’t find Will.
Instead they find a mysterious girl with a shaved head and tattoo of the number 011. This girl, now referred as El (short for Eleven), using her psychokinetic powers, helps the party unlock a government conspiracy that is covering up Will’s disappearance.
Obviously, there’s more to “Stranger Things” than that. There are creepy monsters, dark forces at work and a sleepy community upset by government interference. But I think what “Stranger Things” does best is display a wide range of human relationships. There are kids and teenagers experiencing first crushes and first loves, a mother traumatized by the loss of her youngest son, a teenager isolated from everyone close to him, a girl escaping from an entire childhood of abuse. There’s also a police chief who has fallen into addiction because of the loss of his daughter and young boys dealing with dangerous bullies.
The one thing I would say I take away from “Stranger Things” is that I learn. I learn not only from the story of the intersecting lives of the characters, but also about production. The film studies student in me has a field day analyzing every shot and camera movement. As a visual spectacle, “Stranger Things” never ceases to amaze me.
So… what do we have to look forward to in season two? Well, it’s set around Halloween, so get ready to get your spook on! Will is back, but he hasn’t quite been the same since his time in the Upside Down. Both Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Mike are going through the loss of close friends (…well, for Mike, a little bit more than a friend). Police chief Hopper (David Harbour) is carrying the weight of covering up the events of last season. Dustin and Lucas are vying for the attention of new girl Max (Sadie Sink). Also, Max’s older brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is way scarier than the new threat from the Upside Down. Enough said. If you weren’t a fan of Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) in the first season, season two will make you do a complete 180 in your opinion of him. He’s now one of my favorite characters. And, for anyone who’s seen the trailers, Eleven is alive and well.
Personally, my favorite episodes were “Chapter 6: The Spy” and “Chapter 8: The Mind Flayer,” but no episode this season will leave you feeling disappointed. The story has reached new levels of feels. Cool visual things to look out for: lots of cuts on movements (Kurosawa-style, bless), smooth fades between two separate scenes, a throwback to the colors in scenes from season one (cooler tones for scary scenes, warmer tones during moments of sweetness) and more film-grain over the actual 4k resolution. Beautiful both visually and thematically, “Stranger Things” season two is the best show you’ll watch this year.