I’ve been watching Stranger Things since the start, but I binged the last two seasons and figured it was worth talking about them.
For an 80s theme show, Season 2 definitely had that era’s sequel mentality. It stayed the course and introduced enough new elements to feel fresh enough to justify running it back. I didn’t want to do a full-fledged review since we’re all on Season 3 now, but I did want to share my thoughts on it even in abbreviated fashion.
In keeping with the 80s feel of the show, I decided I’d look at what Rocked and what was Lame for Stranger Things Season 2. And I’ve just about finished the Season 3 version so look for that real soon.
Rocked: Hopper and Elle
This unlikely pairing proved to be the backbone of Season 2 as the cranky sheriff gained a newfound purpose over the town’s superhero. Hopper wasn’t nearly as ornery and his relationship with Elle helped give him a more personal stake in the bizarre happenings around town.
Lame: Dustin’s pet adoption service
Granted this wasn’t the worst subplot of the season, but Dustin ignoring his pal’s advice and common sense in harboring the quickly mutating alien was maddeningly frustrating even before it munched on Momma Henderson’s cat. The payoff in the season finale with Dart deciding not to snack on the gang while they made their escape didn’t justify him putting everyone at risk in the first place.
Rocked: Nancy & Jonathan
From their early scenes together in Season 1, this was the Stranger Things relationship worth shipping. Jonathan’s understated demeanor balanced Nancy’s quiet ferocity beautifully.
Lame: Steve Harrington – boyfriend
Steve did try to be supportive of Nancy as she grieved Barb even tagging along for a KFC dinner with Barb’s folks, but he scored a serious party foul of ditching the drunk Nancy at a party just because she went on a drunken tangent. Not cool Steve, but at least Nancy did the best thing for everyone involved by breaking up with him.
Rocked: Steve Harrington – party protector
Steve was OK the first season as the cool guy boyfriend who wasn’t the cliche 80’s cool kid, but he really came into his own after his breakup with Nancy and becoming the inadvertent babysitter/bodyguard for Lucas, Max and Dustin. His bond with Dustin especially was one of the season’s surprisingly great highlights.
Lame: Billy Hargrove – town bad boy
All that stuff I said about Steve not being a cliche 80s cool guy? That went out the window with Billy, who was so irredeemably obnoxious and mean-spirited I was convinced he had some demon presence running around his head. Nope, he was just a jerk who earned it honestly from his father. Flirting with Mrs. Wheeler didn’t earn him any points either.
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Rocked: Super Bob
As Stranger Things is basically a more violent, creepier version of Goonies, the casting of Sean Astin felt very appropriate. Astin played the super likable Bob, a well-meaning guy who was a bit of a cornball. Bob seemed like an odd choice of boyfriend for Joyce, but it didn’t take long to win me over as he was so eager to do right by Joyce and her boys.
Lame: Bye Bye Bob
From the second he left his gun on the desk it seemed clear Bob was a goner. I was rooting for him as he brought some needed stability and goodness to the series, but Bob was the kind of character who had to die to give some credibility to the season’s threat. If everyone survived, the Demagogue couldn’t be much of a menace.
Rocked: Mad Max
With Nancy paired with Jonathan, we needed a little diversity among the group. I suppose for Season 2 a redhead is about all we could ask for, but “Mad” Max was a superb addition to the cast easily fitting in and benefiting the overall group dynamic like Lando did in Empire Strikes Back. Romantically pairing her with Lucas was a nice surprise as well.
Lame: Hater Mike
I feel like Mike is positioned as one of the main characters, who I should like, but this season he would have run away with the most insufferable character award if it weren’t for Billy. Mike kept blowing off Max and basically saying she couldn’t join his boy’s club after forcing Elle on everyone last year. Usually, we’d see a character make good after being a jerk to someone throughout the season, but Mike kept treating Max like trash perfectly earning my hate throughout.
Rocked: Will’s PTSD
Poor Will can’t catch a break. Between being kidnapped to The Upside Down in Season 1 and then being used as a pawn/spy this season he had it rough. But it made sense that he had issues readjusting to life back in the real world and being too freaked out to tell his pals. This subplot did Will a unique purpose as he basically became a triple agent through the course of the season. Will getting inhabited was one of the strongest and creepiest scenes of the series.
Lame: Punk Rocker Elle
The payoff here was good as Elle reached the next level of her powers, but her subplot hanging with her sister and the punk rock crew came at a crucial part of the season with the lab being overrun by the demodogs. Plus, I was 100% a bigger fan of Elle’s Ripley hairstyle than her Simply Irresistible look.
Rocked: Elle and Hopper’s descent
In another moment that felt inspired by Aliens, Hopper holds off demodogs while Elle closes the gate in the season finale. This looked like the final act of a mega blockbuster instead of a TV season finale. It was fitting that while the other battles took place, ending the conflict would have to come down to Elle and her “adopted” dad.
Lame: The Mind Flayer is ready for Round 3
Sequels are great. The third chapter? Not always a lock. The Mind Flayer took a nice L at the end of the season, but the tease that he’s back for another round didn’t seem all that exciting. Isn’t there anything else that could be a worthwhile threat in The Upside Down for the gang to tackle with instead?
Photo Credit: Netflix