It was a little instructional to binge watch this 2nd season to Netflix’s 80s scifi homage Stranger Things after catching the risible Thor: Ragnarok. If nothing else, Stranger Things 2 demonstrated that the golden age of scifi movies was definitely the 80s.
Stranger Things 2 had everything that Thor: Ragnarok lacked viz. an intriguing plot and well-developed characterisation.
That said, the series certainly took its time to get going – as the first three episodes spent precious moments setting up the new reality one year after the events of Season 1.
The writers took pains to distinguish the new season by separating the existing characters and introducing new ones, in particular step-siblings Maxine “Max” (Sadie Sink) and Billy (Dacre Montgomery) Hargrove, Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) and Bob Newby (Sean Astin).
This tactic worked well throughout the nine episodes. Eleven – lost in the Season 1 finale – is seen to be in hiding at the insistence of Chief Hopper – and is only reunited with the other kids almost at the very end.
This allowed for a very different dynamic as the new threat from the upside-down revolved around a sentient shadow creature that poses a serious danger to Hawkins.
Where previously Will was lost in the upside-down, this time around he is possessed by the shadow creature in a brilliant twist. This plot device allowed for dramatic sequences that deeply affected everybody.
As for the enigmatic Eleven, she is given air time to explore her own history, connect with her mother and a ‘sister’ Kali (” Eight” in the experiment that Eleven was involved in) that plays a critical part in her development.
All the diverse strands are tied up neatly together at the end, providing an emotionally satisfying denouement.
As noted about the first season, Stranger Things 2 owes a huge debt to the 80s scifi aesthetic – from movies like E.T., The Goonies, Gremlins, Nightmare on Elm Street and Stephen King novels like Carrie and Firestarter.
This perhaps accounts for its insistence on grounded plots and characterisations without too much reliance on gimmicky slapstick and scatological jokes.
Hopefully, this kind of storytelling will be more prevalent than the inane and puerile narrative offered by Thor: Ragnarok.
… still there’s more …