I once got a meme saying ” If you think you have made bad choices in life, remember there were 13 publishers who rejected the manuscript for Harry Potter.”
13 publishers rejected the Harry Potter series before JK Rowling landed a deal with Bloomsbury. Approximately 15 networks also, rejected Stranger thing before it landed a Netflix deal. Lets just take this moment to consider, the last time people in positions of power rejected art because the protagonists were children, or the heroes were nerds and underdogs, they lost on Harry Potter. And now Stranger Things.
There’s no better way to say it. If you thought the first season was crazy, this one will blow you away. Let me just say this. Stranger things 2, is a thing of pure beauty. It’s bigger, better, weirder and more amazing than any of us imagined. And so much better than season 1.
The Duffer brothers know how to play their cards right. From casting Winona Ryder to discovering Millie Bobby Brown to making all of us nerds look good, they have built a solid foundation in the first season. The second season, build upon the story and oh, the way they build it up! Also can you believe how grown up the kids look, suddenly?
It’s rare for a TV series to come out of the gate as self-assured and as well-received as Stranger Things did, and even rarer for it to be able to maintain that into a second season. But somehow, The Duffer Brothers have again managed to wield their particular alchemy and create a follow-up worthy of the hype created by its predecessor.
Building the story arc much better and much stronger than it was in the first season, this time, the story is much comfortable with letting all the characters explore their own lives and their own pursuits.
Let’s begin with the Music. Oh my god. The soundtrack for the second season is so integral to the storytelling. The makes have used songs and music to emotionally manipulate us. There are moments where you are on the edge of your seat, biting your nails or just sitting aghast as to what just happened. And that was just the music.
We finally have Will as the center of the story this season. Noah Schnapp is a revelation. After being barely more than a prop last year, he does a ton of heavy-lifting here. Some truly horrifying things happen to Will this season, and Schnapp takes a huge step forward with his performance, just like Bobby Brown did last year with Eleven.
Mike who was the lead last season is on more of a back seat. He talks to Eleven every day over the walkie-talkie, counting off how many days it’s been since he last saw her. He’s bitter over losing her and misses her more than the other boys do. One of the things I wish they would have done was give Mike more to do. He spends a lot of his time at Will’s side, and although he makes some important discoveries here and there throughout the season, he’s far from playing the central role he had in season 1, which is unfortunate given Finn Wolfhard’s amazing acting chops. There are definitely some emotional peaks for Mike, but he’s in the background far too often.
The emotional quotient has certainly gone up with the second season. The kids have aged, they have gone through an ordeal most 11 year old don’t think of. They are not only grown up but also matured. A Harry Potter parellel again. You see these kids grow up. Every character shares a bond with will make your heart melt; Will and Jonathan, Hopper and Eleven, Mike and Eleven, Lucas and Max, Dustin with Dárt and the most unexpected of them all, Steve and Dustin. In addition to finding five kid actors who can nail every emotional beat, the show’s taken cast members who are just chameleons aging into their parts like it is the easiest thing they have done; effortless.
Is there a better cast role than David Harbor as Hopper? Every single expression and movement he makes has weight to it. The scenes with him and Eleven are so heartbreaking and emotionally charged. Those two play off each other better than anyone could have hoped.
Also can we talk about just how awesome Steve was in this season? He and Dustin are a pair I never thought would happen but What A Team. Also, he finally revealed the secret to his superb hair.
I can’t help but draw parallels to Harry Potter’s leglimency and the connection between Will and the Shadow Monster. The monster can read through Will. It goes all the way from spying to a hint of exorcism. Will’s character goes through so much horror in this season but its Joyce who shines brighter than before. Very early on we know it’s not only Will who’s going through what can be called PTSD. Everyone is paranoid. Joyce, all the more so. She won’t let WIll out of her sight. She needs him in front of her eyes to know she’s safe and as usual, she does that with all the tact and grace of an over-concerned parent. She is the badass mother who will not sit quiet and let anything hurt her children. And if needed she wont hesitate to kill.
Many would disagree here but I personally loved the seventh episode. An arc from the Hawkins storyline, this episode has none of the original cast. Eleven spent all her life looking for a home, first trying to understand what home was and then looking for a place to call home. Let’s just say, its absolutely beautiful to see how she goals all around, follows all the hints and clues, listens to anyone who would help on what their take on a home was. She tried them all. But the beauty lies in how after all that she chooses to come back again to realise home is exactly where she was.
That scene where Joyce, Jonathan and Mike all recount intimate stories with Will to break through the Smoke Monster’s hold on him? Perfection. Mike and Eleven’s reunion was beautiful and the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” montage is a standout sequence. Watch Will’s family perform a space heater-assisted exorcism on him and tell me you don’t get the heebie-jeebies (people still use that term, right?). Watch our heroes split up into three teams to beat back the Upside Down and tell me you don’t think that’s just plain cool.
This season is way more fast paced than the previous one. While the makers hit the ground running, they are very careful not to go too fast and leave a stone unturned. They know what got them here: strong characters and detailed storytelling. By the end of the season, all the storylines converge in a realistic and satisfying way. The new characters make sense, and and and THEY GOT ONE OF THE ORIGINAL GOONIES! The writing is stronger than season one as well. While there are plenty of 80’s references and callbacks, they are all natural and welcome.
What wouldn’t I give to live in a time when Dolly Parton and Duran Duran were the in thing!
Stranger Things 2 lives up to the hype. It delivers, in spades. There are moments of pure enthrallment. It never gets stale. It’s never boring. Trust me when I say you’ll binge it, it will keep you on your toes, it will keep you waiting, excited, it will make you laugh and cry and fall in love and just like that, when it’s over, it will also make you hate yourself for binging it.
One last thing.
They really don’t like characters whose names begin with B do they?