By Katrionna Covert
The highly anticipated Stranger Things 2 premiered on Netflix October 27th, picking up a few days before Halloween 1984. The new season debuted a flood of new characters, and left some mysteries unresolved.
The opening scene takes place in Pittsburg, and reveals the first character new to the show, Kali (Linnea Berthelsen). She appears to have unique abilities similar to Eleven, which implies her connections to Hawkins Lab. Back in Hawkins, the boys (Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gaten Matarazzo) discover a mysterious new character under the username “MadMax” (Sadie Sink), who immediately sets a reputation for herself by taking the number one spot in the arcade game Dig Dug. Max eventually becomes a part of the group, but not in a way where she acts as a replacement for Eleven. Along with Max comes her older brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Billy seems to take on Steve’s initial role from the first season of the boy who rules the school, and comes across as a borderline sociopath. The only thing we really get to see about him is his home life, in the scene where his father has him up against a bookshelf. Beyond that, he doesn’t have a major impact on the plot development. He is a character we’ll have to wait to get to know more in the third season.
In the second season, Will (Noah Schnapp) plays a considerably bigger role, allowing us to learn more about him. One of the main focuses of the season is Will’s “PTSD” after returning from his stranded state in the Upside Down, and how he is coping from that experience. He goes to Hawkins Lab, which is now run by another new character by the name of Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), to be treated for his apparent “PTSD.” Will experiences visions from the Upside Down, including a monster that he and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) dubbed “the Shadow Monster.” The real trouble begins when it’s discovered that Will’s visions aren’t just mere visions, but are true sight into the Upside Down, and that the Shadow Monster is taking control of him. Some of the most intense parts of the season develop from this discovery. In the episode “Dig Dug,” soldiers from Hawkins Lab go into a network of underground tunnels to destroy vines that are living there. When they set fire to the strange vine life, Will collapses down into a seizure as if he feels the pain from the burn. Then episode eight rolls around, and the gang has figured out a way to reach Will. In one of the most emotional scenes of the season, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Mike team up to recount past memories they’ve had with Will in order to prevent him from being consumed by the Shadow Monster. Mike recalls the day he met Will in kindergarten, and Joyce remembers the pride she had in him when he drew his first drawing. This scene surely had viewers wiping tears as Mike and Joyce told their stories.
Steve (Joe Keery) has one of the biggest character developments of the season. In the first season, he was portrayed as the stereotypical popular high school jock. In this season, he loses Nancy and seems to stray away from his jock persona, developing into the babysitter type. His newfound persona is displayed in a scene with Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) on the train tracks, where he gives him advice about girls and hair, as well as when he drops Dustin off at the Snow Ball. Steve becomes protective over the kids as well. He pushes Max out of the way to fight the Demodog and fights Max’s brother in Will’s house. By the end of the season, Steve has everyone rooting for not only him, but for the rekindling of his relationship with Nancy.
Throughout the season, the characters go on their own side missions. Nancy and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) work with Murray (Brett Gelman), a private investigator hired by Barb’s parents, to expose the truth about Hawkins Lab’s role in covering up the death of Barb. The boys, Joyce, and Hopper are occupied with helping Will, and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) goes on her own journey to learn more about where she came from. On her trip, Eleven meets Kali, who she calls her sister. Kali has the ability to make people see what she wants them to see, and has the number 008 tattooed on her arm, just like Eleven has the number 011 tattooed on hers. This discovery prompts a question: Are there other subjects, and will we see more of them next season? Kali also seems to bring up the suggestion that Dr. Brenner, former leader of Hawkins Lab, is alive. Can we expect to see more of him next season as well?
Let’s not forget Bob Newby (Sean Astin), Joyce’s quirky new love interest. At first, it was questionable whether or not Bob knew more than he was letting on, and what his motives were. But as the season progressed, it was clear to see that Bob was utterly clueless. However, he becomes an essential part of decoding Will’s drawings, and the discovery of the underground tunnels where Hopper was trapped. Bob found a way into the hearts of many, all the way until his death that was certain to make viewers teary eyed.
Despite all the side missions, everyone comes back together in episode eight. Eleven makes her return as Steve, Nancy, Hopper, Max, and the boys huddle together, anticipating an attack from a Demodog. Mike and Eleven share a heartwarming reunion before it’s back to finding a way to defeat the Shadow Monster. In the one-hour finale, the Shadow Monster is discovered to be the “Mind Flayer,” and Eleven displays her newfound strength when closing the gate between the Upside Down and the real world, saving Will once again.
The season finishes off with the closing of Hawkins Lab, after Nancy, Jonathan, and Murray release the tapes of Dr. Owens admitting to covering up Barb’s death. The Snow Ball dance mentioned at the end of the first season takes place at Hawkins Middle and Mike and Eleven are brought together in a sweet slow dance. While everyone seems to be happy and content, the last scene slowly flips to a shot of the Upside Down, where the Mind Flayer is looming over the school, confirming what we all assumed: things won’t stay so good for long.
Overall, most viewers can agree that Stranger Things 2 lived up to their expectations. The Duffer Brothers did a good job of wrapping up the season, while still leaving a few questions: What else does the Upside Down have in store for Hawkins? Is there an evil greater than the Mind Flayer? How will the new characters play into the plot of the next season? For now, we’ll just have to keep theorizing.