Stranger Things returns to high expectations

Stranger Things was the surprise hit of 2016 and season two just hit Netflix. Fans are flocking to their couches to binge the nine episode season. So, does this new season justify the hype?

Stranger Things 2 is a worthy successor to the first season. Season two picks up a year after the first adventure and the gang is all back together. Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas are dealing with some very important issues, like finding out who beat Dustin’s Dig Dug high score. The carefree fun does not last for long, however, because Will begins to have visions of the upside-down and sees a new evil looming on the horizon.

The returning characters from season one are excellent again. Dustin receives more of a spotlight this season and Gaten Matarazzo kills it. While Mike receives the short end of the straw, season two gives more time to Will and Noah Schnapp really proves his acting chops. His chemistry with the ensemble is notable.

Fan-favorite Mille Bobbie Brown returns as Eleven after the previous season’s cliff-hanger and her character has a nice arc. Acting as as a father figure to Eleven is Hopper. Played again by David Harbour, his everyman qualities make him relatable and his interactions with Eleven are hysterical and heartwarming.

The newest member of the party is Max (Sadie Sink). New to town, she becomes an immediate crush for the boys who are just entering adolescence.

Also new to the series is Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Rudy). His character Bob is excellent. As Joyce’s new boyfriend he is supportive and absolutely hilarious. He’s able to connect with the audience quickly enough, so when conflict arises you care about his predicament.

Paul Reiser (Whiplash, Mad About You) appears as the government scientist this time around, giving the ominous powers that be a very different, more comic feel.

The technical aspects of season two are impressive. Clearly Netflix was prepared to invest in this aspect of the production, because the special effects are a noticeable step forward. The cinematography is striking and the mood set by the score and set design help build tension.

Importantly, the series ability to capture the look and feel of the 80s hasn’t diminished. Bike rides to arcades, campaign signs on lawns and Halloween costumes that capture the cultural touchstones of the day only build on the series already-accomplished sense of detail.

Stranger Things┬ácaptured lighting in a bottle. It’s difficult to build upon such a surprising success, and while season two does not surpass season one, it more than justifies its existence.