BY JOHN EICHER
The sophomore season of “Stranger Things” fails to create new ground or defy audience expectations with its plot, but remains lovable due to its characters. While the plot remains stagnant, the show manages to stay afloat off the backs of its excellent cast.
The series has always prioritized its characters over its plot and the intrigue of the show has never lied within its mystery, but rather how the mystery affects the citizens of Hawkins.
From the first episode, the ensemble cast that the first season spent so much time bringing together is separated yet again and everything has been set back to square one, ignoring much of the ground work laid out by its predecessor.
Will is a prisoner to the “upside down”, Nancy and Jonathan are caught in a love triangle, and Winona Ryder is back to renovating a house for crazy people.
While most sequels in the science fiction genre focus on expanding the world that has already been established, “Stranger Things 2” retraces its origins to retell the same story.
By the end of the second season, nothing much has really changed. The mysteries of Hawkins remain unsolved, and little is learned about the “upside down” or where it came from.
The group of boys are just as entertaining as before, and the introduction of Sadie Sink as Max is a welcome new addition given her hilarious skepticism to everything weird about Hawkins.
The introduction of Sean Astin as Bob also adds a refreshing level of optimism, but his inclusion is starkly undercut by the predictability of his character’s arc.
Although the returning characters are not given much action, the group dynamics are rearranged to create fresh and interesting relationships.
The definitive standout is the monster hunt between Dustin and Steve. Given his two dimensional role as a bully in the previous season, it is hilarious and heartwarming to see Steve as mentor to Dustin. The friendship between the two is unexpected, yet genuinely believable given their similar romantic struggles.
The newly formed father-daughter relationship between Hopper and Eleven also keep the show from going stale by creating a much needed original conflict. Both characters are survivors of trauma, creating levels of insecurity that put a strain on their dynamic.
Hopper is overprotective because he lost his daughter, and worries that Eleven will receive the same fate. Eleven was raised as an experiment, and just wants to live a normal life that is free from hiding. Both of their issues are rooted in understandable pain, creating an authentic tension that feels natural and engaging.
The plot might be a meandering repetition of the original story, but the characters make “Stranger Things 2” worth watching based off performance alone. The stakes may remain the same, but the scenes lose their tension because the audience cares about the characters so much.
As the show enters the third act, there is a genuine excitement to see everyone come together yet again, and the ending is satisfying enough to warrant the need for a third season.
If the second season is just a repainting of the original series, its a pretty one at that. Some rides are so fun, they just have to be experienced twice, making “Stranger Things 2” an enjoyable sequel worth binging.
The Flyer gives “Stranger Things 2” an 8 out of 10