The world turned upside down again with the release of Stranger Things 2 on October 27. Created by the Duffer Brothers, the second season of this extremely popular Netflix original was released on October 27 to widespread praise from both fans and critics. The show, which takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins during the 1980s, primarily follows a group of middle schoolers who must deal with a series of supernatural events, government conspiracies, and alternate dimensions. This season takes place a year after the first, and each character is still dealing with the events of the last season. Most importantly, Will, who is back in school following his disappearance, has been experiencing terrifying visions of the Upside Down, the alternate dimension in which he was trapped. While the plot is surely convoluted, it successfully balances real life with the extraordinary, while never losing touch of its heart.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of Stranger Things 2 is how it is both rooted and grounded in its diverse characters. Fan favorites include Dustin Henderson, a quirky and goofy kid whose smile is undeniably amazing, and Steve Harrington, who starts as a stereotypical jock, and then becomes both a brother-figure to Dustin and a guardian angel to all of the younger characters. One of the second season’s greatest strengths is that it expands on the story, but more importantly expands on the characters as well. Most T.V. shows today neglect to focus on the lives of young characters as writers usually worry the kids will be a hindrance to the seriousness of the plot; however, Stranger Things breaks this all too familiar pattern. It’s centered around its child characters, and junior Julia Morlino said, “Not many shows that are this popular have young kids as the main characters. They bring light to the darkness of the show and it makes you feel more bad for them than if they were teens.”
The show also makes sure to portray the reality of adolescence. The kids in Stranger Things swear, face bullies, and have fights. There are real challenges that the kids in the show must deal with, both in the supernatural world and in school. If the show had portrayed the kids as innocent and perfect, it would lose the important connection between the characters and the audience. The show’s kids feel real, and their emotions and quirks are incredibly relatable to anyone who has, quite simply, been a kid.
Stranger Things also makes the creative decision to set the story in the 1980s, and Stranger Things 2 specifically takes place around Halloween 1984, something made evident by Reagan campaign signs lining the lawns of several homes in anticipation of the upcoming election. As a result, the show has a unique charm of ‘80s nostalgia and pop culture. Whether it is the several references to Star Wars, a Radio Shack in the town of Hawkins, or the music that plays throughout the show, the setting allows Stranger Things to separate itself from other modern sci-fi shows and simultaneously channel the tone of classic ‘80s movies. To sophomore Michael Lieberman, this connects with him on a personal level. “When I was little, like really little, the only things I ever watched were those ‘80s classics like The Goonies or Stand by Me,” he said. “I feel like those are so special because they had that ‘80s charm that you can’t find anywhere else. Stranger Things made me feel that ‘80s charm.”
A large portion of fans also feel that the show has improved itself since its first season. Senior Maya Finkman said, “The second season was much better than the first. Not only did they amp up the stakes, but the originality and atmosphere was maintained and strengthened.” Stranger Things 2 was advertised as a sequel instead of a second season, an interesting choice considering that sequels often struggle to live up to their predecessors. However, it seems that Stranger Things 2 has succeeded in recapturing the magic of the original season.
Stranger Things is a rare show to say the least. Its setting, unique characters, and mixture of realism with the extraordinary make it one of the most appealing shows on Netflix today. Stranger Things 2 maintains the freshness and excitement of the previous season, while also expanding on the story, and once again returns viewers to another chapter in the lives of its beloved characters.