Popcorn Picks Review: ‘Stranger Things’ Season Two turns it up to 11


Photo credit/ Anne Marie Fox

Photo Credit to Netflix

Bethany Wade, Photography Editor

Netflix released the first season of “Stranger Things” in July of 2016 and it became the breakout hit of the year. The show about a group of kids taking on monsters across dimensions blew critics away and earned them numerous nominations at the Emmys. In this new season, the cast has to face their biggest monster yet: unbelievably high expectations.

The show picks up a year after the first season finale, with the four boys reunited and adjusting back to normal life. Will, played by Noah Schnapp, is having flashbacks to the alternate dimension of the Upside-Down and a new monster is looming on the horizon. The rest of the boys are moving on and finding their own adventures in everyday life.

The story this season is slow-paced, with the plot building up to the final two episodes. One strong point is the seventh episode, which offers back story to psychic character Eleven and a moral dilemma in terms of the people who created her. After her star performance last season, it’s nice to see Millie Bobby Brown portray Eleven and have more of a story this season.

Throughout the nine episodes, there are flashbacks to season one every time someone makes a reference to those events. This gets old after the first few times and continues through the entire season, as if the audience is unfamiliar with the show. It breaks up the tension and makes the story less intense.

The new season also references 1980s films in excess. You see homages to “Tron,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Gremlins” and other 1980s films. Last season played homage to a few of these movies, but this season relies heavily on referencing them. It feels like a commercial for the 1980s at points.

The cast feels much closer together this season than in season one. As the threat draws closer, there’s more unity between the characters in the fight, and more is at stake because of it. The characters have clearly grown since the last incident and feel more like a family.

Even new additions to the cast, like Sean Astin as Bob and Dacre Montgomery as Billy, fit right in. Astin quickly assumes a role in the team helping with technical problems and feels like he’s been there from the start. His chemistry with Winona Ryder as Joyce is touching, and his father-like relationship with the children makes him a compelling character.

Last season’s standout star was Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. This season, that honor goes to Natalia Dyer, who plays Nancy. In her search to find out the truth about her missing friend Barb, she grew from just focusing on her current romantic situation to being a key member of the team. Dyer shows how much pressure is on Nancy throughout the season and gives a deep, nuanced performance. The rest of the cast shines along with her, but her performance is the strongest.

The effects for this season have also improved greatly, showing Hollywood that Netflix can compete with big CGI blockbusters. The new and improved Upside-Down is one of the most terrifying set pieces to date in television history thanks to the effects. Even the monster has a more realistic look. The second season has definitely gone bigger with its special effects budget, and it paid off.

This new season was never going to live up to the insane expectations placed on it. It offers another round of great performances, some breathtaking effects and another great soundtrack. Outside of that, it feels more like a sequel than a second season.

Rating: Three and a half out of five kernels.

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