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Netflix’s worldwide phenomenon comes back for a darker season. But does it manage to outlast the first season and correct its mistakes?
It was a bit more than a year ago that Stranger Things started gaining attention after premiering as just another Netflix show. The Duffer Brothers certainly didn’t see this coming, a worldwide impact that would change Netflix’s position in the television market and make the creators of the series think in a broader spectrum for the future of the story.
And so we have to ask ourselves: did so many obsessed fans and recognition actually contributed to a better series for season 2? The answer is no unless we only take the latest 2 episodes into account.
Season 2 kicks off seeing our favorite characters basically where we left them by the end of last season. The difference since the beginning though is that the characters are shown in a more individual way instead of just being part of a group, with the objective of generating development for each character so that later on, in their big reunion, they have grown. And by acknowledging this is that we can be sure that if Stranger Things did something right since the beginning was in the casting choices. By having the artists they have portraying the characters we love, Stranger Things is capable of taking the risk of presenting them as individuals for the most part of the season. We especially see Eleven way less than we might have predicted, and that is something that they wouldn’t have done if they hadn’t already built a character that everyone loves thanks, in part, to a revelation actress.
In the process though, such change is not really a complete success since it opaques the biggest strength of the show: the team power, especially the one between the kids. Sure, Will’s development and more screen on time are really welcomed since last season we pretty much had him as a memory until the very end, giving us a better look at the actor who plays it and how underrated he was in season 1. And also, Eleven’s centric episode served as a way to explore in a show that follows a formula that has already gotten old by now; but sadly it didn’t work, it was lame and too out of place.
We could argue that these changes are due to the expansion of the show, projecting itself for future seasons, and that’s valid and one of the reasons why I accept the addition of new characters like Bill and Max, but when you see them in the world of Stranger Things, it’s hard not to look at them as the new creatures that don’t really fit and that seem forced to be important given Eleven’s absence from the group. Sure, the love interest is nice, after all, Eleven and Mike weren’t the only ones allowed to fall in love, but making two guys in love with the same girl? Not such an original move if you ask me, one where the loser is always the same one. A bonus here to the fact that it wasn’t a huge drama, but still.
And yet, such expansion of the universe doesn’t seem more than a mask. A mask because in reality what happened is that a sort of different situation was dealt with in the same way that Season 1 did back then. This season we see the same need of saving Will because he is the one directly affected by the recent events, and although it is good to finally see him on screen recurrently, it raises the question on if his suffering and him being the victim and indirectly responsible is the only way this could have been done. Add to this the fact that Eleven is the true savior, sure she receives help from the others, help that if she didn’t have she couldn’t accomplish what she does. But in a series where there’s not only one or two main characters but 7 or more, it’s difficult to digest that everything happens the same way as before, essentially.
Leaving aside other issues like the lack of proper appropriation of the ’80s culture instead of it being solely an element of nostalgia, or the fact that people and not even the writers of the show have gotten over Barb (stop trying to make it a bigger deal than it is); the biggest issue comes when it used 7 episodes that didn’t go beyond being “okay” to have two final amazing episodes. Eleven took a year to reunite with her friends, which is nothing else but a pretty lame excuse to not give them the victory more easily and just sooner if she’d been there.
But with all these somehow negative comments, it’s only fair to highlight how Stranger Things still did really good things, like keeping its characters true to what they have been since the beginning and using darkness in a clever way among a group of kids. The best part? The final two episodes because of the excitement, development both in the plot and in the characters’ arcs and because they proved that simple and short moments like the final sequence can have more power than 7 episodes without showing what really matters.
Stranger Things leaves the door open for a third season in which we have our gang back together, and in which hopefully the villain won’t be represented in the same way as in the previous seasons, or as a matter of fact, a season that leaves the fear from its creators aside and make the show go to the next level.
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