Things Just Keep Getting Stranger: Checking in with Stranger Things 2
On October 27, my birthday, the second season of the Netflix science fiction/horror/thriller series Stranger Things premiered. Normally, my wife and I would’ve binged all nine episodes in two nights, the way we did the first season last year, but this time I had another mission. I was helping my father move from Alabama to Colorado. As a friend pointed out, since I was driving through the swamps of Louisiana on my birthday, I was still sort of in the Upside Down. (If you don’t understand that statement, either you haven’t watched Stranger Things or you’ve never been to Louisiana.)
I caught up on the show, of course, but it took me a few more days, the way it probably would a normal person.
Last year, I wrote about the first season of Stranger Things, so in honor of its sophomore installment, I thought I’d share a few of the things I enjoyed most. A few minor spoilers lie ahead.
(Disclaimer: If you haven’t watched Stranger Things, most of this will make no sense. Enjoy!)
Who doesn’t love Sean Astin? He’s a pro at playing loveable, helpful guys, whether it’s Mikey in The Goonies, Sam in The Lord of the Rings films, or Bob Newby in Stranger Things 2. Here, Bob shows up as Joyce Byers’ (Winona Ryder) brainy boyfriend, and though he serves as a nice counterpart to police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), there’s none of the tension between the two men that we might see in a lesser story.
Bob may not be tough and gritty, and he doesn’t smoke non-filtered cigarettes or know how to use a gun, but he brings his own considerable skills to the game. He’s able to use his love for computers and puzzles to pitch in with our gang of misfits, and most of all, he cares about Joyce and her sons. He’s a perfect addition to the cast. (For bonus points, pay close attention for a nifty Bob-related Goonies reference.)
The reasons I like having a new Hawkins Labs honcho have less to do with the character Paul Reiser plays—though he plays him well—and more with the direct parallels he draws between Stranger Things and James Cameron’s 1986 classic Aliens. In Stranger Things, Reiser plays a guy who works for a shady organization devoted to exploring dangerous things and keeping lots of secrets.
In Aliens, Reiser plays Carter Burke, an executive for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, a shady organization devoted to exploring dangerous things and keeping lots of secrets, only in space. “I work for the company,” Burke famously says in Aliens. “But don’t let that fool you, I’m really an okay guy!” He isn’t.
If you don’t know what Dig Dug is, you probably never played video games in the 1980s.
I’ve often made the case that Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) reminds me of myself as a kid: He’s a goober, he’s impatient with people who don’t understand things that seem obvious to him, and he’s a tad socially awkward. I’d also like to say I outgrew all of that, but I don’t want to lie.
This time around, Dustin gets more screen time. Whether he’s adjusting to life with a new pet, extolling the virtues of nougat, or scrambling to respond to crises, Dustin 2.0’s scenes consistently yield comedy and drama gold.
If you watched Stranger Things, then you’ll remember that Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) was a straight-up jerk. Sure, his hair defied the laws of physics, and he was a star athlete, but he had serious problems playing well with others, especially one of our heroes, Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton). Maybe you don’t know, but being mean to Jonathan is a big no-no in Stranger Things land.
In Stranger Things 2, we’re given a kinder, more mature, and even funnier Steve. This character evolution could easily come off as forced or artificial, but it works somehow, which is a credit to all involved. Another cool thing about Steve 2.0 is he has some brilliant scenes with Dustin 2.0. And, of course, there’s the baseball bat.
Those are just a few of the things I dig about Stranger Things 2, so if you enjoyed Stranger Things and haven’t seen the second season, you’ll want to remedy that right away. If you haven’t seen the show at all, you’re in for a treat. You don’t have to be a child of the 80s, and you don’t need to catch the pop culture references. It’s just a fun and thrilling story with characters you’ll want to revisit every time you have the chance.
Here’s looking forward to Stranger Things 3.