Return of ‘Stranger Things’ Lives Up to the Hype

By Zoe Fanzo

Logo of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Last summer’s finale of the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things” left audiences with many unanswered questions. Where did Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the Demogorgon go after their final confrontation? What happened to Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) after his return from the Upside Down? Would the simple town of Hawkins ever be the same? 

In the sequel, “Stranger Things 2,” released in its entirety on Oct. 27, these questions are answered, but greater conflicts arise. A new supernatural villain, the Mind Flayer, is introduced, and his presence tortures Will. The portal to the Upside Down, opened by Eleven in the first season, has grown immeasurably. Eleven must struggle to come to terms with the implications of her upbringing and decide how she wants to use her abilities. 

Ultimately, the return of “Stranger Things” satisfied fans who yearned for more of its captivating science fiction, synthesized soundtrack, and homage to 1980s genre films. After its first season premiered in the summer of 2016, the show quickly developed a cult following. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer, known as the Duffer Brothers, drew inspiration from Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and 1980s pop culture; their first season premiered to critical acclaim. 

In the behind-the-scenes special, “Beyond Stranger Things,” the Duffer Brothers describe the challenge of continuing the story. “It was kind of freaky figuring out, how do we make this story continue on in a way that it doesn’t feel forced? And we want to make sure that it can sustain at least a few more years,” said Ross. Matt echoed this adding, “In season one, you have the dramatic tension of Will being gone which ties it all together, so we lost that, but at the same time we had all these characters that we actually knew a lot better now.”

The strength of this season ultimately lies in the character growth, particularly Eleven’s coming-of-age story in standout episode “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister.” The season allows for further character development and exploration, and skillfully groups characters into unlikely pairings. The emotional climax of the season finally arrives with the long-awaited reunion of Eleven and Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard).

New characters also join the award-winning cast, including Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), a sociopathic human antagonist, and Bob Newby (Sean Astin), a love interest for Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder). New addition Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), also known as Madmax, introduces conflict when she beats Dustin’s high-score on an arcade game. Tensions deepen when Max finds her way into a love triangle between friends Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). 

Though the Duffer Brothers plan to end the show after four or five seasons, fans can rest easy knowing that this trek into the Upside Down was not the last.