Netflix’s Stranger Things was an instant hit, and with the massive success came a second season, appropriately released on the weekend before Halloween. We’re dividing the newest season into thirds, so make some Eggos and settle in for our review of the first three chapters of Stranger Things season 2.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
The theme of the show thus far seems to be the idea that nothing is normal, even though everyone is trying to act like it is. Season two is playing up the idea of the aftermath, and it actually makes this season a lot more interesting than the first. Of course, we wouldn’t be here without the first season, but there’s something so appealing about seeing the characters attempt to move on with their lives like everything is normal.
This theme is introduced in the first episode, which opens with a bank robbery being committed by a group of criminals, including another girl with a numbered tattoo, number Eight, AKA Kali. Kali has the ability to induce mental hallucinations, using the power to help her and the robbers get away. She makes others see something that isn’t there, something that isn’t normal. This sets the tone for Season 2
Almost a year has passed and our favorite Hawkins residents have settled into normal lives. The boys have gone back to their nerdy ways, scrounging money for the arcade, dressing as the Ghostbusters for Halloween, so on and so forth. Steve and Nancy are seemingly happily in love, Joyce is dating a Radioshack employee named Bob, and Hopper is back to dealing with small town police work. All moving on like nothing happened.
But it did, and nearly every character is haunted by it in some way. Even worse, they are all sworn to secrecy by Hawkins National Laboratory, so they actually have to pretend like everything is normal. Will cannot tell anyone what actually happened and shake off the “zombie boy” moniker that bullies have given him. He and his mother want things to go back to normal more than anyone else, but he is haunted by visions of the Upside Down, and she is overprotective, afraid he will get taken again.
Nancy and Steve are seemingly a happy couple, though that maybe be part of the normalcy facade. The two are seen having dinner with Barb’s parents, and they have to pretend like they don’t know what happened. This is especially heartbreaking for Nancy when she learns that they are selling their house to pay an investigative journalist to find Barb, hoping she is still alive. Nancy is guilty over having to lie to them, especially surrounded by so many pictures of Barb. It’s a striking and haunting way to give the fan-loved character justice.
The investigative journalist is trying to peel back the curtains of normalcy, and Hopper is stopping him at every turn. In this big facade, Hopper seems to have the toughest job of all. Not only is he keeping the HNL’s work a secret (in exchange for keeping it out of Hawkins), he is also hiding Eleven in his grandfather’s cabin in the woods. Hopper is pretending everything is normal on two fronts; he is doing his job like nothing happened and hiding El, but he is also subconsciously pretending like El is his daughter, raising her in some form and forming a father/daughter-like bond, even feeling guilty when he is late for plans together. It’s like they are living a normal life, like everything is normal
But, as these first three episodes unfold, we find things are not normal in the least, the show is called Stranger Things, after all. Crops are dying all over town. The dynamic of the group of boys is being thrown for a loop with the introduction of cool skater girl Max. Dustin finds a creature from the Upside Down and keeps it as a pet. Strangest of all, Will is getting stuck between dimensions, witnessing the coming of something… haunting heading for Hawkins in the Upside Down.
So how does the second season fair so far? Pretty well. The various plot lines seem a bit more scattered this time around, but there’s still plenty of time for the whole picture to come together, and the connecting thread is the theme of this false normalcy. The kids are fantastic actors as usual, especially Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown, and the teens and adults deserve the same kind of praise.
The first episode of Stranger Things season 2 showed us that Hawkins was back to normal, the second began to show the cracks in that normalcy, and the third showed us what the normalcy was hiding. Something scary, something strange, something real. We can’t wait to find out more as the mysteries unfold.
Stay tuned for part two of our review of Stranger Things season 2!