Just like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I fell head over heels in love with the first season of Stranger Things last year. But I have to admit, I wondered if it was the kind of series that even needed a second season. The first one was so tight and perfect, I was afraid it might go the way of a show like Glee, which everyone loved in its first season but which became a parody of itself by the time the second season rolled around. Thankfully, with two episodes of season two having been viewed, I can say with some degree of certainty that Stranger Things has managed to avoid that trap.
After revealing that Eleven has been living with Sheriff Hopper for the past year or so, episode two kicks off a creepy flashback to a year prior, just after the events of the first season. At this point, Eleven is still trapped in the Upside Down, but uses her powers to bust out. She tries to return to Mike, only to find his house surrounded by police and government officials. (It reminds me of the end of E.T., when Elliot's house suddenly has tons of government spooks running amok inside with hazmat suits on, turning this suburban safe haven into something sinister.) As soon as Eleven sees Mike through a window, she knows she can't return to his home ever again.
We cut to 1984, one year later, to find Eleven in Sheriff Hopper's cabin, trying to convince him to let him go out trick or treating—she rationalizes that if she goes out dressed as a ghost, no one will recognize her (again, shades of E.T.). Hopper isn't having any of this, and convinces her to stay in, assuring her that he'll come home early so the two can eat candy until they're fat and happy. Reluctantly, Eleven agrees.
Across town, Will, Dustin, Lucas, and Mike don Ghostbusters costumes in preparation for their own Halloween-themed school day, having not gotten the memo that wearing Halloween costumes to school is no longer cool. This moment is a nice reminder that no one tries harder to not be a kid than preteens. (Side note: The Ghostbusters theme music indicates that the show's music budget went way up between seasons one and two. There are more pop songs in the first two episodes than there were in the entirety of season one.)
As is clear at this point, a good deal of the episode is devoted to the theme of maintaining normalcy in a post-normal world. Joyce freaks out about Will's sustained condition, which Sheriff Hopper tries to reassure her is just PTSD. At the same time, Nancy is desperate to tell Barb's parents about what happened to their daughter, but Steve talks her out of it (fearing the government's wrath), convincing her to go to the local Halloween party and act like a typical teenager. Read: She gets far too drunk and curses out Steve (props to Natalia Dyer here for her excellent drunk teen girl acting).
Pop culture references to 1984 abound at this party, by the way. Steve is Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and we see at least one Thriller-era Michael Jackson, one Like A Virgin Madonna, John Belushi in Animal House, and my personal favorite, newcomer Samantha, who is dressed as Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees. She's the only person who talks to Jonathan at the party, and she is my new favorite character based on her costume choice.
On the topic, this season brings a few other welcome additions to the Stranger Things cast. First is the Max, the cool new girl who all the boys have a crush on (you can't help but feel the influence of Stephen King's It and its character Beverly Marsh here). In this episode, we see Max scaring the boys with a Michael Myers mask before joining them in trick or treating, and having words with her white-trash brother, who seems like the ultimate tool based on the little we've seen of him. Case in point: He nearly runs over the boys on their bikes just for the hell of it. I hate this guy. And his hair is very stupid, even by 1984 standards.
Next is Joyce's new boyfriend Bob, played by Sean Astin (the ultimate Goonies reference—just cast one of the Goonies), who gets fleshed out a bit more this installment. Over these first two episodes, Astin has played the role of the good natured guy who probably means well, but is nevertheless unforgivably lame. (Oh, and the video camera he uses? Same make and model that Marty McFly uses in Back to the Future).
While hitting the rich folks' neighborhood for candy (as all smart kids do), Will has another extreme Upside Down episode, but is pulled out of it thanks to Mike. The two share a bonding moment, where Mike confesses to Will that he's been out of sorts himself since Eleven left, and promises Will that if they're both going crazy, at least they'll go crazy together. It's moments like this where you remember it's these kids that are the real reason this show works as well as it does.
Are you as excited as we are for this season of Stranger Things? Be sure to let us know down below in the comments.
Catch Up On Every Episode of Stranger Things 2!
- Episode 1 – Stranger Things 2 gets off to a surprisingly somber start
- Episode 2 – Stranger Things characters try to get back to normal
- Episode 3 – What do you do when your bully is a transdimensional being?
- Episode 4 – The real and figurative monsters plaguing Hawkins
- Episode 5 – Stranger Things explores the tropes of trust and truth
- Episode 6 – Stranger Things goes Aliens
- Episode 7 – Why Eleven is the heart of Stranger Things 2
- Episode 8 – All the Jurassic Park references this season
- Episode 9 – Where does the Stranger Things finale leave its characters?