Sunday, October 29, 2017

Stranger Things (Season 2)

When Stranger Things premiered last year, it began the odd story of Will Byers.  Will disappeared one day after playing some D&D with friends.  While it may have looked like any other disappearance, it wasn’t.  Connected was Hawkins Lab, which again looked normal, but wasn’t.  They had opened a portal through which Will had gone through.  He was returned, but not necessarily safely.  The first season ended with the promise that it wasn’t over.

The second season picks up almost a year later, just before Halloween.  The kids are getting ready to go out as the Ghostbusters.  They spend a fair amount of time at the local video arcade playing Dragon’s Lair and Dig Dug.  This should tell you a good deal about what’s in store.  (That is, if you’re an old geezer like me, who happens to be old enough remember these games.)

Will has been having episodes.  Dr. Owens, who seems to be running things at Hawkins, won’t say much.  Then again, this is Hawkins Lab, so there’s no telling what he’s holding back.  Other than that, Will and his friends seem to be adjusting as well as can be expected.   They’re not allowed to talk about it with anyone, which doesn’t help.  And their mysterious friend, Eleven, hasn’t been seen by anyone other than Sheriff Hopper.

The season is nine episodes, each just under an hour.  It continues the story without repeating it that much.  (For those that haven’t seen the first season, you’ll want to watch the series in order.)  Whereas Will was maybe a little underused the first season, the second season has him in abundance.  He’s tested and poked and prodded, as something from the Upside Down alternate universe is controlling him.

His friends and family all try to help in their own way.  Even Eleven, who has been hidden away, has a path to take.  The references to the 1980s are toned down a little, which lets us concentrate on the eeriness.  This isn’t to say that Radio Shack isn’t namedropped or that you don’t get to see a Polaroid instant camera or two.

I would think that it makes the show a little more accessible to younger audiences.  Sometimes, the references don’t resonate the same for those born in the 1990s or later.  For instance, those that have played Dig Dug will notice elements of the game in the story.  Those that haven’t, not so much.

It seems like the second season has perfected the storytelling a little bit and has started to find a balance.  This may be because it sticks to only a few plot threads.  Basically, it’s Eleven’s plot thread and Will’s plot thread with a resolution for some of the characters from the first season.

Part of the problem with a heavily serialized show like this is that episodes can drag.  I noticed less drag this season.  Each episode ended about where it should in terms of story and set up the next one nicely.  It’s perfect for binge watching.  (I was able to watch the episodes in three sittings, although I probably would have made it two if my schedule had permitted.)  I’d be interested to see where the third season will go.  Many loose ends are tied up, but even those presumed dead have a way of coming back.

No comments :