A strange cultural zeitgeist
It may be just more of the same old same old, but Season Two of Stranger Things turns out just awesome.
I HAD been eagerly anticipating the second season of Emmy-nominated Netflix hit Stranger Things because I found the first romp thoroughly exciting, and so when offered a preview screener, I quickly said yes, even if that meant I had to watch it on my own – these things are very top secret, you see. No spoilers allowed, embargoes, watermarked episodes, the works.
The trailers looked rather scary and I’m pretty darn chicken when it comes to anything remotely horror-fic on screen, but brave it I did.
And I am pleased to say that Season Two has just the right dose of everything (for me, at least) – yes, it’s scary in places, but it is also funny, strange, poignant, heartfelt, mysterious and it will keep you glued to your seat for what’s coming next.
Familiar faces from Season One – David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer and Noah Schnapp – are joined by a bunch of new, pretty cool actors including Sean Astin, Paul Reiser and Sadie Sink. And this sophomore season starts off pretty much a year later.
Quick recap of S1, ICYMI: A young boy (Will Byers) disappears in the small (fictional) town of Hawkins, Indiana, and his mother (Joyce), a police chief (Hopper), and his friends (Mike, Dustin and Lucas) must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.
Along the way, they befriend a young psychokinetic girl (Eleven) and oh yes, did I forget to mention that supernatural events lurk at every turn? There’s even an Upside Down world.
In S2, the central plot continues to revolve around Hawkins’ hellmouth, but there’s really so much more than just the bizarre goings on in the Upside Down, which for me makes this Duffer Brothers’ creation such great television.
I am quite happy to continue relishing the nostalgia that permeates this series, its tentacles creeping into this new season, and throughout each episode.
I feel like I am watching all my old favourite TV series (The Wonder Years, The X-Files) and movies (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, ET, Ghostbusters, Terminator) and listening to some really cool classic rock from The Romantics to Scorpions, Duran Duran, Ted Nugent and Devo. Every nook and cranny has been so lovingly furnished with tiny bits of history, which for me brings back such fond memories.
Some may call it schmaltzy, but I kinda feel “homesick”.
And like Will, in S1, a part of me very badly wants to go home, and return to that era. I mean, who wouldn’t want a vinyl collection that includes Jim Croce and Supertramp?
There’s a whole bunch of new Easter eggs to look out for from arcade games (Dragon’s
Lair, Dig Dug) and techie gizmos (VHSC and Polaroids), to cars (Chevies and Mustangs), bicycles (BMX and banana bikes) and skateboards, toys (He-Man and the Millennium Falcon) and even candy (it is Halloween after all!).
I can’t imagine what it must be like for folks who actually lived through 1970s-1990s America in a small town like Hawkins because I merely lived their lives vicariously through TV and yet I am so enthralled.
(For the foreshadowing theorists among you, perhaps like S1’s Dungeons And Dragons plot link, there will be more in S2. Here are some purely speculative bites to whet your appetite – in Cinematronics’ game
Dragon’s Lair, the protagonist Dirk the Daring is a knight attempting to rescue Princess Daphne from the evil dragon Singe.
Which damsel in distress will need saving this time, or will it be a damsel at all? Also the objective of Namco’s Dig Dug is to eliminate underground-dwelling monsters; anyone remembers how one does that?)
Even the scripted metaphors and similes are retro-laced – for example the cool quotient of being a freak is equated to a simple “Would you rather pick David Bowie or Kenny Rogers” question?
And being trapped between two worlds, as Will so aptly describes it, is like when you’re looking through a Viewmaster and caught between two slides. Or when Chief Hopper says not everyone gets what they want, and he clearly wants a date with Bo Derek.
The frosting on S1’s cake was, of course, Winona Ryder, because how can you get any stranger or more authentically 1980s than with Ryder as one of your kooky titular characters? Well Reiser and Astin (of
Aliens and Goonies fame respectively) take care of that.
But leaving the cultural nods aside, I also appreciate the good old drama this season has revived – relationships are explored so subtly that even the more stoic among viewers is likely to inadvertently end up getting a good workout of their heartstrings, heck I even shed a tear or two.
Mother-son, brother-sister, father-daughter, girlfriend-boyfriend, kindred spirits – so many honest insights about relationships are unearthed in fresh ways. Strange, but true.
While twins Matt and Russ Duffer have been quoted as saying this season stands on its own, for those of you who want continuity, I feel you will be more than satisfied with what you get.
And if you think it’s hard for life to just go on after discovering that your best friend/son/ brother has returned from a terrifying sojourn in a netherworld, I was pretty shocked that I happily bought their explanation too.
Life, apparently, does go on no matter what hits you.
I don’t want to reveal any of the plot because like a Secret Seven or Five Find-Outers novel, what would be the point if you knew the storyline?
Suffice it to say, there’s much to savour. And for me, S2 is terrific because you know what? The devil is truly in the detail.
All nine episodes of Stranger Things Season Two are available on Netflix.
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