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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Showbiz - ANN MARIE CHANDY

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.

(Top) ‘Why aren’t you us­ing the eye­drops we pre­scribed last year, boy? No won­der you’re see­ing things.’

Guys, this is the first we­fie, ever!

‘No New Year’s Day to cel­e­brate, No choco­late cov­ered candy hearts to give away .... ’

— Pho­tos: Net­flix

‘Bustin’ makes us feel good!’

‘Mikey! Come here and make me feel like a wo­man... oh wait, wrong movie.’

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