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Stranger Things Watch Journal (Season 2)

Read Time:4 Minute, 36 Second

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TL;DR

Another great season. It feels like the action and plot will peak in episode 5, but it just keeps building—except for episode 6, which is a departure from the main story. We finished the season by binging three episodes in one night because we just couldn’t put it down.

Episode 1

They did a really good job jumping forward in time about nine months and catching us up on everything that has happened in the break. Right off the bat there’s tension. We have Will who is suffering PTSD and being treated at Hawkins NL. (Bonus that they got Paul Reiser to basically revise his role in Aliens.) Plus, Will is getting glimpses of the big bad for the season, which sort of reminds me of a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Nancy is traumatized about losing her best friend and unable to tell her parents about what happened.

And then there is the new character, Max, who is bound to cause some tension within the band of boys.

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The first episode wasn’t amazing, but it sets the stage. The Duffer brothers did a great job of slowly building up the tension during season 1. I hope they can recreate that. It’s hard to get pacing just right.

Episode 2

Good choice in editing to end the first episode by seeing Eleven in the present and then start episode 2 by returning to what happened right after she poofed. The first episode could have start with this scene from episode 2 but that would have reduced the tension too soon.

Overall, I think the children are all very good actors, but I think I can start to see them improving. There’s little things here and there with their deliveries, and mainly with their expressions that they seem to being improving on. I think as the young actors get better and better the writers will be able to take advantage of it. I’m really looking forward to seeing how dramatic this gets over the next three+ season.

Episodes 3 & 4

A few thoughts: I think Sean Astin’s character is being set up as a sacrifice. He has red-suit written all over him. But I could be wrong. The Duffy Brothers have done a good job of breaking expectations in season one.

I also wonder if Mr. Clarke—the science teacher—will have an expanded role in later seasons. It feels like a writer’s fantasy to have a moment when the teacher learns the truth about the kids and is amazed. I know I wouldn’t be able to pass that up.

I like the tension that they’re building up between Hopper and Eleven.

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Again, the Duffer Brothers are doing a great job of building tension in every episode. After getting halfway into the season they make it hard to resist binging the rest.

Episode 5 & 6

Near the end of episode 5 my wife said, “We’re half way thought the season, but this feels like the season finally.” She’s right. The story really gets exciting quickly this season. And I was thinking that I’ll bet Stephen King loves this show. It probably feels like he’s watching something he wrote, but forgot he wrote it.

The end of episode 6 really piles the Aliens references on thick. We have soldiers going into Giegeresque tunnels, Paul Reiser saying “trust me”, beeping that is similar to the motion trackers in Aliens, and the most eye-rolling is the soldier saying, “Stay frosty.” We just needed someone in the control room to say, “Five-by-five” and we’d have Aliens bingo. Not that I fault them for adding all that. It’s just fun stuff for us fans.

Epsidoes 7, 8 & 9

I can’t remember the last time my wife and I watched three episodes of something in one evening. We usually watch just one episode each night of whatever we might be watching. But Stranger Things really grabs us. There hasn’t been a disappointing episode yet. Well, I take that back. Episode 7 tonight, the one about sisters, wasn’t very good. But it laid the foundation for the next two episodes, so I’ll give them a pass on that.

If episode 6 was the Aliens episode then episode 8 was the Jurassic Park episode. I called it, Bob was going to have to be a hero and sacrifice himself at some point and he played the role of Samuel L. Jackson.

It was really nice to see that they gave Paul Reiser a redemption role where he didn’t have to be the corporate douchebag.

As much as Stranger Things pays homage to many classic movies, one of the biggest influences feels like Buffy The Vampier Slayer, just for younger kids. Especially with the way season 2 ends with the junior high dance.

I don’t know what they have in store for season 3, but I kind of hope that they give Will a break and let him have a fairly normal arc next season.

Conclusion

As much as I point out the things that Stranger Things uses as inspiration, I don’t think it’s derivative at all. The way the elements are weaved together to mix mid-80s pop culture and Dungeons & Dragons along with really good character dramas is fun. As fantastic as the danger is the character dramas are all too real. I think that might be the secret sauce for this show. Keep the fantasy fantastic and everything else as real as possible.

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