‘Stranger Things 2’ Review Roundup: Sophomore Season Just Gets Better
Stranger Things is returning to Netflix for a second season airing Oct. 27, and critics are split. The first season seemingly came out of nowhere, giving viewers a set of adorable pre-teens to root for, as well as fantastic performances from Wynona Rider and breakout star Millie Bobby Brown. The nine new episodes should satisfy the fans, granted that expectations are in check.
Stranger Things 2 returns to Hawkins, Indiana, just as Halloween 1984 approaches. Will, who spent the majority of season one in the chilling Upside Down, has returned but still exhibits symptoms of where he was. Season two asks if Will’s visions are just PTSD or perhaps warnings of the future in Hawkins. Netflix has been specific not to let reviewers spoil any plot lines, but it seems safe to say that the Duffer brothers have succeeded again with their 80s hit.
STRANGER THINGS 2 REVIEW ROUNDUP
“Stranger Things 2 is quite good and, if your expectations are in check, largely satisfying. The Duffer brothers fall into very few traps of self-importance or self-awareness, and they deliver a second season with an expanded assortment of ’80s influences, an expanded cast of instantly embraceable characters and some expanded Stranger Things mythology without the bloat that inevitably dooms sequels… Netflix’s list of things not to be spoiled in reviews points to the show’s continued central problem for me: It’s not especially rich in terms of its mythology. It’s a show that asks very little of viewers when it comes to mystery or anticipation, and the story, told over nine episodes this time, is very close to that of the first season, becoming most redundant in the arc for Ryder’s Joyce.”
–Daniel Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
“Like a shift in winds, Stranger Things 2 just feels different. There’s a somber maturity the party of Hawkins carries around with them… Nothing has been the same since Will went missing. And as Chief Jim Hopper says throughout, like speech before a big game, “nothing ever will.” It’s within this newfound understanding of the dangerous, nonsensical town they live in that Stranger Things 2 finds its pace. Unlike the first season, which focused on the arrival of the strange girl named Eleven, Will’s disappearance and the Demogorgon that haunts Hawkins, Stranger Things 2 is a tale of resilience… While [it] deserves credit for taking a big risk and pulling it off (for the most part), there are some problems with its pacing. The fact that it’s modeled after a sequel acts like a double-edged sword. Storylines that can be contained within one episode are dragged out across an entire season, while other storylines that need more room to grow fester in the show’s underbelly.”
–Julia Alexander, Polygon
“Last season, Stranger Things ripped off the greats. This season, it’s ripping off Stranger Things… The cast remains full of delightful performers, but they sprawl in different directions, many of them boring. Nancy feels sad about Barb, a storyline that feels like a sop to Barb fandom (people, she was barely in this show!), which has the doubly ruinous effect of sending Nancy circling back through plot leftover from the first season. And that’s the effect of a lot of this season, actually. Joyce is freaked out by the possibility that Will hasn’t recovered from his time in the Upside Down, a subplot that gives you flashbacks to the last fifty times Winona Ryder looked really really worried. Will’s in a bad place, which you already knew from last season’s cliffhanger. Full credit to Schnapp, a phantom presence last year, for delivering a sensitively freaked out performance. He’s smaller than the other performers and seems constantly likely to break into dust from sheer fright.”
–Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly
“Until Stranger Things 2 really gets going — and that takes a while — it trails an air of self-consciousness that veers into strained fan service at times. The good news is, the show’s core cast remains an extremely versatile and effective ensemble, and once the story kicks into a higher gear about halfway through the nine-episode season, a lot of the old magic returns.”
–Maureen Ryan, Variety