BY KAYLA VALERA | STAFF WRITER
One of the initial intrigues of the Duffer brothers’ “Stranger Things” was that it was a breath of fresh air amid today’s variety of TV shows and movies, which mostly consist of either novel or comic book recreations. Though what made fans stick around following the Netflix series’ successful first season, which premiered in July 2016, was the show’s refreshing, coming-of-age child actors whose charms bear comparisons to those played by kids in beloved films like “E.T.” or “The Goonies. With an ‘80s storyline backdrop and a sci-fi world that calls upon concepts from sources like Dungeons and Dragons, “Stranger Things” took a little bit of everything and brought forth eight episodes that nearly all generations, new and old, can appreciate.
“Stranger Things 2” revisits the small town of Hawkins, Ind.,and picks up a year after the first season in 1984 – Episode 1 taking place a day before Halloween. From where the series had left off, the outcast group of friends – Mike (Finn Wolffhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) – are trying to move on from their encounter with the alternate dimension of the Upside Down and their telekinetic friend Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who ultimately sacrificed herself to close the gate that joined both dimensions. After solving the disappearance of Will (Noah Schnapp) and saving him from the grips of the Demogorgon, a monster who came from the Upside Down, Will’s mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) along with his three friends try to maintain a normal life while catering to Will’s PTSD from his kidnapping.
The major cliffhanger from the end of Season 1 that manifests into the story arc of “Stranger Things 2” is when Will is shown throwing up a parasitic creature during a Christmas dinner, then is briefly transported back to the Upside Down. This telling scene sets the tone for the new supernatural phenomenon that the kids and the adults, including Joyce and Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour), must take on. Accompanied with them are a new set of characters including Joyce’s new beau, Bob (Sean Astin) and the new girl Max (Sadie Sink), who makes the latest addition to the four-boy group.
While the second season delves deeper into the world of the Upside Down and the awaiting evil that has spawned from it, the show also gives equal attention to the characters while exploring their complexities and the relationships they forge. One of the more interesting character assessments that’s revealed is Eleven’s backstory and her discovery of it. Despite her presence as the otherworldly girl with mysterious powers being less significant than it was in the first season, the show makes an effort in fleshing out her character and giving her more of a voice.
An undeniable presence in the series that acts as a character of its own character is the ’80s timeframe. The many references and homages paid to this decade are inescapable and may need the assistance of a person who lived through this time to understand. Adding a layer of fun to lighten the doom and gloom tendencies, all the while poking fun at itself, the series points out the silliness of the ’80s with its fashion and cliche songs in order to entertain where there is darkness. Capturing also the simpleness of these times, where walkie-talkies were a common form of communication, this backdrop of the story makes a millennial like myself wish I had grown up during those innocent times.
Given the resolutions provided in the nine binge-able episodes of “Stranger Things 2,” it’s still safe to say that it’s not enough to quell the surrounding hype for coming seasons. Because no matter how many monsters decide to cross the Upside Down and enter our world, the story at its core is about the characters who make up “Stranger Things” and the human experiences that they endure. Even though adults will identify more with the classic ’80s nostalgia that envelopes the world of “Stranger Things,” the universal truths of growing up, falling in love, and finding out who you are keeps the story grounded and relatable for all.