Show Review: "Stranger Things" Season 2 is a Slow Build of Terror

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The world has turned upside down on this season of Stranger Things!

If you haven’t yet seen the highly anticipated season 2 of Netflix show Stranger Things (that came out in time for Halloween), then you must be a little slow. But that’s okay, you still can watch both seasons on Netflix and you should really consider it.

Season 1 introduced us to the loveable cast and fantastical storyline, the alternate dimension of the Upside-down, Hawkins lab with its unethical experiments, and the rightfully paranoid townsfolk of small town Hawkins, Indiana. It raised lots of questions, and gave few answers.

Season 2, which I hoped would help me make sense of the universe, actually raised more questions. Multiple storylines run at once, making me wonder the entire time how everything comes together. In the end, some stories combine, but it still ends ominous and mysterious, per appropriate Stranger Things fashion.

What we know is that Hawkins lab had some crazy experiments (which we found out in season 1, but learned more about this season). We meet El’s lab sister Kali (aka Eight, played by Linnea Berthelsen), who also has special powers. She hangs out with a gang of outsiders causing trouble in the name of personal justice. We know El and Kali have a special bond because of the lab, but there is more to explore there and this needs to be developed more in the next season. There is also a new Goonies member, a girl around the age of the younger boys named Max (played by Sadie Sink).

The nostalgia theme of season 1 was heavily present throughout the new season, filled with Dungeons and Dragons references and homages to ‘80s and ‘90s movie shots. Considerable themes throughout the show (and especially this season) include mystery, anticipation, fear, loyalty, sadness, and thrill. It is slow building as the horror grows and grows. And we don’t even know what this horror is, but we are terrified of it.

There is a focus on recovery, survival, pain, those agonizing parts of trauma everyone likes to avoid but are very real. Will has PTSD from the Upside-down, El faces growing pains mixed with rebellion and responsibility, and Kali has violent coping mechanisms. Showing these real human reactions and pain and how they affect the individual facing it as well as those around them was pretty great to see.

Production value matters with Stranger Things, especially with the Upside-down where floating feathers/bubbles, darkness, and textured surroundings create an artfully creepy and menacing setting. A super fun part of this show is its reliance on solving puzzles, like the Christmas lights alphabet in season 1 and now the vine map that Will draws in season 2.

Overall, season 2 is a lot of waiting and struggling, even though it does have a good amount of action scenes. It’s slow and it still leaves us hanging. It’s really a stepping stone in the multi-season large-scale journey that is Stranger Things. I am looking forward to the next few seasons.