Strange Sensations

Strange Sensations

It appears that fans of Stranger Things fall into one of two categories. The first are all the people (like me) who just enjoy this show, usually for its general weirdness, highly appealing cast, and overall 80’s nostalgia. The other category are those fans of the show that are just totally fucking obsessed. At the risk of offending the latter, I’m counted firmly among the former.

Stranger Things originally appeared on Netflix back in July 2016. It came in a bit under the radar, but soon gathered a great deal of steam and an instant, loyal following. It’s those kids. They’re just so damn cute! And so talented!

Stranger Things targeted 80’s nostalgia, hitting the damn bullseye over and over again. From casting to set design, from music to title fonts. If those child actors weren’t good enough to get you invested, the 80’s thing picked up the slack. It appears that a lot of Netflix subscribers grew up in the 80’s. Who knew?

The style of the show draws heavily from classic Stephen King and makes no apologies for it. They also mix in plenty of Steven Spielberg with a healthy sprinkle of John Carpenter just to make it spicy. But under all that style there is plenty of substance.

This past month, Stranger Things 2 hit Netflix, this time with much more anticipation than the hit first season. Expectations can be murder on a show. And consider that the producers, writers and showrunners are rushing each season now, recognizing that those cute young actors that make up the heart of this thing are rapidly aging out of their respective roles. Sometimes it is rough being a monster hit.

But Stranger Things manages to pull it off once more, with only an occasional misstep if not the outright stumble. But go ahead and stumble if you must. Those kids … just too damn cute! We’ll excuse almost anything as long as the big bad from down under … er … upside down doesn’t eat any of ’em.

I joke, but that’s the real peril of the show and the challenge Stranger Things must face going forward. They’ve built such a hit, and we are now so invested in these characters, they cannot afford to actually lose any of them without facing an outright revolt from their audience.  They killed off one popular character last season (just the one) and they’ve been catching heat ever since. Poor Barb. You bastards!

The obvious work-around is the introduction of new characters. We know from the beginning that one or more will have to be fed to the beast. It’s only a matter of time. But now we expect it and see it coming. They might as well just put them all in red shirts and get it over with. And though the beast is, in fact, a bit more bloodthirsty than before, we end up losing only the one new character and it’s hardly a spoiler. I’m pretty sure we all figured out whom from the first episode or two … even without the red shirt.

It takes far too long for them to get the gang back together, but the writers give us a new member for the gang to keep us appeased until that time finally comes. To their credit, it does make the inevitable reunion all the more sweeter. I blame myself for not having more patience. The subplot involving the new kid is a bit tedious and probably unnecessary; it only really serves to give us a new character to hate. Since Matthew Modine appears just briefly in a cameo or two, that’s probably a wise move.

This season includes all the usual nods to 80’s culture with even more music than before (Bigger budgets! Yay!) and various video game and movie references, including a great riff on Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, this means they also have to present us with a number of very regrettable fashion choices, including a discomforting Eleven meets Joan Jett outfit that left me vaguely nauseous.

Is Stranger Things 2 as good as the original? Probably not. Few things ever are. But it sill manages to hit the right notes, making for a couple of solid nights of binge watching all around.

  • Both full seasons of Stranger Things are currently available on Netflix
  • Season 1 can be purchased on Blu-Ray (Amazon/$43)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: