Last summer, Stranger Things debuted and took the world by storm, capturing audiences' imaginations with its blend of sci-fi, horror and sense of adventure. With the exceptions of Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, the majority of the cast featured relatively unknown performers, creating an even more fulfilling experience for the cast's breakout roles.
In the more than a year since its debut, Stranger Things has become one of the dominating pop culture forces in the genre world, resulting in not only worldwide recognition of the actual show, but also more exposure for all of its cast, including David Harbour earning the coveted role of Hellboy and Finn Wolfhard starring in last month's IT.
Just in time for Halloween, the second season of the series debuts this Friday, with fans excitedly anticipating what direction the series could take. With reviews beginning to emerge about the show, fans' excitement sounds justified, with reviews hinting that the second season both embraces familiar elements from the previous season while also delivering many fresh elements.
The success of the series allowed the show's creators, the Duffer brothers, to go bigger with a variety of elements than they could in the first, which IndieWire considers a success.
"Everything about it is big. Its story is big, its emotions are big, its music cues, homages, and characters are all big, big, big," their review reads. "With an additional episode, a handful of new faces, more money in the budget and inflated ideas to match, the sequel season to Netflix’s breakout original series is a conscious move to broaden its scope and lengthen its story."
They added, "Stranger Things 2 remains the series it’s always been, only bigger. Though repetitive in places and absolutely bursting with plot, the reference-heavy, nostalgia-driven “2” still succeeds at bringing families together for nothing but a good time."
"Stranger Things 2 is quite good and, if your expectations are in check, largely satisfying," The Hollywood Reporter shared. "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."
One criticism of the initial season was that, while the concept was interesting, it wasn't a story worth exploring over the course of eight hour-long episodes and could have been condensed into one feature-length movie. According to the outlet, the second season does suffer slightly from pacing issues.
"Some repetitiveness of plotting and the lack of thematic value found in the period setting aren't quibbles that kept me from tearing through all nine episodes almost as quickly as I received them," their review reads. "The first few chapters may have some tablesetting slowness, but they have strong cliffhangers pushing from one episode to the next, building to a breathless finale."
Vanity Fair, on the other hand, noted that the show's exposure and permeation of pop culture made it incredibly difficult for the second season to meet expectations.
"Stranger Things got memed into an annoyance—a very real danger of loving something in this content-flood era," their review warned.
"Mostly the show just regurgitates itself, making Stranger Things Season 1 another of its reference points, joining the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens, and Jurassic Park, all alluded to this season," Vanity Fair noted. "The trouble is, Stranger Things hasn’t yet earned canonization the way those hallowed properties have—so the second season’s self-regard lands badly; it’s premature."
In some cases, it's best to leave fans wanting more than overstuffing them, saying that this second season is "a meandering, intermittently entertaining follow-up that dims our memory of the original fun, of that excitement and sense of occasion."
There's no debate that Stranger Things is a TV show, but an interesting point of semantics is that the Duffer brothers want this second season to be called "Stranger Things 2," claiming it's a complete sequel and not just more chapters in an ongoing saga.
"In this case, calling it Stranger Things 2 brings into focus the challenges inherent in creating a second season of something that seemed like a completed
"Nevertheless, it continues to be a show with an unmistakable style, a deft hand with mood and setting and especially music, and very clever cinematography," they confessed. "For guys who are insistent on treating their series like a film, they're actually very gifted at
Many of us wish we could all set aside expectations and awareness of a property to strictly appreciate the content without thinking about its awareness in the zeitgeist. Over at Uproxx, they pointed out how seemingly out of nowhere the first season captured the public's attention in a way that hadn't happened since the debut of True Detective.
The outlet also pointed out how difficult it was for the HBO series' second season to live up to its first, given how beloved the first season became.
"There will come a point where the Duffers and Netflix are pushing their luck with this series, where there will be too many characters and too many plot twists that evoke eye rolls and moans of, 'Oh, this again?'" their review noted. "Thankfully, it’s not there yet."
"Not all sequels live up to the original; this one does better than I ever would have imagined," they admitted. "The show itself couldn’t possibly sneak up on me a second time; how entertaining it continues to
Check out Stranger Things 2 when it premieres this Friday.