Stranger Things: Season 2 Premiere “MADMAX” — a review




I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m not a binge-watcher. That’s not the secret. My secret is that I’m having to force myself to not binge-watch the second season of Stranger Things, the Netflix original written and directed by The Duffer Brothers that took streaming America by storm last year.

As of this post, I’m already two episodes into the season, after planning to watch only one episode per week. I’m really not an instant gratification kind of guy. I like to stretch out my enjoyment. But, I just couldn’t help myself. I watched the first episode yesterday, and then the second today. And, Lord help me, if I don’t stop myself, I’ll probably watch another tomorrow and probably a couple more on Sunday, my day off.

I have a problem.

But, I don’t have a problem with the premiere episode of this season of the show. Stranger Things speaks to me on many levels, and I’m going to talk about them now. If you didn’t grow up on the movies Steven Spielberg made when he was more interested in entertaining us instead of winning Academy Awards, then you may not feel the same way I do about this show. Or, if you didn’t cut your eyeteeth reading Stephen King’s early novels and short stories. Or, if you weren’t a child or teenager in the early ’80s. Obviously, none of this is true, because the series is wildly successful and you all can’t be Fifty-somethings like me. So, maybe the high notes that the show hits are more universal than I think they are.

You see, last season was set in late 1983, which was the year I graduated high school, so I probably identified more with Jonathan, Nancy and Barb than I did the younger kids on the show, but I could relate to the younger kids as well. They weren’t dissimilar to me and my friends from childhood. Oddly, though, from an older perspective, I found myself understanding the adult characters more now, and I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Winona Ryder. So, you can forgive me if I get the feeling that this show was written with me in mind.

Perhaps everyone feels this way and that’s why the series has been a resounding success.

The first episode of Season 2 continues to hit all the right buttons to appeal to me. It picks up nearly a year after Will vanished into the Upside Down.

We get to see a short segment of a criminal gang in Pittsburgh, where a girl with a tattoo similar to Eleven’s is using her psychokinetic abilities to break the law. Her tattoo says that she is 008. Even though the other characters call her Kali, I’m going to call her Ocho until I find a reason not to—I like the movie Dodgeball.

Then we catch up with the younger kids, which includes Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas. They are intrigued by the appearance of a new girl in school, named Max, who has bested their high scores at the video arcade. We’re talking a real video arcade here. How old do have to be to really remember when those were popular? My age, certainly. What’s the lower end of the spectrum? Thirty, at least? You tell me. Anyway, Max’s older brother, Billy, is a bad guy. That’s apparent from the get-go. He gives off a definite Keifer Sutherland in Stand By Me vibe.

Nancy, meanwhile, is still dealing with Barb’s disappearance. She and her douchey boyfriend Steve go to have dinner with Barb’s parents, who are selling their house in order to pay a private investigator to find their daughter. Nancy is wracked with guilt, because she knows where Barb disappeared to.

Will, meanwhile, has been having episodes where he thinks he’s back in the Upside Down. He’s having visions of a huge tentacled creature that make me think of both the movie version of Stephen King’s The Mist and the H.P. Lovecraft stories about Cthulhu. Joyce and Hopper have been taking Will back to the same old lab where the evil scientists worked last season. Dr. Owens is supposed to be a good guy, I think, and I like Paul Reiser, but I still believe he’s up to no good.

Eleven is still alive, it turns out, and is living with Sheriff Hopper, who is keeping her hidden from the world. This is actually perfect. Hopper is no good on his own, as we’ve seen, and Eleven needs him. The two of them seem to have a genuine father-daughter dynamic.

As the season kicks off, Halloween is approaching and weird things are still a-brewing.

I guess I don’t have to tell you that I love this show. And I know why I love it. I’m just not sure why you do. I guess stranger things have happened. . . .

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