A & E

Published on November 14th, 2017 | by Joseph Wickline

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Stranger Things… 2!

When the first season of “Stranger Things” debuted in its entirety on Netflix in July 2016, it was met with overwhelming critical and popular acclaim. The sci-fi-horror drama follows the strange happenings in the fictional small town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1984. Now back for its second season, stylized as “Stranger Things 2,” “Stranger Things” continues with another successful and enjoyable chapter, albeit an imperfect one.

Paying homage to films like “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Goonies”, “Stranger Things” follows the time-honored premise of a group of kids confronting a great supernatural horror, with the advantage of modern special effects. The second season manages not to take itself too seriously while still creating genuinely thrilling moments. In a slow build, “Stranger Things 2” fleshes out its characters and its universe while raising its stakes naturally. It doesn’t feel like a total retread, but manages not to jump the shark, allowing the show room to grow in future seasons.

“Stranger Things 2” is by no means perfect. In fact, it’s riddled with inconsistencies. Characters make baffling decisions that transparently only exist to advance the plot, and threats that slaughter extras left and right don’t really endanger the protagonists until the writers decide the time is right. But the currency of “Stranger Things” isn’t continuity; it’s nostalgia and charm. The show’s Spielbergian premise of a ragtag group of small-town misfits battling otherworldly forces with childlike sensibilities makes it as enjoyable as it is addictive. And regular references to “Ghostbusters”, “Dungeons and Dragons” and a host of other products of the eighties make its flaws so fundamentally easy to ignore.

In fact, it’s when “Stranger Things” ventures outside of this premise that cracks start to show. The least successful episode of the series follows one character’s search for meaning outside of Hawkins. Self-contained character episodes can work in TV dramas (“Fargo” had a particularly successful one recently), but in a show so reliant on its small-town charm and ensemble cast of beloved characters, a pivot away from anything recognizable just comes across as tedious and unnecessary. But even at its weakest, “Stranger Things 2” is fun and inventive. The sophomoric outing of the cult hit is sometimes disappointing but always true to its unique style, and makes for quality television.

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