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‘Stranger Things’ makes stellar return

Season two of Netflix series lives up to high expectations

<p>The second season of "Stranger Things" is a success that continues to combine heart and horror.</p>

The second season of "Stranger Things" is a success that continues to combine heart and horror.

It seems that ever since the second season of “Stranger Things” was released Oct. 27, somebody brings it up in conversation every day. Is this unusual popularity of a Netflix series all because of an undue bandwagon effect, or is “Stranger Things” a show that is likable enough to stand on its own? As the excellent, entertaining second season has proven, the latter is true.

“Stranger Things” is a show unlike any other sci-fi series, with a unique, difficult-to-explain premise. The special effects, superior acting, goosebumps-evoking soundtrack and personable characters prove the show deserves all the critical acclaim it has received for both seasons. The well-balanced combination of an ongoing conflict — the creatures of the Upside Down — and the various relationships between characters are what makes this season so entrancing. Season one set up the chance for viewers to form their opinions about who belongs with whom. Season two takes the previously established relationships further — as the characters are already well-developed — and introduces a few new relationships as well. 

A more notable addition is the character of super-talented gamer-girl Max (Sadie Sink) to the core group of middle-school nerds. Initially, it seems as if she is going to replace Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), which viewers soon realize is impossible. Eleven’s absence is felt by both the characters in the show and those watching at home. Although she still plays a large role in the show, she is a minor character, living in a cabin with Hopper (David Harbour). 

Max is neither as likable nor as special as Eleven, and her character is a bit underwhelming. She lacks the spunk that she gives off in the first episode, although her partially subdued character could be attributed to the violent tendencies of her stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Mike (Finn Wolfhard) finds it especially hard to accept her into the party and continually disses her presence so she never truly seems like a member of the group. 

The underlying themes of identity and home are relevant in every episode this season. Eleven struggles with discovering her identity and true home, as she spent most of her life as a test subject in isolation. She successfully searches for her mother and “sister” but ultimately realizes her true home lies with Hopper and her friends back in Hawkins. 

Eleven’s dark yet temporary change in character from innocent little girl to tough gang member in the seventh episode is an important step in her journey of discovery and immersion into society. Although many people have done wrong to her, she realizes she does not need to seek fulfillment with revenge. This is especially evident when she has the opportunity to kill an ex-member of the Hawkins lab who harmed both her and her mother, but instead empathizes with him. Throughout season two, Eleven essentially comes of age. Despite a few tantrums, she shows more maturity than in season one, and she eventually finds the fulfillment she’s been seeking in her relationships with other people. 

The elusive and omnipotent monsters of the Upside Down are still present in season two, and the connection between them and the humans is easier to make than in the first season. Season one leaves a lot to the imagination regarding how the creatures have such a strong effect on Will (Noah Schnapp) and the people of Hawkins. However, since Will experiences his struggle with the monsters in Hawkins instead of in the Upside Down, viewers can see what is really going on. 

The role of the creatures is stronger because the most powerful one uses Will as a host and makes him a “spy,” creating a possessed version of Will. Similar to season one, the Hawkins Lab is still shrouded in mystery. Viewers are left wondering what their intentions are and how trustworthy they can be. As the show progresses, the scientists turn into more of allies than enemies, but much is still left unsaid. 

Season two of “Stranger Things” does not disappoint. Fans of the show will be pleased with the progression of the story, and viewers will finish the show eager for season three to be released. “Stranger Things” seems to get stranger and stranger, living up to its name more with every episode, yet the show never loses its heart or humanity.