The secret to Stranger Things 2’s success

There is one big reason why Stranger Things is so popular. Find out why in this spoiler free review of Stranger Things 2.

Stranger things season two poster featuring eleven with arm outstretched

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It seems kind of futile to review a series that most people would have likely binged on the weekend it came out. I feel like this one is more about keeping up appearances because I mean, what reviewer worth their salt wouldn’t weigh in on Stranger Things Season 2.

That also makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be smarter for Netflix to stagger the release of what would have to be their most popular exclusive series. I mean there’s been so much hype in the lead up to release, it almost seems wasted to shove 9 episodes of content onto the servers in one hit.

The arrival of Stranger Things Season 2 over Halloweeen was most definitely an event though and like cheap candy I, along with many other people, gobbled it all up in one weekend.

And I have to say it was pretty much as good as the first time around.

Stranger Things is the most derivative show I’ve ever seen. While that can be a failing for a lot of other shows, in this case it’s where its strength lies. Why? Why, when there is nothing terribly new about Stranger Things, is it so popular?

Why so popular?

For me I can sum it up with one word. Comfort. Stranger Things makes me feel comfortable. I was a kid of the same age in the 80s and this show takes me back to a time where things like mortgages, executive stress, cholesterol and pretty much any other shitty thing about adult life you can imagine wasn’t a problem. It’s like a remix of all the cool movies and shows I used to watch in the 80s, with a same-same but different vibe.

In any one episode you’ll see elements of The Goonies, ET, Stand By Me, The Last Starfighter, Aliens, Ghostbusters and Gremlins to name but a few. And while derivative can be a dirty word to some, series creators The Duffer Brothers are unashamed in their nods to all these influences. And again, this just ups the comfort factor.

This is where you used to set the timer on the VCR to record the Sunday night movie, traded cassette tapes with your friends that you’d then listen to on your Walkman and had sleepovers at the kid with the cool parents house so you could watch R rated movies and stay up playing video games all night.
So that’s my generation’s excuse for liking it and most of us are the ones who pay the Netflix bill these days. As for the younger generation, well there’s always an allure to the decade before you were born. For me in the 90s, it was the 70s… so I guess for kids these days it’s the 80s.

But how the fuck would I know what they think? They do stupid shit like photograph their food before they eat it and make up shitty words like “en fleek”, “Bae”, “adulting” and “#yaskween”. Yet they can’t tell the fucking difference grammatically between and your and you’re or they’re, their and there.

If they’re still reading they’re probably thinking, “why is that salty old bastard throwing so much shade? I’m gonna bounce and watch a cat video or some shit.”

You’re right, every generation scorns the next. I’m sorry, I digress.

If you liked Stranger Things season one you’re going to like Stranger Things Season 2 just as much.

The story

Without spoiling anything the series picks up a year later, things seem pretty much back to normal on the surface but the mysterious Hawkins National Laboratory is still up to something weird on the outskirts of town and young Will Byers is still recovering from the events of season one.

The cast

The majority of the cast from season one return for better or worse. Winona Ryder is back as a stronger and less annoyingly distraught Joyce Byers, Finn Wolfhard fresh from playing Ritchie in Stephen King’s It is at is again as Mike, Millie Bobby Brown returns as Eleven and Gaten Matarazzo is back as Dustin, this time with teeth but just as annoying as he was in season 1. My favourite character though, who I think puts in the best performance is David Harbour as Sherrif Hopper.

There’s some notable new characters to add to the throwback factor too, Sean Astin from Goonies pops up as Bob who runs the local electronics store and Paul Reiser, from Aliens and Mad About You, plays Dr Owens from Hawkins labs. The addition of these two will definitely strike a nostalgic chord with most 80s kids and in my case made me feel as old and fat as they now are.

But also comfortable, it made me feel very comfortable.

The verdict

Stranger Things is like Netflix’s version of the snuggie. I’ve seen similar story lines play out in hundreds of different films and TV shows and yet I still found it easy to ingest all nine episodes in a weekend. The Duffer Brothers have continued to unashamedly wear their hearts on their sleeves with Season 2 and we’re all the better for it. You do lose a little bit of the magic in the second season but that’s not really because the plot or the acting is bad, it’s just not the revelation that Season One proved to be.

However it’s still the best exclusive Netflix have going.


1 Comment on The secret to Stranger Things 2’s success

  1. Great post and I totally agree. As much as I loved the second season, the first one just was a little bit better and held more surprises. This one just played it a bit too safe. But….that said it’s still absolutely amazing and one of my favorite all time series 😀


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