TV review: Stranger Things 2, Netflix

****

Season one of Stranger Things was a surprise smash that caught the entire world unawares — including Netflix, which had taken a gamble on

unknown Carolina filmmakers the Duffer Brothers. The genius of the show was that it simultaneously paid tribute to and subverted the tropes of early 1980s blockbusters. Even as it proudly wore its debt to Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and John Hughes, Stranger Things offered a clever twist on Jocks v Nerds cliches — and also gave Winona Ryder her meatiest screen role in decades. Throw in a monster straight out of Ridley Scott’s Alien and you had the year’s biggest TV hit.

Second time around, the surprise factor is gone. Indeed, there is a case that Stranger Things 2 is the most highly anticipated series of 2017. The challenge the Duffer Brothers therefore face is sating the nostalgia
demands of the huge fanbase — while meaningful progressing the story of the residents of Hawkins, Indiana.

Generally, they get the balance right. As Netflix has already confirmed, psychic orphan Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has returned, despite apparently dying when dispatching the abominable Demogorgon 12 months ago. Elsewhere Mike, Will and their geeky gang of school kids have entered adolescence — which brings all sorts of complications. Just as
complex is the relationship between nerdish Nancy and her tall-haired
boyfriend Steve, with the arrival of two new wild kids at school bringing further ripples to sleepy Hawkins.

There’s a new demonic threat too, with poor Will, imprisoned in the extra-planar Upside Down in year one, again bearing the brunt of the supernatural entity’s attention. Oh and
Winona Ryder is back at Will’s hyperventilating mother Joyce — and this time she has a boyfriend (if we reveal his identity we may cause you geek compass to go into tailspin).

No new territory is really broken here. But, then, that isn’t what
devotees of Stranger Things will have wanted anyway. This is television comfort food of the very best kind — the plot is brimming with twists and perfectly observed character moments and the 1980s references continue to fall thick and fast. If you’ve been counting down to the return of Stranger Things then get binging. You won’t be disappointed.


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