Second helping of “Stranger Things” as eerily delicious as the first
“Stranger Things 2” opens with a garish thrill ride of a police chase in industrial Pittsburgh.
What the. . .?! For several minutes, viewers might feels worried, disconnected from the small-town feel of last year’s kids-in-peril sleeper hit.
But stop your fretting, fans! It doesn’t take long to see the connection — a startling one — between this unfamiliar sequence and the “Stranger Things” we know and love.
Besides, once the credits roll — and the music, reminiscent of old John Carpenter flicks, plays — we’re transported right back to the cozier neighborhoods of 1980s Hawkins, Ind., and that retro feel of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg.
I’ve only see the first few episodes, but to answer your question … Yes! This second helping of “Stranger Things” from the Duffer Brothers looks to be as good as the first, though it takes a little while to warm up.
All nine episodes stream on Netflix beginning Friday.
It’s Halloween time 1984, a year after last season’s finale. Pals Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas are in full nerd mode. They frenetically hunt for change, turning over sofa cushions and rifling through lingerie drawers. They’re off to the video arcade, you see, and want as many coins as possible to play games.
Though the same in many ways, the quartet also is forever changed, haunted by the supernatural events that shook their once-quiet town a year ago.
Sure, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) still wears that baseball cap over his curly hair and charms with that squinty-eyed little boy grin, and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) continues to roll his eyes in his practical, I-know-better way.
They even fight over a new girl in town, Max (Sadie Sink), a fetching redhead who’s better at video games than any boy.
Will (Noah Schnapp), on the other hand, desperately wants to be normal again, but isn’t. He suffers from severe PTSD following his disappearance and eventual rescue from a freakily frightening parallel dimension called the Upside Down.
But was he rescued — really? At moments, he finds himself once again in that dark, eerie netherworld, running from a gigantic squidlike monster and fighting frantically to get back to his friends.
His single mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) is understandably worried, not to mention overprotective.
As for Mike (Finn Wolfhard), he’s also troubled, pining over the mysterious, missing Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who loves waffles and gets nose bleeds every time she exercises her psychokinetic powers. Desperate to find her, he broods in a makeshift bedroom tent, trying over and over to contact her via walkie-talkie.
His older sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is anxious over a loss, too — her still-missing, bespectacled friend Barb, whom everyone, save the girl’s parents, seems to have forgotten. As a result, Nancy barks at her boyfriend, gets drunk at a party and starts to identify with that other lonely teen, Will’s misfit brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton).
As for the daring Eleven, who was last seen battling the mighty Demogorgon, named by the boys after the creature in “Dungeons & Dragons,” she pops up again sooner than you might expect and in circumstances very different than you may have imagined.
Joyce’s ally in the first season, Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), is back, too, as cantankerous as ever. The evil he’s investigating now, however, seems more down to earth — initially, anyway. Something deadly has invaded the town’s pumpkin patches, and the ruin and stench is almost as gruesome as anything from the Upside Down.
Lighter moments also are plentiful, pushing our nostalgia buttons in that “Stranger Things” kind of way, such as hearing “Whip It” by Devo and seeing the boys show up in matching “Ghostbusters” costumes.
Much of the humor is courtesy of a newcomer. The engaging Sean Astin plays Joyce’s new boyfriend, Bob. He works at RadioShack, dons the corniest vampire getup imaginable, hungrily nibbles her neck and dances happily to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
In short, he’s just what we need to complement all the delicious melancholy and much-anticipated goosebumps of this new “Stranger Things.”
Jeanne Jakle’s column appears Thursdays and Sundays in mySA. firstname.lastname@example.org