Netflix hit ‘Stranger Things’ returns with new season, rides a deeper ’80s wave
The scariest thing about the Emmy-nominated Netflix series Stranger Things is how nostalgic it made us for the 80s. That feeling isnt as novel in the second season, which began streaming Friday, but its strong enough to help viewers swallow a rather bland horror story that wouldnt have made the cut on The Twilight Zone.
The story picks up a year after Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has escaped from the Upside Down, an alternative dimension, but hes still suffering from flashbacks, insightful visions, or maybe just a mad crush on Cyndi Lauper. Truth be told, the pop singer in her in Girls Just Want to Have Fun costume would be a lot more disturbing than the monsters he keeps seeing during bike rides through his neighborhood.
No one else in the small town of Hawkins, Ind., seems concerned by last seasons proceedings with the exception of Wills frantic mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder, who seems to have forgotten she once stood up to Beetlejuice). Shes so emotionally rattled that shes convinced herself shes in love with a guy played by former Goonies star Sean Astin, even though he looks like he ate Frodo for breakfast and says things like easy peasy.
The casting agents also score by introducing a new evil scientist played by Paul Reiser, reincarnating the slimeball he portrayed in Aliens.
Nods to the Reagan era continue throughout the first three episodes, from the all-too-obvious soundtrack choices (Whip It) to more subtle references. Joyce convinces her son that his favorite candy is Reeses Pieces an E.T. favorite and that working the desk at Radio Shack is considered a sweet gig. Pay close attention and youll see a Mondale/Ferraro campaign sign on one of lawns.
But the greatest throwback to the 80s is the series continued emphasis on its plucky kids, who just as in John Hughes classics seem to be doing just fine without parental supervision.
The greatest moments have nothing to do with aliens trying to escape the Upside Down. Instead, its the gang debating the merits of a 3 Musketeers bar, or arguing about who gets to play Bill Murrays character when they dress up as Ghostbusters for Halloween.
Eleven (Emmy nominee Millie Bobby Brown), the science experiment with an all-too-human heart, returns with competition in the tomboy department from Max (Sadie Sink), a skateboarding arcade rat with a brother who appears to be representing the entire cast of The Outsiders.
In addition to vying for the heart of soulful Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Eleven has to put up with Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), who has taken her in either because he feels protective or hes mistaken her for Kristy McNichol.
Hopper remains the series only fully developed adult, furiously chain-smoking as he supervises his Police Academy rejects and lovingly preparing Eggo breakfasts for his new roommate. Im assuming Hopper will eventually go Sylvester Stallone in the nine-part series, but Im in no hurry for the showdowns, not as long as the kids are still discussing whether theyd rather hang out with David Bowie or Kenny Rogers.
That battle is a lot more fascinating than any generic blobs oozing out of the underworld.