The first reviews for Stranger Things season 2 are in and it sounds like the Netflix TV series retains much of its fun and charm, during its sophomore outing. Whereas Stranger Things season 1 became a success through great word of mouth, season 2 of the 1980s sci-fi/horror movie love letter comes loaded with high expectations from those who loved their first trip to Hawkins, Indiana. Fortunately, it sounds as though Stranger Things 2 (as the second season is officially titled) by and large delivers the promised goods.
Stranger Things 2 picks up about a year after the events of season 1, during the 1984 Halloween season. Life in Hawkins has mostly returned to normal, though most of the show's main characters are still dealing with the emotional fallout from all the terrible things that happened during season 1 (Will's disappearance, Barb being murdered by the Demogorgon, Eleven seemingly perishing during her fight with the creature from the Upside Down). Trouble rears its head when, you guessed it, weird things start happening around town and Will (Noah Schnapp) finds himself haunted by visions of the Upside Down; namely, a creature known for now as the "shadow monster".
Those who are concerned about reading Stranger Things 2 spoilers ahead of the season's premiere need not worry, as the following review excerpts are completely spoiler-free (as are the actual reviews, by and large). You can click on the corresponding links below to read the reviews in full.
THR - Daniel Fienberg
Stranger Things 2 is quite good and, if your expectations are in check, largely satisfying. The Duffer Brothers fall into very few traps of self-importance or self-awareness and they deliver a second season with an expanded assortment of '80s influences, an expanded cast of instantly embraceable characters and some expanded Stranger Things mythology without the bloat that inevitably dooms sequels.
Collider - Allison Keene
[Unlike] other zeitgeist-dwelling series that suffered tangible sophomore slumps (True Detective, UnREAL, Mr. Robot), The Duffers have managed to recapture what made Season 1 so good while still moving the story forward in necessary ways, with a smartly written and cleverly-plotted script. Like that first season, not everything works perfectly, but its cumulative effect is one that is again joyous, emotional, satisfyingly spooky, and most of all, makes us care deeply about the fates of these outsiders who band together as heroes.
British GQ - Stuart McGurk
Thought season one was a bit cheeky in nicking from Stephen King [and Steven Spielberg]? Well, whoah boy, just wait until season two, which at times feels less like a nostalga-tinged romp, and more like a theme park with a ride from every scary Eighties and Nineties movie ever made... Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a Bad Thing. Rather, think of it more like a greatest hits album of cover versions: what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in novelty.
USA Today - Kelly Lawler
[Stranger Things 2] is a fitting follow-up to the first, Netflix's supernatural drama, set in the 1980s, that dominated Internet chatter last summer. The new season, still helmed by creators Matt and Ross Duffer, explores new and greater threats to our heroes and the small town of Hawkins, Ind. It's a more intimate, exciting and character-driven story, but is occasionally hampered by its bloated length and by hewing too closely to the structure of the first chapter.
Variety - Maureen Ryan
Until “Stranger Things 2” really gets going — and that takes a while — it trails an air of self-consciousness that veers into strained fan service at times. The good news is, the show’s core cast remains an extremely versatile and effective ensemble, and once the story kicks into a higher gear about halfway through the nine-episode season, a lot of the old magic returns.
The Independent - Clarisse Loughrey
Ironically, directors the Duffer Brothers’ continual insistence this second season is far more like a cinematic sequel rings truest here: like most movie sequels, it’s a rehash of what everyone liked about the first one. It’s just, in this case, they largely get away with it. Credit it all to two central ingredients: characterisation and tone.
Critics by and large appear to agree that Stranger Things 2 recaptures much of the magic of its predecessor, while at the same time enriching its core group of characters and introducing some charismatic newcomers to the mix (see Sadie Sink as Max and Sean Astin as Bob especially). The main recurring complaint about season 2 is that its narrative hews too closely to the approach in season 1, making it more predictable by comparison. It also sounds as though Stranger Things 2 doubles-down on its '80s pop culture references, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you felt about season 1's portrayal of that decade.
The most welcome news here is that pretty much all critics so far agree Stranger Things 2 avoids the dreaded sophomore slump that many TV series and movie franchises alike have suffered in the past. Season 1 wasn't without its faults either (see the campy bullies who felt ripped right out of an actual '80s teen movie), but its charming cast and sense of adventure won over most viewers and season 2 is poised to follow suit. If nothing else, Stranger Things 2 should make for an entertaining game of "Spot the classic sci-fi/horror movie homage" to play, when it begins streaming.
Stranger Things 2 premieres Friday, October 27 on Netflix.
Source: Various [see the above links]