It’s almost unbelievable that Netflix has grown this much over the past four years. Back in 2013 when the streaming service debuted its original series programs with House of Cards and Kevin Spacey as the lead. One wouldn’t foresee how massive the network is now. Now in 2017, House of Cards has entered production for its sixth and final season, the streets of the MCU found its home, a show about female prisoners, a controversial one and last summers surprise package Stranger Things amongst many others. But after last season’s retro-filled glee, this season just feels flat.
A while back, show runners “The Duffer Brothers” said their goal was to make season 2 “bigger” and they achieved that and nothing else. Because this second season didn’t feel progressive. It’s as if they took the term “bigger” a bit too literal. The upside down got much bigger, out went the demogorgon and in came a bigger shadowy-tentacle figure that never really did much and three new additions to the cast.
The problem is, Matt and Ross Duffer failed to make the show better. When Stranger Things came out last year, I delayed getting on the hype train because I felt it was going to be like everything before it; and while this wasn’t the case, it wasn’t without its flaws. Flaws that have sadly grown in the second season.
The characters are still lovely. The kids which we grew attached to in the first season mainly because they sent a feeling of nostalgia or because they did things not expected of kids their age. Either way in this iteration, Dustin (Gaten Materazzo) doesn’t steal the show with his performance as he did in the first season, though his foul mouth is always a welcome guilty pleasure. This time that honour goes to the troubled Will (Noah Schnapp). In the first season we didn’t get to see much of him as he was stuck in the upside-down for the majority of the season. This time, he was tasked with delivering much more – mainly because, as was hinted at the end of season 1 he wasn’t really rid of the demorgogon – and he expertly delivered.
Will’s problems became a difficult experience for everyone involved especially Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers, who went through a similar ordeal a year ago. Only this time she has to watch and witness her son get tortured, look and behave like something out of the exorcist.
The love triangle between Nancy, John and Steve was pretty much brought to a close at the end of season 1. But that didn’t satisfy the creators enough, so they thought it was wise to bring in a new cast member “Maxine” a.k.a Max or Madmax (another reference to the fact that their in the 80’s like we need more of those) to amplify another love triangle between herself (Max), Dustin and Lucas. Oh and if the Ghostbuster costume the boys wore at Halloween didn’t give it away, I don’t know what will.
So many things didn’t make sense. Firstly, in the first season, they gave Nancy and John an excuse to do a mission alone so they can bond even more ala Fred and Daphne. Now apparently Nancy is feeling guilty, after a year no less and wants to tell Barbara’s parents the truth. Steve is more reluctant however cue a slew of “bullshit…bull…shit” from an amazing drunk performance (in a good way…bad wa…you know what I mean) from Nancy towards Steve. They broke up because of it. Which allows John to comfortably step in and Nancy to creepingly ask him why he never made a move last year.
After all that drama they have sex like any normal human being would in a stranger’s house on a pull-out bed. This was before they gave Murray (stranger with said pull-out bed) incriminating evidence of Hawkin’s doings with Barb. Now with a careful, coordinated organisation like that of the Hawkin’s lab employees, it makes no sense that after some well-crafted stalking, of both Nancy and John, making their car immobile and confiscating it, they couldn’t spot a radio on Nancy which allowed her record their conversations, thus implicating them. Maybe it’s because there’s a nicer guy in charge after the death of “papa”.
Dr. Owen was another character added to the show. Tasked with overseeing the happenings at Hawkins lab, he was supposed to take over the villain role from Dr. Brenner but turned out to be a good guy not including the amazing gesture made to Hopper in the finale.
It was a huge let-down when it was revealed that Dacre Montgomery’s new character “Billy” was only the Step-brother to Max and not something worth Montgomery’s brilliant performance. When he bore red in an episode it would’ve been better if he morphed instead of the half-baked cliché story we got. Look if you’re going to make someone a dickhead and an all-out bad person, perfect. If you’re going to ruin it and give them a back story, make it engaging. For goodness-sake here I was thinking Billy and Max were Russian spies. I started looking at what time FX’s The Americans was set in to make comparisons. Even the episode “Spy” made me certain. I really enjoyed Dacre’s character bar the back story. He’s character wasn’t well fleshed out like say Steve’s because if you look closely you’d see the character Steve was meant for.
By the way, I would do anything for a spin-off with just Steve and the kids. His chemistry with the actors is a thrill to watch. Like just five episodes. Please?
The kids were great again bar two. Dustin is always a pleasure to watch but then I’m not buying his “love” for his pet demodog. I mean he saw how much danger these things caused last year. It’s not like he just moved to Hawkins. If Max had kept it as a pet it would’ve made more sense. When Lucas told Max the story of their adventures, it would’ve then been more reasonable if he was doing it to get her to release the then little demodog.
I get they’re all kids but Mike’s constant bitchin’ got annoying, then he remembered how much he cared about Will when the other part of the crew started growing closer. He was pretty much irrelevant this season and served only as a purpose for Eleven to return and that in itself is yet another letdown.
Last time we left Eleven she seemingly evaporated from space and time, except she’s the main character and that wouldn’t happen. We see Chief Hopper dropping off some eggos in a vent and of course we know her return is a “when” not an “if”. I get that she feels like a prisoner in the house she shares with Hopper and his rules given her previous experiences, but really? You want to tell me that after escaping not once, but twice she hesitates to reveal herself to Mike or at least any of his “party” that she knows, because Hopper claims it’ll be too dangerous to reveal herself. I guess it’s not dangerous when it’s your mum who got her brain fried off of any relevant information.
Apparently Eleven’s mum is also “special”. Oh well, she telepathically connects with Eleven and reveal all the dark things that happened to her when she was pregnant with Elev…errm Jane. Somehow when she went to collect her child forcefully from the Hawkin’s lab since nobody would of course believe her, she somehow knows a now probably six-year-old Jane is hers? How?
Sigh, Eleven doesn’t go back home yet though. No. Instead we are dealt with what I believe to be the worst episode so far of the series; the 7th episode “The lost sister”. Jane goes on a mission to find and hopefully bond with her “sister” “eight” in Illinois. I don’t get it. Okay she prioritizes helping her friends or meeting them to going on some faux soul-searching journey. Granted “eight” was seen in the vision she shared with her mum and her powers are awesome but did she REALLY need to see her at that moment. Was spending an entire episode on this the wise choice when at this point there were more pressing matters back at Hawkins?
Then the big bad was more big less bad. Matter of fact Billy felt more menacing than him..her?..it? There was no threat at all. Then the way Bob was able to identify the exact location of where Hopper went was just laughable. In a bid for the Duffer brothers to make the show “bigger”, they went from Will communicating through christmas lights to him drawing ruggedly on tons of papers. Somehow Joyce and Mike were able to put the pieces together and somehow, Bob was able to identify the locations of these drawings. Stranger Things indeed.
It was nice and Ironic how all the groups ended up at Hawkin’s lab though, by then Steve had realised Nancy had moved on at around the same pace it took her to get over Barb’s death. By the time Eleven came back it was way too anticlimactic and such a cheese-fest. Only great moment was when she noticed Dustin had teeth to which I wished he responded by touching her head and going “hair”.
Then the self pat on the back. Critics praise Stranger Things for it’s 80’s style throwback? Suffocate us with 80’s movies promotional poster replicas and cringe easter eggs. Bob dies? get justice for him – just like that cringe hashtag after Barb’s death – by manifesting a story saying he started up Hawkins labs. Unbelievable. It’s one of the main reasons I wasn’t a fan of Game of Thrones this year. It’s almost as if the writers are reading theories and plot ideas online and taking it into the series for fan-service purposes.
Like Netflix’s The Defender’s this year, Stranger Things had short episodes which was supposed to clear the path for a more progressive and tightly woven plot. Like The Defenders however, it failed to deliver. The characters are still great and the dialogue is still smart but there was too much unexplained and half-assed. There are good moments like Hopper with Jane, Billy’s scene with Steve’s Mum, Eight against the police, etc.
Some thrills here and there, great cast but overall not good enough. If you jump over the gaping plot holes, you just might land on something worth your binge. If you came looking for that inspired, surprising, binge-worthy show last year however I suggest you flip this season upside-down.
Son Of A Bitch Rating – 7.1/10