A stranger Stranger Things

Warning: it doesn’t look good.

Gillian Pendel

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Following the recents news of Stranger Things being renewed for a third season, it’s time we just come out and say it: Stranger Things 2 was not that good. Content-wise, that is. Cinematically, it was ahead of its time, but it’s time we finally just admit it: everything else was mediocre, at best. From the unnecessary romantic subplots, to the “influence” from iconic King and Spielberg movies, to that god awful episode 7, Stranger Things 2 overall just left a bad taste in my mouth.


There were a lot of things about Stranger Things 2 that disappointed me, but the rather sexist treatment of female characters I had come to love in season one probably takes the cake. For a show that prides itself on being so feminist, Stranger Things 2 was really….not very feminist at all. After watching Nancy take charge and witnessing the powerful bond between Eleven and Joyce, season one gave me high hopes. While we did see a return of assertive Nancy, Joyce and Eleven’s bond that was such a crucial part of season one was more or less brushed over in season two. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s fair to say being reunited with a mother figure deserves a hug, at least.


Nancy’s dedication to getting justice for Barb was inspiring, but it was overshadowed by the unnecessary and boring romantic subplot between her and Jonathan. Reminder that the whole reason they even started becoming friends was because Jonathan was being a creep and taking pictures of her the same night that Barb disappeared. And she wasn’t the only female character to receive this treatment, either. Throughout the season, many powerful relationships and character development in female characters was abandoned for an unnecessary “love triangle.” I had high hopes for Maxine as an addition to the Stranger Things crew, but after finishing the season, it was clear she was only added for a love plot and to create conflict between Dustin and Lucas.


The Duffer Brothers made it excruciatingly clear that their main goal was to channel their childhood heroes, Spielberg and King. While I can appreciate the sentiment as it made for a more interesting cinematic experience, a lot of their “inspiration” felt like a carbon copy of iconic scenes from these movies. Take the exorcism scene: upon first glance, it’s harrowing, it’s suspenseful, it creates a feeling of awe in the viewer at the acting capabilities of a child. Now compare it to the exorcism scene from Poltergeist. Feels like a rip-off, right? Similarities in other scenes that are meant to move the viewer can be drawn between other cult classics, such as Stand By Me, E.T., and Gremlins, among others. Even Goonies actor Sean Astin goes back to his roots when he asks if Will’s map is a treasure map. The Duffer Brothers claim its inspiration, but inspiration only goes so far when it starts to feel like this new season is just the most memorable scenes from timeless movies cut and spliced together.


But hey! At least we found out a little bit about Eleven’s backstory in episode seven, right? Except that it was so open-ended, hardly developed, and felt like a cheap pilot episode to spin-off no one is going to watch. Following in Steven King’s example, episode seven features a cast of outcast characters we are meant to feel drawn to. However, unlike Steven King’s casts of characters, these outcasts spoke, dressed, and acted so generically for a time with a significant punk scene in Chicago that it was impossible to decipher anything of relevance about them, and with only one episode between all five of them, they were not developed enough to make them even slightly compelling. By introducing a completely new cast of characters, especially Kali, or “008,” and implying the antagonist from season one actually isn’t dead, it creates a lot of questions for the viewers and makes the plot of the episode feel completely separated from the actual plot and unnecessary.


If that wasn’t enough, episode seven also really makes Hopper seem like, to keep it PG, a jerk. The relationship between Hopper and Eleven was something I really enjoyed about Stranger Things 2. Though him keeping her locked up in this cabin and forbidding her from seeing Mike was a bit iffy, the chemistry between two equally stubborn and passionate characters created an onscreen dynamic that definitely saved the season for me. Until I got to episode seven. Let’s get this straight: so you’re telling me Eleven can disappear for days and travel all the way to Chicago, and Hopper, the man she’s lived with for over a year and who has become a father to her, metaphorically as well as eventually literally, doesn’t even call to check up on her once? Sure he had his own issues he was dealing with, but if the world was ending right here in Cottleville, and your dad was trapped inside a hospital infested with aliens from another dimension, don’t you think he’d at least call? Watching the Duffer Brothers put Hopper and Eleven’s relationship on the back burner in order to create a boring, unnecessary side-plot under the ruse of Eleven discovering herself and to develop the love triangle between Hopper, Bob, and Joyce was extremely frustrating.

After completely slaughtering Stranger Things 2, it’s probably important to mention that I did genuinely enjoy it while I was watching it. I can truthfully say I finished the entire season in one day, and the introduction of bonds that would have seemed unlikely in season one made me appreciate the characters I had already come to love, like Dustin and Steve. It definitely had its high points, but it had a lot of low points that were hard to ignore, especially since they seemed like rookie mistakes after how big of a success season one was. Overall, Stranger Things 2 unfortunately disappointed me, but I still look forward to Stranger Things 3. I hope the criticisms the Duffer Brothers have received influences them to do something different and create a much better season 3.