by Shazwan Zulkiffli

The kids of sleepy town Hawkins return in another season of flickering lights, Halloween-exclusive A-lister Winona Ryder’s search for her son, and orgasmic cinematography (if you take away all the mystical stuff, the series reminds me a bit of The Hangover). This time, the gang is back together without their strange friend, Eleven, in efforts to leave the tragedies of season 1 behind and move on with their lives. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way because the past will always come back to haunt you as evil resurfaces to kacau the hell out of the kids.

Season 2 focuses more on Will’s condition after coming back from the Upside Down realm in season 1. A lot has changed in Hawkins ever since the incident at the school – Joyce has a new companion to keep her paranoia at bay, Jonathan scourged a bit more courage to confront Nancy, and the squad welcomes an unexpected new member in the team while Eleven appears to still be missing for more than half of the season.

The Duffer brothers knew that to bring season 1’s formula for the second season is a mistake; hence, the reason why the second one offers something different for the audience. Season 2 opens up more storylines to further build on the foundation that was constructed in the first one by introducing new characters and attachments, with Eleven’s ‘sister’ and Joyce’s boyfriend Bob being  highlighted the most. The inclusion of these new characters also allows us to explore more about the original batch of acts and their traits on the show: who would’ve thought Joyce has the capability to allow someone else into her life with the critically-worrying trust issues that she projected? Or Dustin and Lucas’ cute little rivalry for Max, a newcomer, that weakens their friendship?

But what stands out the most is Eleven/Hopper’s father and daughter relationship that none of us expected to happen. Hopper took Eleven in to shelter her from the ‘bad men’ of Hawkins’ lab, and things escalated pretty quickly. The sheriff, who once lost his daughter, is given the task to raise a traumatised lab-rat of a superhuman experiment who lashes out with her telekinetic powers whenever she’s angry. It’s interesting to see the development of their relationship and how both sides cope with their trust issues in hopes of earning each other’s trust.

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The main attraction to this new season is obviously the character development for each characters. The Duffer Brothers took their sweet time in developing the characters, giving almost all characters their own story arcs and conflicts.

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Take Max for an example, who was struggling to fit in small town Hawkins after moving from California, not to mention the abuse she was getting from her half-brother. The little details that was put into that arc – Max’s gaming skills, her brother’s sports car, and her abusive stepfather,  made the arc worth-telling and made it important enough to connect with the main story, apart from being checkpoints for the growth of the character. Max grew from a timid passive character, to someone brave enough to go against her own abuser. Joyce herself turned the heater up to burn the entity out of Will’s body right after being defensive over Will hurting alongside it, when provoked and Lucas slowly showing hints of his understanding on Black’s struggle while Mike continues to be clueless (it’s the 80s, bro).

Despite paying attention to the smallest of details, the plot remains simple. In the end you don’t need a Fight Club-type of twist or killing a number of your important characters to make the series interesting. The Duffer Brothers benefited a lot from making the plot simple and according to an interview, the scriptwriting started with the ending – the Snow Ball, and from there, they developed the story. Stranger Things remains as Netflix’s most consistent thriller series, and looking at the ending, fans will definitely get a season 3, full of Jonathan x Nancy, Eleven x Mike, and Dustin, well, and his pearls.