Nothing strange here: Stranger Things Season 2 turns fans upside down


Natalie Rebetsky

The Stranger Things inspired tree at the Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees was the favorite of the weekend.

by Beau Cameron, Co-Editor in chief


Stranger Things returned for its second season on October 27, 2017. In the week building up to the release, fans (including me) were foaming at the mouth. We had been waiting over a year for this, and when the show dropped, it did with a bang.

More than most other series currently on air, Stranger Things is a character-oriented show. So to simplify things, (because there is almost too much to love) we’ll tackle Season 2 one character at a time.

Will Byers (played by Noah Schnapp): Season 2 picks up a year after the events of Season 1. Eleven is missing, leaving a traumatized Will in her place. For fans, Will has been something of a mystery for a long time. Trapped in the Upside Down for several months, Will returned a different person. Hawkins National Laboratory (the ones who opened a hole to the Upside-Down, gave Eleven powers, and started this whole mess) have begun studying Will. Will likes to pretend he’s perfectly fine, but he continuously experiences visions of the Upside Down. These aren’t just PTSD-induced flashbacks. Will is literally seeing into the Upside Down, his consciousness crossing the barrier between worlds while his physical body stays in the same place.

Fans have been so invested in this boy due to the strong feelings of his friends and family after his disappearance in Season 1. He’s a misunderstood, slightly awkward young artist who has suffered some serious trauma. Given all the fantasy/sci-fi nerds that make up the Stranger Things fan base, he’s probably the most sympathetic character.

Johnathan Byers (played by Charlie Heaton): Johnathan is one of the sweetest characters in the story. Similar to Will, he’s an artist who dreams of going to school in New York. He loves his younger brother, Will, and every moment of screen time with the two of them is absolutely precious. Sadly, Johnathon and Mike served similar purposes this season: support for female leads. Although it’s a nice change of pace, it leaves the audience wanting more from their characters. He was Nancy’s side-kick this season, and his character still has a lot of potential.

Natalie Rebetsky
The Stranger Things inspired tree at the Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees was the favorite of the weekend.

Joyce Byers (played by Winona Ryder): Joyce is, first and foremost, a mother. She is willing to raise hell and wage war for her sons, Johnathan and Will. Season 2 also introduced Bob Newby, Joyce’s new boyfriend. Joyce didn’t do a lot of developing this season, but we did get to see her try to find happiness and some semblance of normalcy after the events of Season 1. In the final episodes, however, these dreams are torn away from her. Joyce is a tragedy: she loses her son, loses her boyfriend, and lost her husband. Joyce is a character that the audience can’t help but love because we just feel so bad for her. I’m pleased with her arc this season, but I’d like to see her become more than just a sad story.

Dustin Henderson (played by Gaten Matarazzo): Of the younger boys, Dustin received the most attention this season. We saw him begin to make his own decisions, without the other boys, i.e. Lucas and Mike. In Season 1, Dustin was comic relief. In Season 2, he remained the most light-hearted character, but also an important part of the story. He and Steve bonded while fighting Demi-Dogs (a  nod to Ghostbusters) from the Upside-Down, tossing meat across train tracks, fighting monsters with baseball bats, assembling a Mad Max inspired shelter out of a school bus, and running through subterranean tunnels.

The developing relationship between Dustin and Steve foreshadows how Dustin will mature. I don’t think he’ll become a second Steve, but I do think he will take inspiration from him. Dustin may not have psychic powers, but he’s the one who I’m most excited to see more of.

Lucas Sinclair (played by Caleb McLaughlin): Lucas got more screen-time this season. He spent most of Season 2 running after new girl Max, trying to make friends and bring her into the group the boys have formed. Lucas is awesome: sassy, protective, intelligent, and, arguably, one of the braver characters in the show. I can’t confidently say, however, that he was well-developed this season. I view Lucas as a character with a lot of potential. He has all the traits of a magnificent main character, but he has yet to grow into this role. In Season 2, the writers tried to bring him  into the spotlight, but his character arc was too focused on Max for him to achieve any substantial development.

Mike Wheeler (played by Finn Wolfhard): In Season 1, Mike was the unspoken leader of the group. After Eleven’s disappearance at the end of Season 1, Mike is devastated. He tries to communicate with her every night, desperately trying to reach her in the Upside Down. What he doesn’t know is that Eleven escaped the other world and is living with Sheriff Hopper. Hopper keeps Eleven’s presence hidden for her own safety.

There’s a magnificent scene in episode 8 where Mike learns about this and has an emotional confrontation with Hopper. Besides this though, Mike doesn’t have a lot of development this season. He serves mostly as Eleven’s motivation to return to the town, and he spends the majority of the season moping about her disappearance.

His relationship with Will is adorable, but not vital to the story. He offered Will a lot of emotional support while the younger was struggling with his visions. There were several emotional moments between them: the heart-to-heart after trick or treating, when Mike reminisced about the first time he and Will met, etc. It made fans see Mike’s desperation to find Will in Season 1 in a different light; Mike and Will are best friends. The best aspect of Mike’s character this season is his protectiveness of Will, and that should’ve been the focus. After the leadership and resolve he displayed in Season 1, it was disappointing to see him reduced to a supporting role. Hopefully, he will return to center-screen in Season 3.

Max Mayfield (played by Sadie Sink): Fans have only known about Max for one season, so reactions to her are different than those of our favorite boys. Although her arc of joining the boy’s crew is cute, and her romance with Lucas is fun to watch, none of it made me fall in love with her. My favorite thing about her was how happy she makes Lucas. Yes, she has attitude. Yes, she’s the “cool-skater-girl.” But she simply isn’t as good as the other characters. The problem with introducing Max this late is that fans don’t have the same bond with her as we do with Season 1 characters. As of this moment, Max still feels like a throw-away character, someone who can be replaced. Hopefully, Season 3 will be able to change my opinion.

Billy Mayfield (played by Dacre Montgomery): One of the new characters this season, Billy is Max’s terrible older step-brother. He’s your stereotypical badboy, with loud music, loud cars, and cigarettes. The Ringer called Billy the new fan-favorite, but I disagree. His aggression towards Lucas is proof of his blatant racism, and his mistreatment of Max is deplorable. Max is a child, which makes him physically abusing her on screen even more unforgivable. It isn’t until the last episodes that we discover that the root of Billy’s character lies in his abusive father. However, the reveal comes too late to create sympathy. If the writers wanted a villain, they made one. If they wanted to make an anti-hero that fans would come to love, they failed miserably.

Nancy Wheeler (played by Natalia Dyer): Nancy is one of my favorite characters. At the beginning of season 1, she read like your typical shallow older sister archetype. After kicking butt in season 1, Nancy has become a certifiable bad-ass. She is what every female character should be: complex and flawed. Unlike many females in media, her actions actually drive the story; It’s Nancy who decides to reveal the truth about Hawkins Laboratories and it’s Nancy who figures out how to expose them. Although she does have the stereotypical two-guys-fighting-over-her thing going on, her arc doesn’t revolve around that. It revolves around her as a person and allows the audience to understand her interesting emotional depth..

Steve Harrington (played by Joe Keery): Steve and Nancy broke up. However, it’s better this way since we finally see Steve expand as a character. After their breakup, we get to see Steve become his own person, and not just the other half of “Stancy.” Dustin calls Steve for help when he needs help getting rid of a demi-dog,  a decision that seems strange at first. However, Dustin looks up to Steve, and for good reason.

In season 2, Steve risks his life for the kids on several occasions. When he’s not smashing monsters with his nail bat, he’s teaching Dustin how to do his hair and taking the kids to the dance. While there have been many jokes about “Dad Steve,” he has become a parental/older-brother figure to Dustin. If anyone is the new fan favorite, it should be Steve.

Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour): Hopper had one of the most well-executed arcs this season. After the reveal in season 1 that he had lost his daughter, seeing him act as a father-figure to Eleven was surprising, but not unwelcome. Hopper kept Eleven hidden from the outside world (including her friends) to keep her safe from Hawkins Laboratories. While fans certainly wanted a reunion between Mike and Eleven, it was also easy to see Hopper’s side. Eleven was in real danger, danger that she’s still not out of at the end of season 2.

A lot of Hopper’s behavior this season can be attributed either to him wanting to protect Eleven or the feelings of confusion and hurt he feels while caring for her. The relationship between the two of them was probably the best part of this season, even knowing that Hopper must be aching for his own dead daughter the entire time. Eleven ran away, but the bond between her and Hopper is still strong and is sure to be a key component of future seasons.

Eleven/Jane Ives (played by Millie Bobby Brown): Eleven’s arc was wild this season. After hiding with Hopper for half the season and developing a psuedo-parental relationship, she runs away to find her birth-mother, Terry Ives. While the audience met Terry in Season 1, this is Eleven’s first time meeting her and learning about her mother’s catatonic state. She then journeys to Chicago to find her “sister,” Eight, who had been raised with Eleven at Hawkins Laboratory. Episode 7 is focused entirely on Eleven’s interactions with Eight and her motley crew, and it’s the most widely disputed episode of the season, the biggest complaint being the change of scenery. “Stranger Things doesn’t feel right outside of Hawkins — it needs that quiet suburban vibe to maintain its creepy atmosphere,” wrote Forbes’ Dani Di Placido. “The city backdrop twisted this into a different story, something that felt like a wobbly X-Men rip-off.”

However, the introduction of Eight was something that needed to happen. Fans need to recognize that Season 2 is not a stand-alone story. Season 1 was created to stand on its own because the writers didn’t know if the show would be a hit. Now that Stranger Things is confirmed for more seasons, Season 2 isn’t just delivering a satisfying second chapter, but also setting the stage for the future. Episode 7 is important for later seasons, and it was important for Eleven’s development. It was the first time she was forced to face mortality; in many ways, Eleven had to decide if she was willing to kill to stop Hawkins Labs. Whether she chose right is still to be seen.

I’ve been obsessed with Stranger Things since it first aired. After waiting for almost a year, I thought I wouldn’t be as invested in the show. However, Season 2 made fans fall in love with the show all over again. Season 2 was, simply put, a work of art. It seems the Duffer brothers are only getting better with practice, leaving staggering expectations for the show’s third season.