While season two of Stranger Things is centered on the after effects of Will Byers being in the Upside Down, and Eleven trying to learn about her past after being hidden for nearly a year, much of it looks on the typical teenage problems of romance. Further complicated by what’s happening in Hawkins.
Take Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer). They still feel guilty they didn’t tell Barb’s parents about what really happened to her and how she was killed by a demogorgon. The Holland’s even hired Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman), a former investigative reporter, to find her. Steve & Nancy start to grow apart, and she turns to Johnathan (Charlie Heaton), Will’s brother. They wind up being together while seeking justice for Barb.
As this picture below suggests, Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) tries to convince them to stop looking for the truth. He argues if too many people know about the lab and its gate into the Upside Down, other people could…like the Russians. After all, the Cold War was still active in October 1984. Good thing Nancy hid a tape recorder when she and Jonathan were taken to the lab. It was enough to close the lab, and Barb Holland can rest in peace.
Still, Steve does stick around for her and to protect her brother, Mike, and his friends when they’re attacked by Demo-Dogs. He even uses that nail-studded bats from last season, resulting in him and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) becoming a demon-fighting team. They even talk about girls and hair care at one point. Although Steve’s lost a girl, he’s gained a lot of fans.
Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) becomes interested in a new girl named Max (Sadie Sink), partially because she’s very good at Dig-Dug. She wonders what he and his friends do, but they don’t want her into their club. They’re afraid she’ll be a target to the evil guys at the nearby Hawkins Lab. Thing is, she finds out anyway, even sees Dustin’s tadpole demogorgon, Dart. She’s still very skeptical about monsters invading town until she finally sees them. After that, she is welcomed.
Max’s family life is tough, though, and one of the bigger flaws of the season. She’s stuck with a stepbrother named Billy (Dacre Montgomery), who treats her terribly. He also tries to dethrone Steve as the #1 in high school. Thing is, Billy acts that way because his dad treats him that way, too. Also, the show adds that explanation at the last second. Max, at least, finally makes sure Billy leaves her and Lucas alone.
As for Joyce (Winona Ryder), it looks like she has a new beau in Bob Newby (Sean Astin), who’s good with electronics. He tries to be a good father figure to Will, giving him advice about the dreams he has about the Upside Down.
However, what Will sees are not dreams, but Bob helps when Will, Hopper and Joyce are trapped in the Hawkins Lab and the Demo-Dogs start escaping from the gate the Army made. His computer skills help them get out, but he is not so lucky. Some people think that Bob was the Barb of season two, but not quite. He went down a hero to the end. It’s too bad he didn’t survive, but maybe the producers didn’t want a love triangle with Joyce, Hopper and Bob. It would have been fine to leave that up in the air until season three.
Speaking of Joyce, her days as a frantic mom ended last year. When the new creature from the Upside Down possesses her son, she reads the Hawkins Lab staff, especially Doctor Owens, the riot act. After they tested the heck out of Will for several months, she wonders why they didn’t see this coming. Also, when she sees the monster has connected itself with him, so that he feels pain when the monster is attacked, she tries anything to get the monster out of him. The best example is when she figures out that if she puts Will under intense heat, it will upset the monster and weaken it. Even seeing him in extreme pain, Joyce is not moved. She tells the monster to get out of her son, and it does. It’s quite different from than when she relied a lot on Hopper when she frantically looked for Will last year.
As for the lab, it’s not quite the site of a diabolic experiment as it was last year. It’s now run by Doctor Owens, who has been testing Will while the other staff has been looking on in other rooms. They continue to dig into the Upside Down, proving they haven’t learned their lesson. At first, it seems he’s just as bad as Brenner. But, he’s just there to clean up the mess that was made. Those who saw him in Aliens may not be surprised by what he’s doing or his attitude. In the end, he realizes how wrong he was, especially when the Demo-Dogs nearly got him. He’s able to even help Hopper make Eleven/Jane his daughter.
In the end, Hawkins is safe, and they have a Snow Ball to help bring things back to normal.
In the Upside Down, though, the monster that possessed Will is still there, waiting for a crack in the gate to strike again. It’s not quite the cliffhanger season one had, but it’s a sign that the little town isn’t out of the woods yet.