People were wondering if the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things would live up to the first season. Last year, it was a surprise hit about kids from the 80’s battling forces barely anyone could understand.
This time, another threat is headed for Hawkins, Indiana, much worse than one monster. However, this season is still a classic not only because of battling the monster, but seeing key characters face the ultimate challenge…puberty.
Looking at the overall arc, it’s actually season one in reverse. Last year, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp)was missing in the Upside Down (UD), and his friends found a mysterious girl named Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) who dominated the show and helped save Will. This time, it’s Will that is front and center as the UD may be leaking out to Hawkins and possessing him.
It really began at the end of season one, when Will spits out something from inside of him. He also gets a flashback of the UD. Those flashbacks intensify to the point that he sees what seems to be a new monster, maybe thanks to the Hawkins Lab nearby. He’s been tested by the lab since then, and has been drawing pictures of a tentacle monster threatening the town. Near the end of episode three, the monster seems to go inside him. Seeing Will acquire knowledge from the monster, which is apparently a vine monster, and eventually be possessed by it is a scary journey. Seeing Will literally speak for the monster, even tricking some guards to their death, is chilling
And what about that “thing”? Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) found it in his garbage can, and thinks it’s a cute pollywog. It is, and enjoys Three Musketeers. He even calls it D’artagnan, or Dart for short. It’s not long, though, before it becomes a Demogorgon that’s shaped like a dog (hence, DemoDogs). His attraction to Dart, and how he tries to hide it from the others when it starts eating his cat, puts his friends in trouble. It gets worse when other DemoDogs show up.
Eleven has an equally intense journey, and it’s connected with Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour). In flashbacks early in the season, it’s revealed how she survived after killing the Demogorgon. She had to knock out a guy with a hard squirrel to get his coat, and has been eating Eggos Hopper had left her. Eventually, they stay at a cabin, but he is scared to let her loose. He’s still upset over the loss of his family and his own daughter. He’s also upset about a mysterious plague that’s affecting local crops, maybe the UD leaking into town.
She is very angry at being kept hidden for nearly a year, and seeing her shove dishes at Hopper with her mind is scary. It’s also understandable. She wants to be with her friends, especially Mike (Finn Wolfhard). She has a mental link with him, thanks to blindfolding herself, but never sees him in person. She eventually heads to Hawkins Middle School and sees Mike through a window with Max (Sadie Sink), a new girl in town. Eleven causes Max to slip, proving that she is becoming a normal girl. She’s jealous.
She also tracks down her mother, Terry Ives, who is still in a rocking chair in a trance, Through her powers, Eleven learns her name is Jane, and she sees how Dr. Brenner kidnapped her and other kids in his experiments. She also sees how she traumatized her mom beyond hope, and there’s hints Mom may have been just like Eleven. This is a big step for her.
The biggest step is actually connected to the start of the series, where a girl named Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) causes major havoc in Pittsburgh with the cops. She also has a tattoo of “008”. Eleven finds her in episode 7 (which hints at a spinoff or a preliminary story for next year) and gets sucked in Kali’s supposed mission of striking back against others who hurt her. Kali even teaches Eleven how to move a freight car with her mind by tapping into inner rage. While Eleven decides to part ways with Kali, that’s a lesson that will eventually come in handy.
Kali’s power, by the way, is causing hallucinations. She even makes Eleven see Dr. Brenner again, who tells her she has a wound inside that will kill her if it doesn’t heal. She’s able to tell him to leave, but it’s also something she uses.
Question is, are there more kids like Kali and Eleven, and will they gather at Hawkins next year to fight whatever is next? Also, the ex-lab employee they tracked down claims Brenner is somehow alive. If he is, will he be looking for Kali, too?
The bottom line is that Eleven is slowly growing up, and wants to have a real life. She wants her friends, and won’t be hidden again. She’s finally reunited them late in episode 8, but Mike is worried he’ll lose her again when she has to close the gate to the UD at the lab. She says that won’t happen.
Indeed, when she faces the gate at Hawkins Lab, she uses that inner rage to seal it off. After all, she claims last season she opened the gate. It’s only right she close it this time. Through this, Hopper realizes he should let her go, and finally be a girl rather than an experiment gone wrong.
We’ll look at the other characters in another article especially how Joyce is a more fierce mom this season compared to last year, and this year’s tragic death.