People who have known me a long time know that it took me a ridiculously long time to finish the Harry Potter books. This isn’t because I thought the books were bad, it’s because I realized around 12 years old that I wasn’t reading out of genuine enjoyment, but out of social pressure. It was what everyone else was doing. It was something you did to feel relevant in the sort of bookworm social circles that 12-year-old me associated with.
The current version of this is Stranger Things. It’s not a BAD show. But the more I watch the more I can’t help but think that I’m not watching it out of genuine enjoyment, I’m watching because if I don’t watch it right now, someone might spoil it. It feels like a show I’m supposed to like. I WANT to catch up on Jane The Virgin, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, This Is Us, and Hell’s Kitchen. But I NEED to watch Stranger Things because I’m trying to have a blog about movies and tv and Stranger Things is something I should probably write about for SEO purposes. And just think of all the memes I wouldn’t understand if I didn’t watch Stranger Things. I NEED to be able to understand the memes and so apparently I NEED to watch Stranger Things.
I talked a little bit about Season 1 when I included it the pilot in my 30 Pilots in 30 Days project, but honestly Season 2 is kind of a let down compared to Season 1, and I already thought Season 1 was a tad overrated. The one exception to this is of course Steve Harrington, Season 2 Steve is goals whereas I hated Season 1 Steve with a bloody passion.
In Season 1, Will went missing in the very first episode. The other episodes were about finding Will. There was this focus that Season 2 just doesn’t have. I remember asking myself in Episode 4 “ok but… what’s the point? What are these characters actually trying to achieve? What will happen if they fail? I just. don’t. know.”
Granted, this gets better in later episodes but it frustrates me how many episodes I have to sit through to get to something interesting. Imagine sex that only lasts five minutes after two hours of foreplay. That’s what Stranger Things 2 feels like. You have to sit through a lot of tension-building setup scenes for relatively little payoff.
And was it just me, or were the kids not in Season 2 as much as they were in Season 1? I feel like Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and Eleven were part of why Season 1 worked. The actors were not only great talents but also had great chemistry with each other. They had that innocent, endearing dynamic that reminds people of their own childhood. These kids and their shenanigans were one of the major things that Season 1 had going for it, but in Season 2 they barely get any screen time together. In Season 1, the Nancy/Jonathan/Steve love triangle subplot was just that: a subplot. In some of the middle episodes, I felt more invested in their love triangle than anything going on with Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, or Eleven and that’s kind of a problem. If I wanted teenage love triangles I’d watch Secret Life of the American Teenager.
The writers didn’t even bother giving Mike a proper story arc. It’s like they just let Finn Wolfhard show up whenever the It shooting schedule allowed and then they threw him into whatever scenes they could. It’s not until Episode 8 that we really get Season 1 Mike, the leader of the party who takes initiative and drives the plot forward. And need I remind you this season only has 9 episodes.
And then there’s Barb. Now I am #TeamBarb and I have the clearance Hot Topic shirt to prove it. So you can imagine that I was excited when the Duffer Brothers started teasing that there would be Justice for Barb in Season 2. And earlier episodes got me excited as well. Nancy was on a quest for justice. Barb’s parents were hiring a PI. Shit was gonna get good.
But Barb isn’t even mentioned after Episode 6, save for a 50-second news blurb about how the Department of Energy killed her. It’s clear now that once again, Barb exists solely as a means of driving Nancy and Jonathan together. Once Nancy and Jonathan are together, the Duffer Brothers throw together a haphazard resolution to her conflict and move on to Will, the kid everyone seems to like more than Barb despite his complete lack of personality. They get an A for effort, but Barb still feels like a plotline that they kinda throw in and out of the script depending on how necessary it is to drive other plotlines forward.
As far as I’m concerned, Season 2 of Stranger Things just straight up wasn’t that good. I’m surprised I don’t see more people expressing this opinion on the interwebs. Will I watch Season 3 though? Yes. Yes I probably will. After all, we still need #JusticeForBob right? Bring on the Hot Topic merch.