I do not normally review television shows, but the movie theater was showing a set of vomit-inducing flops, and “Stranger Things” season two premiered on Netflix, so I could not pass up the opportunity to take a break from the theater and watch from the comfort of my own apartment.
Not that I was comfortable the whole time. In fact, most of the time I was so intrigued with the show, I was not paying attention to any measure of comfort. “Stranger Things” is just so consistently good. Every episode of season one was well-measured, without a second of screentime going to waste, and I had high hopes for season two. Almost too high — I was nervous that season two would fall far short of the hype, as these sorts of things tend to do. I thought that Netflix would try to capitalize on season one’s success and insert itself more directly into the showrunner’s process.
My fears seem to be unfounded, because aside from a two million dollar budget bump per episode, Netflix seems to have kept its corporate hands off “Stranger Things” season two. The first episode, titled “MADMAX,” asks more questions than it answers — much like its first season counterpart.
“MADMAX” is a bit of a slow burner, following “Stanger Things’” formula of starting with slower-paced episodes and building to the tension-filled, eyes-glued-to-the-screen, spine-stiffening episodes nearer the season finale. All of the things we loved about the first season are still there: lovable characters, funny dialogue, ’80s nostalgia out the wazoo, nefarious government organizations, and of course, the monster-thing hiding in the background, just waiting for its moment to begin terrorizing children and fighting with strange, numerically-named, psionic girls.
As mentioned earlier, the premiere moves slowly, taking time to ask more questions and build on the mystery that is the Upside Down. The U.S. Department of Energy still seems to be experimenting with their portal to the Upside Down, though the premiere does not give us any reason why. Will, the boy who went missing during the first season and sparked most of the conflict, is experiencing flashes of the Upside Down as the anniversary of his imprisonment there grows closer. Police Chief Hopper is hiding something at his home in the woods. But with the exception of these aforementioned conflicts and a journalist-turned-conspiracy nut claiming that a Russian girl with psychic abilities is living in Hawkins, the town seems to have escaped the events of season one unscathed. It is simply a sleepy Midwestern town pumped as full of ’80s memorabilia as the screenwriters could fit.
The charm of the town just makes the mystery behind “Stranger Things” all the more compelling — compelling me to skip my homework and watch it all. The show has put me in a predicament that only “Lost” and “Game of Thrones” have managed to do: I very badly want to binge the whole season, but I know if I do, I will have to wait another two years for more. Bravo, “Stranger Things.” Bravo.