You’re probably wondering why I’m posting a ‘spoiler free’ review, right? Especially in this era of immediately instant gratification where we can consume all seven courses of our pop-culture meal and have room for several deserts and a podcast. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fight the urge to binge this show myself, but I’m really glad I made the decision not to. It’s too good to consume quickly, and personally, this is a meal that I’d like to savor…and I’m betting I’m not alone. I kind of wish they’d have released an episode (or two) a week, like they did with ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ so we could all discuss/dissect/conjecture/predict together. Plus, I don’t know how much re-watchability serial television has. I can watch movies over and over again, but television requires a different kind of commitment, which is why I left the spoilers (most of them anyway) out of this.
Firstly, much ado has been made about the nostalgia aspect of the show, and while I get it, I never felt hit over the head with it. In either season. Maybe because I grew up in that era and it’s familiar? Ultimately, I consider it like a ‘period piece.’ The 80’s nostalgia is a fun aspect of the show, but the least interesting really. I feel like contemporary television or cinema that takes place at some point in 20th century history is bound to be a at least somewhat romantic of that era. I mean I’m sure ‘Boogie Nights’ wasn’t an spot on accurate portrayal of life in the 70’s, but it was great for texture.
I’m sure a lot of people who consider themselves ‘aficionados of the craft of storytelling’ could take this season and tick the plot holes, continuity problems, or whatever their beef is off their little lists. But that’s a killjoy. While that stuff is important, it’s not why I keep watching a show or movie. Case in point, ‘Breaking Bad’ is one of the greatest shows ever made but I couldn’t make it past the episode where they drop an ATM on some tweekers head. I fast forwarded through the series and watched the last episode and was glad I did. Why? I think I just hated the characters. Cranston is a genius actor, but Walter White? Not a fan. I get thats the point of the show…to take a mild mannered man, and see how far he’ll go. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve watched too many people destroy their lives, for real, that I not as willing to invest my time in watching yet another…albeit fictional. Don’t get me wrong, I love reprehensible, gross cretins, who do awful things. I mean, ‘The Young Ones’ is my all time favorite show, and ‘Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ cynical depravity is golden.
‘Stranger Things’ however, is one of the rare programs where I love all the characters. Where I’m emotionally invested in everyone. Even people like Billy, who is nearly irredeemable, has a compelling story to tell…just ask Karen Wheeler. Somehow, the Duffer Brothers managed to cast actors on this show who are an incredibly gifted with emotionally honesty. Gaten Matarazzo who plays Dustin and Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven are raw talents. Nothing they do feels contrived or forced.They’re a blast to watch. Maybe child actors are able to get eto the core of their character in a way that proves a little bit more difficult for some adults, as I imagine adults have a lot more of an emotional swamp they have to wad through. Eleven reminds me so much of daughter, who has had three open heart surgeries. The show puts her in so many situations that trigger my paternal instincts that I find myself genuinely concerned for the well being of this fictional character…the most powerful character, and yet, the most vulnerable. All the kids, I know or knew some version of them in real life. Sean Austins and Winona Ryder, in lesser hands would be novelty casting. Passing the baton in come corny way. However they play it completely straight, and who’s familiarity does nothing but help the piece as a whole. Ultimately, that what it is for me, for this or any show. If you’re able to make me fall in love with the characters I’ll go pretty much anywhere with them. Season two continues the personal journeys started in season one. I don’t want to reveal too much, especially about the unlikely team of Dustin and Steve. But it’s ingenious how all the characters are fighting to save the world together, but all struggling on their own separate little existential battlefield.
As for the genre stuff, there is some real Lovecraftian vibes you’ll dig. The tentacles of cosmicism creep through the cracks of the Upsidedown like rotting vines, and contrast the warmth of the emotional core of the show really well. Both seasons, are beautifully composed, always with great attention to detail, lots of stuff going on in the background/corners, especially in the Beyers household. The school, and junkyard are glowing with autumn vibes, as is the heart to heart between Dustin and Steve on the train tracks and it’s perfect.
I hope they take their time with season three and do it right. I understand there’s a big demand for more episodes as soon as possible, and since we are dealing with child actors they are under the gun to get it done in a timely fashion. I’m excited to see where they go next and the fact that I have no idea is a good thing.