A triumphant return or a massive flop? The verdicts are in
Everyone’s had a week to watch Stranger Things 2, and the verdicts are in. Here’s what the critics think of the next chapter of Hawkins’ spooky tales.
Words: Tshequa Williams
Rating: 4 stars
They say: Rebecca Nicholson says season two is “still as delightful as ever”, but concedes fans of season one should expect a darker mood. With a bigger budget evident, “it certainly looks more expensive, though the special effects are never desperately showy, and its child stars are given emotional storylines demanding greater depth, to which some step up.”
In a nutshell: “Though there remains a frustrating sense that if only a few kinks were ironed out, this could be one of the best TV shows around, it would take a cold heart not to warm to Stranger Things 2.”
Rating: 4 stars
They say: Catherine Gee believes Stranger Things 2 “lives up” to the hype. With a “sinister tension” and character progression, the show has developed into a “bigger, darker and scarier” production, all thanks to the Duffer Brothers.
In a nutshell: “One of the most unique, fresh and creative shows in years”.
They say: Clarisse Loughrey recognizes the Duffer brothers’ use of “weaponised nostalgia” to grab the audience. “Wounds” from the first series are “re-opened” through “the feelings of things lost”, allowing the story to develop further and explore deeper into each character’s past. They tread old ground, but it’s still worth watching.
In a nutshell: “Like most movie sequels, it’s a rehash of what everyone liked about the first one. It’s just, in this case, they largely get away with it”
They say: While remaining “enjoyable”, Jess Joho says Stranger Things occasionally verges into “boring” territory, treading the “exact same ground as last season”. Joho believes season one only worked well due to the “compelling inexplicable mystery of Upside Down” and the “intimate connection” felt with the characters. Season two lacks the same originality, and any further expansion in future storylines might cause the franchise to “collapse under its own weight”.
In a nutshell: “Instead of expanding the universe of the first season with original ideas (aka Aliens 2), they just added a whole lot of sagging weight”
They say: David Griffin feels season two is prone to a few weak spots in several episodes, due to an “abrupt shift in tone.” But he concedes that the show builds on the excitement from season one. New and returning cast members give “excellent performances”, making the second series a ”rousing success”.
In a nutshell: “The Duffer Brothers kept everything you loved about Season one and [have] built a bigger, better version of the series that won’t leave you feeling disappointed”.
They say: Jen Chaney says season two’s “scope of storytelling broadens and becomes more ambitious” than season two, in part due to a larger budget and an “impulse” to make the production bigger. Despite a “noticeable misstep” in one episode, the season is “very confident” and “expertly paced”.
In a nutshell: “Stranger Things 2 is a suspenseful, thoroughly satisfying follow-up that goes to emotionally deeper places than its predecessor.”
The New Yorker
They say: Troy Patterson describes Stranger Things 2 as having a “Spielbergian sense of wonder”, with the season being more of a “self-contained” “sequel”. The “kids on the bikes are riding toward adulthood”, showing the season’s newfound maturity.
In a nutshell: “The sympathetic viewer must imagine himself as a fellow-hero, while simultaneously feeling that the children imagine themselves as something like the kids in “The Goonies” when they are racing on their banana-seat bikes to confront problems spawned by awful monsters and awfully inscrutable adults.”
They say: Alison Herman concedes that despite being “neither wholly invested in its success nor cheering for its failure”, she found herself being pulled in by the show with some emotive parts bringing her to “tears”. The show’s aim to become “wider and richer” was successful, allowing the characters to develop in more depth.
In a nutshell: “Stranger Things 2 [is] a season of television that, like its predecessor, has its flaws, but overcomes them through the sheer strength of its stars’ charisma and the expertly choreographed momentum of its plotting.”