There are many things that make Stranger Things one of the best shows Netflix, and Hollywood for that matter, have to offer. The kids are, for me, the primary thing that elevates it to that standing. Sure, Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers) and David Harbour (Jim Hopper) slay, and they offer a fantastic anchor to this cast, but without the quirk, wit, and sheer joy that our four heroes bring to the screen, I would’ve never gotten into this show the way that I did. So for me, my main thought at the end of last season was: “Where is Eleven?”, and “they seriously better bring her back.”
And with that thought, welcome to Episode Two. When we last left off, we learned that El is safely living at Hopper’s cabin-in-the-woods, and appears to have been there long enough to develop quick the rhythm with our lovable sheriff. This episode picks up, helping us to understand where she has been in the interim, living in the woods of Indiana, in late-December and early-January. (But she has super powers, so I’m sure it wasn’t too cold.) Quickly, we’re brought back to the present, and get to peek back into the continued story of fatherhood that is Hopper and Eleven’s relationship.
The loss of Sarah, Hopper’s infant child, clearly still bears a mark on this kind and protective father. He chides El for going straight for waffles, instead of the much healthier Hungry Man boxes. He teaches her about different words and life traits. He protects her from the outside world that has already done her such harm, in an effort to push back the darkness that has shrouded her entire life. Although quite broken and flawed, Hop’s intentions and desires to keep El safe and secure are pure and bore out in love. The ‘compromise’ they make, and how this whole wonderful story is starting to play out is teeing up some of the best chemistry and acting this show will see all season. Millie Bobby Brown is an absolute star, and we’ll be seeing that again, and again, this season as she absolutely kills it as a moody teenager.
And now for the other side of this season’s story: (A distinction that will have to be made for quite some time, so brace yourself.)
“Who ya gunna call?” One of the best laughs I had was hearing Dustin’s groaning at realizing that ‘The Nerds’ had arrived to school on Halloween, only to realize that everyone else had decided not to dress up this year, but our boys in beige had. “When do people make these decisions?” This misstep surely won’t phase Lucas and Dustin in their continued quest to win the friendship of the show’s mysterious new girl Max, right? Not likely, as these two are way too suave. Likely helped by Max’s secret interest in also making friends in this new town, Lucas and Dustin are able to secure her accompaniment on their trick-or-treating adventures, although I imagine Max didn’t bargain for the strangeness of this group.
Will’s continued visions are throwing everyone for a loop. His mom freaks out when he uses the bathroom unexpectedly in the morning. His friends aren’t quite treating him the same anymore. He, along with at least a few others, are pretty broken by the events of last fall. Will is quite confused by what’s happening to him, and has been for awhile. He’s a fragile creature, at least to those around him, and his freaking out and disappearing all the time isn’t helping that. And although he is publicly suffering, Nancy, Steve, and Johnathan have been doing it privately. Nancy’s quest for justice appears to be just beginning, with a good night of getting trashed.
Oh dear readers, hang on. Only two episodes deep, this ride is only going to get, dare I say, stranger. But to be fair, it hasn’t been all that strange yet. Just town sheriffs taking in lost girls and middle school boys having ‘True Sight’ into another dimension.