Having finished the show, I have opinions (when don’t I?), and I intend to share them with you (as always).
What I liked:
The friendship between Joyce and Hopper
As you’ll later see, I really love platonic friendship under drastic situations such as this. The brief glimpses at their shared past was fantastic, the way in which they support each other throughout figuring out what the heck is going on in the aftermath of Will’s return was delightful. And I hope against all hope that the series does not move toward putting them together as romantic interests.
WILL WAS ACTUALLY IN THE SHOW
After S1, Earl and I spoke at length about how strange it must have been for Noah Schnapp to land this role and then… not really be in the show. His character is such a huge part of the plot… and yet, he’s always in the periphery. So I was very happy to see him actually IN the show this time around. And it was lovely to see the way in which his disappearance affected both him and his mother (Jonathon less so), but also the after effects of his trauma and the manner in which the upside down followed him right back out.
The expansion of the threat
How many times have you loved a show, only to get to season two and realize that the people in the driver’s seat didn’t really know how they were going to escalate when it came to continuing on? A bigger bad isn’t always the best option, but they managed to keep things (mostly) in line with S1, without making me roll my eyes, or feeling overly repetitious. Always nice in genre shows that occasionally fall victim to the misguided whims of studios.
Steve (not as Nancy’s boyfriend, but definitely as the babysitter)
I was not a fan of Steve in season one. He was a jerk and his redemption arc was too shallow for me. But this weird big brother type friendship with Dustin in season 2 was pretty great. It says a lot about a guy who’s willing to give a kid the kind of ammo that comes in a Farrah Fawcett aerosol. It also says a lot that he (almost immediately) takes up with a kid who is not his (in limbo) girlfriend’s little brother to deal with Dart. He came into the game late, but he’s still going to do what needs to be done, when he could pull a comb through that hair and run the opposite direction.
That being said….
Dustin will ALWAYS be my favorite
Where Mike is broody, Lucas is logical, and Will is just trying to figure out WTF is going on with himself, Dustin is a little ball of sunshine. He knows exactly how dire their situation is and he’s the first to look for, find, and grab ahold of hope with both hands. It makes complete sense that he’d be the one who takes for granted the fact that Steve might not be naturally inclined to help. It makes sense that he would be the one scared out of his mind and still on top of the explanations for how their real-world situation can be explained by D&D. It makes sense that he would see a creature and not consider where it came from, just be caught up in the wonder of this new (albeit dangerous) thing. Dustin is the golden thread run through the series that drags everything else up so that it doesn’t drown in the darkness of the world that could so easily suck us in.
Now, let’s take a moment to touch on what I didn’t like.
Nancy & Jonathan
One of my favorite things in S1 was Nancy and Jonathan’s weird friendship. Even with him being a total creeper with the photos (seriously, not okay dude), I never got an actual sense either of them were romantically inclined. And I never wanted them to be*. I long for platonic friendship in situations like these, I wanted, so desperately for them to simply be friends through the whole series… but no, they had to get together because the conspiracy guy calls them out and then, nothing comes of it. There was nothing to make me believe that wasn’t thrown in on a whim…. Nothing to make me care that it happened.
WTF was up with Episode 7?
The information given in E7 was not, in itself a problem. It was that an entire episode was dedicated to only that.
So we see number Eight in the opening scene of E1, and then…. Nothing. She’s all but forgotten until she gets a whole episode.
I liked Eight. I would love to have had more of her (and I’m sure she’ll show up again in S3 or S4) but the episode was utterly disconnected when presented by itself. If they’d broken up the Chicago goings-on and spread them through other episodes, it would have been a wonderful addition. It was an opportunity to open up the effects of the upside down and the potential for the existence of 1-7, 9 &10, and how their existence effected the world at large. But the tone was so different, that, woven through it could have worked. Set apart, it felt like a plan for a spin-off.
The amount of set-up for Season 3
We know there are going to be two more seasons. It’s a thing now. But there were too many things that felt like we were being fed information that’s not going to really matter until next year when S3 dumps. And if some of those things never come around to be a bigger part of the show, I’ll have an even bigger problem with it. Max’s brother is loathsome (and not just because of that barf-worthy hair). But if all he was was a character developement device for Max… he got way too much screen time. See issues with Eight and her gang above.
Where was my Pissboy cameo?
I was REALLY hoping that there would be a moment at the Snow Ball, where you see pissboy in the background. Eleven doesn’t see him. Mike doesn’t see him. But he gets one look at her and pisses himself because he has 11-style PTSD, because there is no chance that kid made it out of his encounters with Eleven mentally unscarred.
*I don’t like Nancy and Steve either.