I loved the first season of Stranger Things and I was getting slightly nervous about the second season before I watched it. Part of the reason was down to the marketing. The first season was a real word of mouth hit. I wasn’t aware of any marketing at all apart from the show appearing on the Netflix main menu. But the marketing for season 2 has been everywhere. They kept bringing out these teaser posters which were in the style of classic 80s movies. A few examples are below. I personally wasn’t really sure I liked this. I mean, retro mashup art like this is 100% up my street, but for a big TV show to be doing it itself, I just felt it was being a bit too obvious about homaging old films. A bit too self aware or something. I liked how the season 1 homages were fairly subtle. The audience had to recognise the influences from King, Spielberg and Carpenter etc. These posters meant they were openly admitting their influences. I wasn’t sure if I liked that. I was concerned they might have fallen victim to their first season success and starting to believe their own hype. I’ve seen that happen before. Or perhaps it was because I felt it diminished Stranger Things’ own standing by using old movies to help publicise it.

But it wasn’t just these posters. There were tie-ins with Spotify and Shazam, as well as several other brand tie-ins. And also a Super Bowl ad which placed Eggos front and centre. I know some people who said they were sick of Stranger Things even before Season 2 was out. And the thing is, it didn’t need it. The fan base was ready for the show anyway, and they would spread the word again I’m sure if it was good. Were Netflix worried it wasn’t going to be good enough? Perhaps they were just really backing their star show just now to get people knowing it’s a Netflix show. I just did start to get slightly worried that either it wasn’t going to be good or that the 80s references would start to be too contrived.

But, I’m glad to say that I loved it. I possibly enjoyed it even more than the first season. And that has nothing to do with any 80s references. They’re just icing on the cake. It was the development of the characters that gripped me this season, and that fact made me particularly happy and relieved. They didn’t just sell out and go for the easy references. Obviously there are things like Ghostbusters which are referenced a lot, but I still thought that the plot and in particular the characters outshone any accusations about them focussing too much on the nostalgia.

I’ve watched the extra show ‘Beyond Stranger Things’ and also listened to an interview with The Duffer Brothers on the Nerdist podcast. It’s interesting to hear some more about the writing and production process and understanding the Duffer Brothers’ influences.

What I have found interesting is that people are really being quite opinionated about whether Season 2 is better than Season 1. It’s like everyone has to compare it directly. I’m not sure if I’ve really noticed that much before for a TV show. Normally you just think about whether a show still has whatever magic it might have had at one point or whether it is in decline. But everyone seems to be debating about which season is best. It’s almost like it’s being treated like a film. And in fact it was almost marketed like a film, being called Stranger Things 2. I’m not aware of many tv shows that advertise each season with the number after it (apart from the latest seasons of Red Dwarf). Perhaps its because of the binge nature of these Netflix shows, that people are reviewing them more like films because that’s how they digest them.

I’m not trying to think about it in that way. I’m trying to view it like an ongoing show and a world that we are slowly discovering more of. The first season is always going to be a bit more mysterious as it’s all new. And the fact there was no hype on the first season meant it will register more with people if they enjoy it, whereas season 2 had all that pressure on it to live up to the hype. But for me they took what was good about season 1 and developed it well, focussing strongly on the characters, which was totally the right move. I believe that The Duffer Brothers had started writing Season 2 before Season 1 aired anyway, so hopefully they weren’t too influenced by the hype and success of Season 1. There were bits about Season 1 that were better and bits about Season 2 that were better, but it’s all just one big show, and it’s a world that I’m even more eager to watch more of.

In my usual style here are my bullet points about the season.


  • As mentioned above I loved the character development in season 2. It’s very impressive how much they gave each character the spotlight in places, and room to develop. We saw into the homes of Dustin and Lucas this time, and met their parents. Mike’s parents had more great scenes. Hopper and Eleven had a cool relationship starting up. Nancy and Jonathan’s relationship developed. Steve and Dustin was a great pairing. There were a lot of great pairings in this season and I just felt that every character really got a chance to develop and get more of the spotlight.
  • Barb got referenced which was cool. In fact she got referenced loads of times. I wonder how much of that was as a result of social media pressure from the fans. They could have gotten away with fewer references I think, but it was still quite cool.
  • There were also a ton of new characters. I did really like Max and Billy although I’m not 100% sure why they were brought in. It was certainly interesting having the love interest for Dustin and Lucas, and Billy represented the bad bully role after Steve had become more of a hero, but I did think there would be some kind of twist with Billy or Max that just never came.
  • I hadn’t heard at all that Sean Astin and Paul Reiser were going to be in the show. I think I gave out a little yelp when I saw their names appear in the awesome opening credits. Both fantastic actors with strong links to the 80s, and both were great in this.
  • Obviously the fact that it opens in an awesome 80s arcade in the very first episode is great.
    I bet they had fun building that set. Very apt that Dustin and Lucas are fighting over the Princess in this game, reflecting how they fight over Max later on. And it’s nice that a game like Dig Dug gets a big role,
    even being the name of an episode. Good game choice as you could say the digging motif in the game is like Hopper digging down into the Upside Down. The hosts of the fantastic Ten Pence Arcade podcast, Vic and Shaun, spotted that you couldn’t actually have the name MADMAX on the high score table as the game only allowed three initials. Artistic licence was taken here, I assume. And also the cabinet they used didn’t look like a real cab as it had a flat-screen TV in it. Perhaps this was due to refresh rates of how old monitors appear on film etc.
  • I know there’s been split opinions about Episode 7 when Eleven went to Chicago. Personally I liked that she got to go on this adventure, experience the big bad world and also it was kind of like a training camp,
    letting her return with stronger powers. I did find it slightly strange that she got to do this long bus journey, spend at least one night there, and a long bus journey back, all while her friends were in trouble back in Hawkins. It all seemed to happen very quickly. Also I thought something more would happen with 008, because Eleven’s mum had made such a point about going to visit her. But it seemed to end abruptly with Eleven just leaving. I thought perhaps she would be bringing 008 back with her or something, for a Hawkins Lab team-up. I personally didn’t like the character of 008 much. Not sure if it was the writing, the directing or the acting, but I just didn’t warm to her, although I did love her powers. I can imagine a spin-off season coming.
  • Once again so many great 80s movies are homaged in some way in this season. I won’t be able to list them all but the main ones that sprung out for me were as follows…
  • Aliens – because there was a group of aliens/demogorgons this time not just one like in the first season and also because Paul Reiser was working for ‘the man’
  • Alien3 – because there was a ‘dog alien’
  • The Goonies – obviously even just having Sean Astin in the show is a bit of a Goonies reference, but I thought it was great having him get excited about the drawings being a map and then genius giving him the line about pirate treasure. It wasn’t gratuitious. It wasn’t an in your face reference. It didn’t affect your understanding of the moment if you hadn’t seen The Goonies, but it was just a really nice touch and Sean Astin pulled it off perfectly.
  • Gremlins – because Dustin had a cute little pet that he fed and it became a monster. I think Dart also didn’t like light?
  • Ghostbusters – kind of obvious this one, but I loved the awkward Venkman/Winston chat between Mike and Lucas
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark – Hopper stops to reach back to get his hat, in a very Indy way, when the agents rescue him in the tunnel.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – the bit with Jonathan and Nancy sleeping in separate rooms and then Jonathan going to her room, I’m sure it’s been done in loads of movies but my good mate Sam from Howling Growler Beer pointed out that it certainly feels like it’s homaging Temple of Doom.
  • E.T. – Eleven dressed up in the ghost sheet and also Dustin used a trail of food to lure Dart out into the garden
  • Back to the Future – I didn’t actually spot this one but Jamie Benning from Filmumentaries.com pointed out that the camcorder that Sean Astin has seems to be the same make that Doc Brown has
  • He-Man – He-Man or MOTU figures make an appearance more than once. Most notably when Lucas’ little sister is playing with He-Man, and I like how it’s a bare He-Man without his harness, sword or shield, as I’m sure that’s how 70% of He-Man figures ended up after kids lost the accessories. But at the start of the season when Mike’s mum asks him to fill a box for the yard sale he seems to toss in a couple of Masters of the Universe figures. I initially thought it was maybe Mer-Man and I thought ‘poor Mer-Man’, but upon closer inspection I actually discovered it was He-Man and Man-At-Arms! I think I just lost a wee bit of respect for Mike’s character.

There’s so much more I could mention but these were the main points and retro references I could remember. I think it’s all done in a very respectful, artistic and non-gratuitous way. You don’t need to get these references to enjoy the show and they’re not forced in at the detriment of the plot at all. Quite the opposite I would say.

So in a nutshell, I loved Season 2 of Stranger Things. Hard to say if it’s ‘better’ than Season 1 or not, but I don’t think you have to say if it’s better or not. The fact is that my love for Stranger Things grew even more and I can’t wait for Season 3. Job done.