Stranger Things 2: Chapter Two Review

STRANGER THINGS 2: CHAPTER TWO: TRICK OR TREAT, FREAK

Hey, give me some of that candy, would you? – Hopper

I feel like I can hear the spirit of Chris Farley’s Herlihy Boy from Saturday Night Live resonating throughout this installment of Stranger Things. “Let the boy watch your house!” Now it’s “Let this girl beg for candy door to door.” El wants to trick or treat, but Hopper ain’t having it. It’s understandable, as he sees the risk in her being in public, although isolating Eleven isn’t my favorite portion of Season 2. Like I said, we can see it’s being done for the reunion of El with Mike, but it’s still fairly annoying.

Hopper is dealing with a super-powered adolescent that’s getting fed up with her captivity, and he’s also got these pumpkins rotting in this field. These things do not appear to be holding up very well, and one has to wonder why. What we can surmise about the situation is we wouldn’t be spending time staring at disgusting pumpkins if there WEREN’T a major reason behind it. But, for now, the cause remains invisible. Also for now, bounce out of the patch, Jim. That’s just gross.

It’s fitting that this is the review that releases on Halloween, as this is the episode that takes place on Halloween. As the team decks themselves out in Ghostbusters costumes (including at school, which was incredible), I’m reminded of my cardboard proton pack. Yes, I dressed as Peter Venkman for a church lock in. I believe this incident occurred in 1986, but it was right around that point in time. Even then, I was a lady-killer. Here we get the dual Venkman debate, as Lucas doesn’t want to be Winston, and I was immediately reminded of Dave Kim not wanting to be Data on The Goldbergs in The Goonies tribute episode.

I was impressed with the costume work, which from what we can tell, the duds were stitched and gussied up by Joyce Byers, although we technically only see her working on Will’s. For some reason, Mike’s mom doesn’t seem like the type, even though she makes a mean casserole.

Speaking of “mean” and the Wheeler family, Mike’s reaction to Max is a little, forgive me, childish. He’s a kid, so it’s more understandable, as he misses Eleven desperately, but he’s not even giving Max a chance. When you consider the relative outcast status he and his pals have enjoyed due to their dungeon, video game, and science exploits, one would think those guys would be the most inclusive of others. Growth is necessary here, but the purpose of Mike’s tantrum is simply to remind the viewer that he wants Eleven back in his life just as badly as she wants him in hers.

Drunk Nancy isn’t exactly Fun Nancy now, is she? That’s what you get for going to a party where the tag line from the flyer is, “Come and Get Sheetfaced.” Very clever. Nancy is drowning her Barb guilt and her Barb sorrows in heavy alcohol, and in this moment, we again see a Steve Harrington that we can get behind. Most are invested in that Nancy-Jonathan pairing, which we discussed yesterday, but Steve is NOT a bad guy. In fact, with each passing episode, he becomes more of the exact opposite. This is a series that showcases growth and integrity in young people, which is something if you’re a parent, you should mention to your sons and daughters as you watch.

So many shows depict kids as bratty, selfish, and stupid. Here, we have children that are into science, that believe in team (even though Mike is an example of the wrong kind of rules and regulations of a “club), that don’t curse out their parents on a regular basis, and that make generally acceptable mistakes for their ages. Most of their emotional outbursts emanate from relationship desires, which we can all relate to from our youth. It’s a positive illustration of kids that strive for fun, strive for first love, and sometimes stumble and fall. Never, however, are any of them left entirely alone to fend for themselves.

Within the constructs of Stranger Things, as the series delves far further into legitimate horror than its more science fiction-styled beginnings, the message is important, and even if unintentional, the Duffer Brothers and their team have also created an homage to the 1980s kids we loved and grew up with both in our lives and also within our entertainment. They can infuriate you, and here we saw that on full display with Mike, but all of them have their moments if you’re willing to look deeper into the essence underneath the surface.

Nancy can’t hold her liquor, and Steve becomes the victim of it. That was quite the rant, basically asserting that they killed her, which of course isn’t true. Through all of this, Steve does a relatively good job of maintaining his composure, although words absolutely can hurt, and often do. Unfortunately for him, the second he leaves, he basically handed the woman of his dreams over to Jonathan Byers, who skirts around the gal that flirted with him as soon as he walked into the party. We knew where we were headed before the season ever started, although we’re moving along at the pace of a crawl, rather than a sprint.

As badly as we feel for Steve’s impending teenage bachelorhood, we still feel worse for Will Byers, who has yet another terrifying vision. This kid’s life sucks. Had he gone the way of Barb, he might seriously have been better off. When you can’t even walk around in your everyday life without visions of Sunnydale after dark, but this time instead of emotionally troubled vampires, it’s giant parasitic, mind-controlling tentacled monsters, I’m pretty much cashed. You can make change out of me at this point. My check is already deposited. I’m done. He confides in Mike, who isn’t as much help as usual, because he’s preoccupied with depression over El.

Will is called a freak by some older, loser, bullying kids amidst trick or treating, which helps give the episode its name. It also plays into Jonathan telling his younger brother that being normal isn’t always the goal, and you have to be you. Another thing Stranger Things does is provide a refuge for the…well, for the strange. These children are different, at least the four younger boys, as they’re both younger than their age and also older, when you consider the intellect. Jonathan is also not so subtly trying to keep Will from bonding with Bob the Brain, who he’s no fan of at this point in the proceedings.

Dustin and Lucas are both still smitten with Max, and both are the only ones that don’t seem completely distracted, as Mike is jealous of her existence in El’s absence and Will is dealing with hell on earth. However, as ridiculous as Mike’s attitude was at times, especially when he “wasn’t having fun” after Max ruined the “best night of the year,” somehow Dustin’s night was the most ridiculous.

As unfortunate millennials would likely describe it on social media, “Dat thing in the trashcan tho.” Let’s be perfectly clear here. That thing isn’t friendly. It’s not to be trifled with. It should be killed immediately, after Dustin alerts adults that would understand the danger involved. His mom might not be the one to tell, but from the sounds it made alone, homeskillet is a problem. This is Stranger Things on Netflix, not Better Things on FX. If he/she/it isn’t a monster, I’ll sell my house…errrr I will move out of my relatively nice apartment.

The final point I’ll make is that the Duffer Brothers are bookending the season with lead writing and directing credits in the first two and last two episodes of the season. In the initial pair of installments, I’m less interested in Eleven than ever before. That’s been a bit of a failing early, even with the flashback to El escaping the Upside Down that we see in the first third of this episode. We’re assuredly building to big things with her, but her “serious” scenes have never been my favorites, despite how exceptional Millie Bobby Brown is in the role.

At times, she’s simply boring, when she should be anything but. There are nine episodes this season, so it has to be parceled out, but I cared more about Mike and El missing one another than I did anything about what makes her special. That’s hopefully something that will be addressed sooner, rather than later, although based on the Chapter Three title, “The Pollywog,” the next ep is largely going to be about Dustin’s newest buddy.

You know, the one he should murder as soon as possible? Yeah, that one. What’d you think?

I’m @JMartOutkick. What’s wrong with Three Musketeers?

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