Disclosure: This is it. This is the last review for this season. We binged on Season Two over the three days of the birthday weekend. We didn't close out the season. And to be honest, I didn't even keep up with the postings, despite the date on the post.
I loved Stranger Things S1. So did Kent. And for season two, as it was released on my birthday, it was my gift to myself. I took the day off work and we watched a handful of episodes. No, we do not Whole Show binge.
Some people lamented the lack of D&D in the second season, and I get it, kids wouldn't just abandon D&D over one summer, despite the trauma connecting their campaign to real life. But as film, as art, opening this season in a video game arcade was downright perfect. And playing the reviled but loved DragonQuest just oozed icing on my birthday cake. You seem, I loved Don Bluth. Even back then, an arcade game that had fantasy and Bluth was perfect. But that 50 cent quarter eater was a fucking fucker of a game. I loved it, I hated it.
So, the first season ended with the defeat of the DemoGorgon and the loss of Eleven. Will is back but she is gone and their lives are changed forever, especially Mike's. Will is just not the same and continues to have nightmares and ... flashbacks (flashovers?) to the UpsideDown. The research lab has been co-opted by a bunch of other scientists who are trying to understand the breach (into said UpsideDown) and seal it. And they are studying Will, under the guise of therapy. But really, they are not the Big Bad this season, and are kind of helpful in a top secret government lab sort of way.
I said it on FB, and I say it here. If season one was Alien (single alien, eerie, dark) then season two is Aliens with its bigger scope, tactical thinking and Paul Reiser. There is one episode that makes that comparison obvious. But this is genre mashing, so we go all the way, even giving us a cabin in the woods and a high school dance.
If the season made one misstep, it was with the after-show. The Walking Dead does it, Game of Thrones did it; almost everyone is doing a show after the show, where cast & guests talk about the show, all meta fanboy like. But the mistake was having this as a "you binged the series, now binge the aftershow". I like to pace things, so I would have liked to flip back and forth, listening to people talk about each episode and savouring it. But instead, I had to listen to the kids struggle to have concrete discussions about themes and ideas, that they didn't actually grasp until it was mentioned to them out loud. Sure, they are a charming bunch (but, Finn Wolfhard [that's his D&D character name, right?] is probably going to grow up to be a Corey) but they are adolescents, so I only have so much patience.
The season ends without any real closure. It was very much a setup for a coming season. They don't so much as defeat the Mind Flayer (what, no one got pedantic and said "It's called an Illithid") as get away from it, and keep it at bay in the UpsideDown. So, darkness is still out there and our world is still in danger.