Stranger Things Season Two S/T : Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

So let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Stranger Things Season Two wasn’t as good as season one. Okay, I said it. After immediately finishing(binge watching) the second season of Stranger Things way back in October I was concentrating on all the good I sat and watched in one weekend. The Duffer Brothers continued to hit the right notes, but there was a bit of slag in this season as well. There were some missteps character-wise, and some plot lines and story diversions that could’ve been handled better.

There was plenty that was great about it, for sure. The Hopper/Eleven dynamic was great, Dustin continues to be a great character that delivers comic relief while showing some depth in the last episode, the Lucas/Max relationship is sweet and opens Lucas’ character up quite a bit. Billy Hargrove is a new and menacing force in the Stranger Things universe. He seems to be on the edge of going full psychopath at any moment, and his look is like Jason Patric from Lost Boys meets Jean Claude Van Damme with a touch of homo-eroticism. He’s a strange character, and in some ways far scarier than any demogorgon could ever be. And that whole last episode gave me so many feels I wasn’t sure what to do with all of them(I boxed them up and am saving them for a day when I need a pick-me-up.)

So the not-so-good. Well for one the pacing seemed really off to me. Lots of time wasted on things that never really paid off(like Dustin and his pet demogorgon for one.) Mike was a bit too whiny far too long for my taste, especially for as strong a character as he was in season one. As much as I liked the new menace of Billy Hargrove, at times it seemed almost a little too over-the-top. The end “battle” was pretty anti-climactic. Not really the payoff I was hoping for. And episode seven. Rushed, truncated, and everything about it was just off. I get why there needed to be that episode, but they should’ve taken their time with it. They should’ve built it over two episodes. That’s just me.

Despite this season’s shortcomings, I still really enjoyed it. I still got the good feels, the laughs, and the characters continued to grow on me. I’m excited to see how they grow and where the overall story goes from here. There is one thing that improved exponentially from season one to season two and that’s the score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.

I feel the guys really honed in on the kids and the emotions they’re going through. The first season had a lot of menace and that came through in the music. With season two the duo of Dixon & Stein concentrated on the emotional ups and downs that Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Eleven, Will, and the dysfunctional adults of Hawkins, Indiana were going thru. “Walkin In Hawkins”, “Home”, and “Eulogy” are downright melancholy, with the latter sounding like it was recorded on a little Casio keyboard in some Midwestern bedroom after a funeral. “The First Lie” sounds like it could’ve been the start of a Spandau Ballet song. “I Can Save Them” has some Tangerine Dream magic kneaded into the S U R V I V E vibes.

There’s still plenty of musical dread, too. “Descent into the Rift” sounds like a Kaiju rising from the watery depths to destroy mankind and “Chicago” is ominous in its growling synths and arpeggiated wails. It’s like Steve Moore decided to sit in for a scene or two. “Run” has an almost new age feel, while “Levitation” pushes an almost industrial sound. It’s all mechanical and Juno strings.

Overall, Dixon and Stein outdid themselves with Stranger Things Season Two. Where they could’ve just phoned in highlights from season one and most folks wouldn’t have noticed or cared, they created a score that nearly rivals what they did first time around. They made music for those of us that look for the score to help us find a way in emotionally. The music is as vital a character as Eleven, Hopper, Will, and Mike. And at times it steals the show.

So supposedly there’s two more seasons of Stranger Things coming. By the time we get to that last season the Hawkins crew will be at least in high school. What evil lies ahead? Will the white-haired Matthew Modine reappear? Will Wynona Ryder take a shower at some point? Will we see some acid-washed jeans make an appearance? Could there be a crossover episode with the kids from Explorers, Goonies, and Stranger Things coming together to fight the local pastor-turned-werewolf? We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, cue up Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s Stranger Things Season Two S/T and think of the possibilities.

8.2 out of 10

Stranger Things Season 2 : A Few Thoughts

I don’t normally geek out about a TV show. There’s a few shows on some select networks that give me hope for the future of the entertainment. Shows that seem to be attempting to erase years of horrible sitcoms and questionable melodramas, and that makes me happy. A few shows that I have loved over the last few years are as follows: Breaking Bad, The Americans, Sons Of Anarchy, Burn Notice, Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul, Ash Vs Evil Dead, and The Good Wife(yes, The Good Wife. Wanna make something of it, pal?) Anyways, I’m not much of a TV watcher. I haven’t paid for cable or satellite service since 2009. I stream on a Roku, baby. Netflix, Amazon Prime…that’s where its at for me. Quite a few of those shows I mentioned were Netflix or Amazon Prime binges. I bought Mr. Robot and Better Call Saul off Amazon. Those shows are that good in my opinion that I couldn’t wait for DVD or when they were available for streaming. A good show should come off like an amazing film. A seamless stream of story, character, emotional investment, beautifully shot, and wanting to stick it out with these characters for the long haul.

Amazon has shows like Transparent, Man In The High Castle, Patriot, and I Love Dick that are pushing art and television to new heights. Netflix wins it, though. The Marvel shows, House Of Cards, GLOW, Orange Is The New Black, Bloodline, The Crown, Master of None, Black Mirror, The OA, and 13 Reasons Why are solid outings and some even feel like masterpieces(I’m looking at you Master of None, The Crown, and Luke Cage.)

And then there’s Stranger Things.

The show that came from out of nowhere. It was the zeitgeist of TV watching in 2016. My son and I watched it on a whim last summer and ended up finishing it over the course of a Friday and Saturday. It hit all the notes for me, personally. It was horror, sci-fi, 80s kids adventure, suspense, mystery, and it sported a hell of a score. It took me back to my own childhood in the early 80s. Kids playing D&D in the basement, riding dirt bikes through idyllic Midwestern suburbs, Eggos, The Clash,…I could go on and on. It also reminded me of movies like Goonies, Explorers, E.T., and films album creepy scientists doing creepy things to people(I’m thinking David Cronenberg films, but without all the gooey sex stuff.) Stranger Things was a nostalgia machine and a time machine, but in the best way possible.

Stranger Things Season 2 will soon be upon us in October, and from the trailer I’d say it’s gonna be even better. Take a look:

Ghostbusters, Dragon’s Lair, “Thriller”, Halloween, blood stains, Reagan/Bush ’84, gooey crap on trees, Will seeing the Upside Down leaking into our world, and the return of Eleven?? And of course that theme music? Color me giddy.

The elements are still there. Our favorite group of middle schoolers have returned and are jumping back in to danger and mischief. This show continues to look like one hell of an 80s movie cut up into episode lengths. More labs, more blinking lights, more ominous tests, and more of the Upside Down. I love these characters and I love that the Duffer brothers know the times and care about details.

For so long the 80s were a maligned era that was remembered for neon, pegged pants, and Reagan. There was much to love about the 80s. For me it was when I grew up. Star Wars, Stephen Spielberg, GI Joe, Transformers, and then 80s hair metal. I’ve come to terms with most of it and now have a deep admiration for it all(maybe not the pegged pants, but still.) Stranger Things keeps those memories in the present for me. It also is quality creepy sci fi, and that’s a big bonus in my eyes.

Come on, October.