Returning to The Upside Down

By Amy Huynh

Just in time for Halloween, “Stranger Things 2” has been released on Netflix. In nine episodes, “Stranger Things 2” revisits the thrilling science-fiction story with a unique 1980s vintage feel. The “2” in the title helps to position “Stranger Things 2” as a sequel rather than a second season, with each episode acting as a chapter in the story of the Upside Down.

The events of last season still seem to create a shadow over each character as they are still deeply affected by the aftermath of Will’s disappearance;  still, they all try to mature and move on from the traumatic experience.

The stage is set one year after the events of the first installment of “Stranger Things.” It is Halloween in 1984 — perfect timing the spooky vibe that comes around this time of year. All four boys at the core of the show are now 13 years old, and the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, ensure that each of the boys has a defined identity and personality.

Meanwhile, Eleven is forced to stay in hiding as she secretly lives with the police chief, Hopper. They even talk to each other in Morse code. When we first met Eleven, she had a buzz cut — which became one of the most iconic images from the show. Now her hair is in a bob which dramatically emphasizes her transition into a normal adolescence. She has learned to understand more social cues than she had been able to before. Although she is still in hiding, Hopper is able to impose a bit of structure on Eleven’s life as he appears to become a father figure to her.

Mike attempts to keep in touch with Eleven every day using walkie-talkies, counting the days since they last saw each other. It is evident that Mike has been the most deeply affected from losing Eleven compared to the other boys.

Will and his family, however, remain the most troubled as Will continues to be sucked into the world of the Upside Down. Similar to the finale of the the first season, Will continues to have visions of the other monstrous world while hanging out with his friends and going trick-or-treating.

Things get even stranger when the town is affected by a series of inexplicable crop poisonings. Eventually, Hopper discovers that Hawkins, Indiana is filled with rotten pumpkins, ooze and maggots. The scenes transition between the physical devastation of the town and the mental conflict happening in Will’s mind.

Oftentimes, sequel movies do not bring justice to the original film  they are adapted from. Stranger Things 2 proves that a sequel can expand a story while maintaining the integrity of its characters. For example, although Barb was killed off in the second episode of the first season, she became one of the most popular characters from the show, and her legacy continues into the second season. Even though “Stranger Things 2” could not bring Barb back to life, she still exists in the backgrounds of scenes in picture frames. The show also emphasizes the significant impact Barb’s death has had on Nancy as she continues to struggle with the trauma.

The Duffer Brothers are able to keep “Stranger Things” grounded with its relatively normal characters who experience extraordinary fictional and haunting things. Viewers can be empathetic with the character’s troubles even if they cannot relate to the supernatural trauma.

Stranger Things 2 is full of excitement, mystery and humor despite the tension and drama that invades Hawkins, Indiana. You can either slowly make your way through the second season or binge watch all nine episodes, weeping with regret that the season is over and hoping for more.