Back when Stranger Things first premiered on Netflix in August 2016, it dazzled the world with a tight-knit, heartwarming, nostalgic story about a scary monster who terrorizes a small Indiana town in the '80s. Many people, myself included, considered the first season to be perfect. It had a beginning and an end. There weren't really any unresolved mysteries. Sure, it ended on a slightly ominous note with Will, but for all intents and purposes, it felt whole. In fact, some argued there shouldn't be a second season. Any attempts to continue the story might tarnish the sheer brilliance of those eight golden episodes.
Suffice it to say, Stranger Things has been one of Netflix's most successful shows ever. As such, the streaming company's hands were kind of tied. Planning for the second season began shortly after the first season's viral success. Now that the second installment of the show is here, we return to our original hand-wringing. Does season two live up to the original material? Does the show give in to the pressure to be just as perfect, or does it rise to the occasion and become its own separate entity?
For what it's worth, a few of the stars are on board with the show's newest episodes. Just before the arrival of season two, we joined a roundtable discussion with Joe Keery and Natalia Dyer, who respectively play Steve and Nancy. When asked whether season two is able to live up to the seemingly insurmountable expectations, Dyer made a great point about the second season's ability to expand the Hawkins universe. "It feels all connected," she said. "You know, what we saw in the first season is a very small fraction of what we're really dealing with. And I think, this season, we get a better perspective of what is going on."
Keery added to Dyer's point, noting that the second season isn't necessarily trying to replicate the first. "I think the best sequels throughout time have been the things that keep what you like about the first thing, but then they're not afraid to do their own thing for the next season, and to kind of grow in a way," he mused. "I think, by adding these new characters and these new themes, they've done a really good job of incorporating things we really liked about the first season, and things that you're going to hope carry over. The vibe, how it makes you feel. But then it also has the story, which goes to new and interesting places."
One thing's for sure: whether you're into it or not, Stranger Things season two is here. And above all, we're just glad Eleven is OK.