If Stranger Things enjoyed the element of surprise late last summer, rising from a relatively obscure Netflix sleeper hit into one of 2016’s most binged-watched series, then season 2 faces the tricky task of living up to those heightened expectations.
Slated to return this Friday, October 27th, there’s a palpable sense of excitement emanating from the Upside Down, particularly after that spooky final trailer sent the show’s fanbase into a tailspin. But now that the review embargo has lifted, critics are beginning to post their verdict of Stranger Things season 2, which is seemingly a worthy second chapter in Netflix’s sci-fi saga.
From the old-school filmmaking to the cool synthetic soundtrack, the Stephen King nods to a looming supernatural threat, Stranger Things season 2 ticks all the boxes. And while the critical consensus is overly positive – so far, at least – there are those who believe Matt and Ross Duffer’s formula is beginning to veer toward fan service. Either way, you’ll be pleased to note that every extract is free of spoilers, so without further ado, let’s get to it:
Variety: Until Stranger Things 2 really gets going — and that takes a while — it trails an air of self-consciousness that veers into strained fan service at times. The good news is, the show’s core cast remains an extremely versatile and effective ensemble, and once the story kicks into a higher gear about halfway through the nine-episode season, a lot of the old magic returns.
THR: Stranger Things 2 is quite good and, if your expectations are in check, largely satisfying. The Duffer Brothers fall into very few traps of self-importance or self-awareness and they deliver a second season with an expanded assortment of ’80s influences, an expanded cast of instantly embraceable characters and some expanded Stranger Things mythology without the bloat that inevitably dooms sequels.
Collider: [Unlike] other zeitgeist-dwelling series that suffered tangible sophomore slumps (True Detective, UnREAL, Mr. Robot), The Duffers have managed to recapture what made Season 1 so good while still moving the story forward in necessary ways, with a smartly written and cleverly-plotted script. Like that first season, not everything works perfectly, but its cumulative effect is one that is again joyous, emotional, satisfyingly spooky, and most of all, makes us care deeply about the fates of these outsiders who band together as heroes.
The critical consensus continues below, with Uproxx warning that Stranger Things season 2 may be too familiar for some viewers.
Polygon: Stranger Things 2 is a trip, a celestial journey rooted in a time period many of us are obsessed with, but it’s grounded in the real relationships and friendships we have today. Stranger Things 2 is a convergence of the fantastically extraordinary we wish we would experience and the understandable reality that we exist in; the combination of which creates one hell of a television experience that’s very much worth your time.
Uproxx: There will come a point where the Duffers and Netflix are pushing their luck with this series, where there will be too many characters and too many plot twists that evoke eye rolls and moans of, “Oh, this again?” Thankfully, it’s not there yet. (Though the season’s closing shot again triggered some mental alarm bells, so this feeling may never entirely go away.) Not all sequels live up to the original; this one does better than I ever would have imagined. The show itself couldn’t possibly sneak up on me a second time; how entertaining it continues to be absolutely did.
All nine episodes of Stranger Things will be available to stream from Friday, October 27th – just in time for Halloween. Matt and Ross Duffer have seemingly mapped out a four-or-five season arc as well, so don’t be fooled into thinking that this is our last trip to Hawkins, Indiana.