Peter Counter and Susan Stover are back at you with recaps of season 2 of Stranger Things. They guided you through the Upside Down last season, and they’re ready to jump right back in.
Compromise is Hop’s word of the day for El. He expands on the meaning for the young girl, meaning “half happy.” For many of the characters featured on season two of Stranger Things, half happy might more mean half unhappy as they grapple with with getting back to “normal” a year after the Upside Down transformed their lives forever.
Who You Gonna Call?
Susan: Halloween eve is upon up and we start the episode with a spooky start to El’s journey just after she annihilated the Demogorgon and bid farewell to Mike. However, we know she wasn’t banished to the Upside Down, but was able to find her way out through an unceremonious birth through the wall of Hawkins High.
Peter: It’s a fascinating stylistic choice to keep El’s flashbacks as a primary storytelling device. So much of season one was spent in Eleven’s past with Papa in the lab. Obviously, her flashbacks this season are less revelatory in terms of the show’s mythos, but they help anchor the action of every episode in the present moment keeping the story moving at a fun clip and also give Millie Bobby Brown something to do outside of the Hop-shack.
Susan: First thing she did was go to see Mike, but his house if crawling with the fuzz. She’s labelled as a Russian spy and a danger to Mike and his family, and she knows she can’t stay there. She’s got nowhere to go. Flash forward to the future where she’s in Hop’s safe house, but it’s proving to be another place she can’t leave. With her make-shift ghost costume she tries to convince Hop to let her to trick-or-treating, surely her disguise will hide her from the bad men?
Hop puts his foot down warning that risks are stupid, and they are not stupid.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Susan: Speaking of stupid, the Hawkins four are feeling pretty dumb after realizing they are the only ones dressed up for Halloween at their school. I for one wanna just say how freakin’ cool they look! Despite the double Venkmans. Of course no one wants to be Winston, and good for Lucas for calling out Mike for assuming Lucas would be Winston just because he’s black.
Peter: Mike was being a real Walter Peck, if you ask me. The basic scenario of showing up to school with the best, most culturally on-point costume when no-one else dressed up is the beating heart and soul of the Stranger Things nostalgia-engine. This season is set three years before I was born, but I know that feeling of vulnerable self-ostracization from first-hand nerdy experience. I think that’s the aspect that sets Stranger Things apart from your Ready Player Ones of the world. Sure, there is a memory of culture and technology and fashion that is transportative, but it pales in comparison to the power of seeing excellent child actors play out a universal social nightmare. A humiliation for all ages!
Susan: On the other end of the stupid spectrum, Steve tries to convince Nancy to just forget about what happened to Barb. The guilt of really knowing what happened to her friend, and seeing Barb’’s folks so incensed with grief and spending all their money is just too much for her. Steve convinces her it’s all for the best to forget what happened and simply be the “stupid teenagers” they were meant to be.
Susan: Hop gets word about more pumpkin crops being attacked and it seems like it’s more than just a feud over who invented “Pick You Own Pumpkins.” The slimy substance on the trees could be the effects of poison, but Hop decides to map out the perimeters of the offended grounds.
Peter: This tainted crop business is my favourite aspect of the show’s horror plot so far. There’s a long tradition of blighted crops in horror fiction as a symbol of invasion, the most notable being H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space in which an alien entity arrives on a meteor and begins to horribly mutate the flora and fauna in the Massachusetts countryside. ANYWAY, is it even worth wondering whether this has something to do with the Upside Down? We saw Nancy crawl through a scab-portal on a tree in season one, so we know the eldritch influence stretches beyond Hawkins Lab.
Susan: Speaking of offended, Is there anything more fragile than a teenaged boy’s ego? Fucking Steve. Listen, I get it that Nancy got wasted and maybe she don’t love you no mo’ BUT you don’t leave an incredibly intoxicated young girl at a house party just ‘cause your fee-fees got hurt. SHE HONESTLY THINKS SHE MURDERED HER FRIEND BY LOSING HER VIRGINITY WITH YOU. At least Jonathan is a fucking gentleman. Also, I know they are just toying with the whole will-they-won’t-they with Jonathan and I don’t think we’ll actually see them get together until Chapter 3.
Peter: While I agree with you that we’re being toyed with, regarding Nancy’s love triangle, I gotta say: I’m firmly on the Steve and Nancy ship. Then again, maybe Nancy’s too good for this haunted town and needs to GTFO, lest she get eaten, puke up a slug, or worse: settle for a partner like her Dad, who remains the scariest monster on the show.
Susan: Or perhaps there are more monsters we haven’t gotten to see yet? Dustin thinks it’s the cat making all that racket in the garbage bin, but it looks like it might be something more a-Mews-ing.
Extra Things, Too
Peter: I’ve just gotta say it: Bustin’ make me feel good. What an amazing final beat.
Susan: HOP AND JOYCE ARE TOTALLY GONNA DO IT. Although I do really like Bob. His vampire jokes don’t suck at all, and he’s really well intentioned when he wants Joyce and her boys to have a normal family experience.
Peter: I am starting to get a weird vibe from Bob the vampire hobbit. Invasion is a major theme in Stranger Things, and for him to dress up as Dracula (the poster-boy for invasion horror) feels like a big hint. Also – did you totally think there was going to be a surprise guest when Joyce and Bob got trick-or-treaters? Look, apparently Sean Astin make me very paranoid.
Susan: Oh come on, look at that face, he was Samwise Gamgee for crying out loud. I think he’s as innocent as a fly, and for that reason I think he’s gonna get squashed. The music, as usual, is really stellar. I really enjoyed the inclusion of “Girls on Film” and its direct link to the fact we caught the boys on film (both regular and video).