If you’re a millennial, you have already witnessed the ‘Smartphone’ revolution which completely transformed the way we consumed media. When YouTube started its operations in February 2005 as a simple video-sharing social media community, it would have been hard to fathom that 5 billion videos would be consumed on it every day by an average of 30 million daily visitors. Through its exponential rise to its 1.3 billion users today, YouTube essentially paved the way for the future of streaming. Two years later in 2007, Netflix entered the digital streaming market. When YouTube’s culture revolved around videos shared by users and businesses, Netflix partnered with some of the biggest media houses to provide thousands of original movies and series to its rapidly growing user base.
But why are we talking about this second revolution of ‘Digital Media’ ? Before streaming had become mainstream, the Hollywood landscape had the established production houses ruling the roost. Netflix became one of the first disrupters that was able to break through the quagmire through aggressive tactics and a phenomenal technology team behind them. By aggressively bidding for rights for shows like House of Cards and Orange is the new black over other distributor networks, Netflix made it clear that it meant business. Besides creating a robust repository of top-notch shows which were sure-shot hits, Netflix also made a space for shows which were starting out as Indie productions but had potential.
So, when Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross) came to Netflix with their script for Stranger Things they knew they had a chance. By that time, their script had been rejected by several production houses and distributors citing the reason that a plot with a group of children as the leads would make for a risky proposition. However, Netflix was more open-minded about it and the rest is history. This, here, was a classic clash between the mammoth media houses with a century of legacy and inertia behind them, and a technical startup which wanted to give people what they wanted through the best experience that technology could provide. With the phenomenal reception that Stranger Things got, it was pretty much guaranteed that Netflix would renew it for the next season. Stranger Things made us fall in love with the 80s once again with its punchy soundtrack, enduring characters, the allure of a good mystery and a great story to boot. The gang of kids – Will, Mike, Lucas, Dusty and Eleven, became the new Goonies, and Hollywood’s sweethearts.
Stranger Things 2 is streaming on Netflix right now and it has been as satisfying as we could have expected from a sequel. However, there were a few things that we felt could have been done better. So here’s what we felt was awesome about Season 2 and what wasn’t:
1. The relationship between Hopper and Eleven – Hopper and Eleven are two characters who have been practically at the opposite ends of the character spectrum, with no reason to really interact or form an arc together. However, after Eleven blows the Demogorgon to smithereens in Season 1, for a heart-stopping moment, we feel that she’s gone. However, as it turns out, she was merely trapped in the Upside Down (of course!). In this season we see her wandering in the woods (once again) only to come across Hopper who had been sneakily leaving food for her. After the fiasco at the lab, it is only natural that Hopper wants to protect her. So he brings her in to his grandfather’s cabin, somewhere deep in the forest, away from Hawkins. For the first time, we watch Hopper become a warm, playful person through their conversations, as a father talking to his daughter.
2. The Demogorgon Dogs – In Season 1, the Upside down is shown to be a dark, hellish place where a monster called the Demogorgon lives. However, the creature itself was pretty elusive and we could barely catch a few glimpses of its shark-toothed flowery face throughout the episodes. However, this time we don’t just have one but a pack of creatures which seem to be a cross between a Demogorgon and a mongrel. Once the “Demodogs” (term coined by Dusty) grow in number, our characters find themselves in precarious situations trying to fend themselves through the hordes. Resident Evil, anyone ?
3. Dusty’s Teeth (Grrrr!) – If you hadn’t already fallen in love with the adorable Gaten Matarazzo aka Dusty in Season 1, it is only a matter of time until he becomes your favourite character hands down. Due to a condition called clieodocranial dysplasia which affects the development of bones and teeth, Dusty has a ‘toothless’ look in Season 1 (Matarazzo suffers from the condition himself). However, in Season 2 he returns equipped with a set of fake teeth which he, interestingly, shows off wherever he can, with a ‘grrrrr’ sound and a smug look on his face. Besides his naturally charming persona, Dusty develops an intriguing relationship with a strange creature he finds in his bin. Incidentally, this would be the grown version of the slug/worm that Will belches out at the end of Season 1.
4. Joyce and Bob: At the end of Season 1, the missing Will had returned home and Joyce, played by Winona Ryder, can finally breathe in peace after rambling around Hawkins like a maniac looking for her lost son. When the world had thought that Will had been lost for good, Joyce had felt his presence in their home and was one of the first people, outside the lab, to have actually noticed the existence of the ‘other’ dimension. Even amidst her grief, she had been resourceful enough to figure out a way to communicate with her son who seemed to be reaching out to her through the walls and flickering lights. Season 2 finds Joyce back to her normal self, dating a jovial RadioShack technician Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin. Will’s psychotherapy seems to be going well until he starts acting weird and is possessed by a malevolent force from the other dimension. In all the craziness that ensues, Joyce and Bob team up together to figure out a way to track the source. With the limited screen time that he gets, the good-natured Bob soon warms up to you as a new character.
1. Eleven and the Boys: One of the best parts of Season 1 was the inclusion of Eleven in the group. From the time they stumble upon her in the woods while searching for Will, they had been practically inseparable. Dusty’s affectionate introduction for El, as they called her, sparked thousands of memes with the caption – “She is our friend and she is crazy !” However, this time around, Eleven is kept away from the action for a large part of the season and gets her updates by connecting to Mike’s subconscious through the TV (yeah, I know how that sounds). She does come in to save the day in the last few episodes but its too few, too late making her seem like a trope who can be made to conveniently sweep in as required by the plot.
2. Eleven’s ‘sister’: We did catch a glimpse of other children who had been a part of the secret experiments in the lab in Hawkins, back in Season 1. However, very little was known about Eleven’s past. While connecting to the white noise through the TV, Eleven catches a glimpse of her mother who she had thought to be dead. In her journey to find more about herself, Eleven also comes across an old photograph of when she was still in the lab, with an Indian-origin girl. The photograph leads her to a girl named ‘Kali’, code-named – 008, who also has her own superpowers. Although the character of Kali is an intriguing addition to Eleven’s story-line, the arc is kept open-ended without any use for that character in the later part of the season. It almost felt as if a large part for that character didn’t make it to the final cut of the season.
3. The Monster: Will’s tryst with the Upside Down leaves him physically and mentally scarred. He keeps having menacing visions of the other dimension even when he is not physically there, as if a part of that place had attached itself permanently to his psyche. As the visions keep getting scarier, Will starts to notice a silhouette of a giant tentacled monster which keeps getting closer. Although we don’t actually get a clear glimpse of the monster, it is made clear that he is the hive-mind which is controlling all the demo-dogs. After all the hype that is built around the monster, it was disappointing that its full form is never revealed.
So, that’s all folks. Stranger Things 2 is still pretty good as a standalone season even if we don’t compare it with Season 1. It is replete with all the elements that had been so appealing to us before and then some. For those of you who are wondering about the fate of Barb, she’s gone for good. The gateway to the Upside Down has been closed for the time being but it is still very much there, including the tentacled monster, ominously lurking over Hawkins.
Disclaimer: The images used in this post are the sole property of the makers of this series and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever.