Eleven Totally Tubular Reasons to Watch (or Rewatch) “Stranger Things 2”


Haidee Clauer

It is uncommon, to say the least, for any sequel to outshine its original hit movie, book, or show. This is one of many norms broken by the Duffer Brothers’ “Stranger Things 2,” a widely-acclaimed online television series released on Netflix earlier this fall. If you’ve somehow avoided the hype, I’ve done the research for you. Keep reading for undisputable evidence — from an HBHA student poll, behind-the-scenes interviews, and countless articles, videos, and more — consolidated into eleven foolproof reasons to catch up with the year’s hottest show.

Spoilers ahead!

  1. Monsters and Special Effects

Demogorgons are SO last season. Move those aside for the Mind Flayer, “demodogs,” and Dart — everyone’s favorite cat-eating baby monster. Maybe you love Dart for his squeaks, for his “not-lizardlike” physique, or for his adorable relationship with Dustin.

Steve: “How do you know [Dart’s] not just a lizard?”

Dustin: “Because its face opened up and it ate my cat!”

As a genre, Horror often gets a bad rep for over-the-top fake blood or dramatized effects. “Stranger Things” — though not entirely Horror — not only breaks this stereotype, but dismantles it entirely. With screentime comprising over 20% special effects of last year’s “Stranger Things,” this year’s sequel is chock-full of stunning, scary, and unbelievably realistic visuals made of both props and computer-generated images. Bonus fact: In case you thought the “Stranger Things” Cast couldn’t get any more talented, the demogorgon is played by a real actor — Mark Steger.

  1. New Characters

Speaking of talent, the adult cast has only gotten better through the introduction of Brett Gelman, Sean Astin, and Paul Reiser. Reiser’s depiction of Dr. Owens — Dr. Brenner’s antithetical replacement — maintains a kind, benevolent persona with a healthy dose of the creepiness inseparable from Hawkins Lab. Astin, originally hired for a minimal role, took on the deeply enjoyable “Bob the Brain” with so much energy and innovation that the Duffer Brothers expanded his character to be more complicated and compelling than, on the surface, his archetypal nerd character might seem. Last but not least, Gelman — HBHA’s second favorite adult character of “Stranger Things 2” — is a clever and hilarious investigative journalist whose wit is (almost) as potent as his vodka.

Since the July 2016 release of its first season, “Stranger Things” has gained a gigantic fan base. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.
  1. MadMax

Deserving a category of her own, new party member Max (Sadie Sink) bursts into “Stranger Things 2” with fiery integrity and grit. Don’t be fooled, Sink isn’t just the next-best-thing to Eleven; “MadMax” is a female icon of her own. HBHA students voted her second only to Dustin out of the child characters, but still preferred Eleven when given the choice between the two. No matter how much you love Eleven, though, Sink’s smart, resilient, and spunky addition to “Stranger Things 2” undoubtedly elevates the franchise as a whole.

  1.  The Genre

What genre is “Stranger Things”? Horror? Drama? Sitcom? Thriller? Retro? Combining elements from “E.T.,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Firestarter,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and more, The Duffer Brothers’ innovatively create a nostalgic but entirely unique style throughout their show. If you can make it past the primary thrill and fright, “Stranger Things” will serve up liberal helpings of laugh-out-loud witty humor, dynamic relationships (including a captivating dose of romance), and a balance of light humor and richly intricate storytelling.

  1. Dynamic Duos

An unofficial list of this season’s new great OTPs*:

  1. Steve and Dustin
  2. Jonathan and Nancy
  3. Eleven and Hopper
  4. Bob and Joyce
  5. Lucas and Max
  6. Eleven and Terry
  7. Billy and his car
  8. Dustin and Dart
  9. Eleven and Kali
  10. Billy and Mrs. Wheeler
  11. Will and the Mind Flayer

*“One True Pairing” is common internet lingo referring to an especially great duo

“Stranger Things” fans have rallied around the Steve-Dustin friendship. Image by Haidee Clauer.
  1. Eleven/Jane

Not only does award-winning breakthrough actress Millie Brown return for a second season as HBHA’s favorite character, but Brown’s Eleven gets serious screen time in a compelling backstory. Though HBHA students on average would rate the Kali (Eleven’s long lost sister turned vengeance-seeking criminal) plotline a 5.1/10, Eleven’s transformation on both the outside and inside is an exciting development to watch. Most importantly, Eleven interacts with disparate parental figures Hopper (David Harbour) and Terry (Aimee Mullins) to provide for a playful, emotional, and oftentimes riveting performance.

  1. Soundtrack and Cinematography

Between ‘80s hits immediately transporting viewers back to the series’ setting and an aurally rich original soundtrack, “Stranger Things 2” takes viewers on an audial adventure perfectly matched with artful visuals. Scenes tinted slightly blue highlight sterile tones of Hawkins Lab, for example, while warmer colors illuminate lively scenes between Eleven and Hopper or the demogorgon-hunting kids. The “Upside Down,” though not as overpowering of a plot feature as in the first season, remains an optically incredible testament to the cinematographic genius of “Stranger Things” as a whole.  

  1. 10/10-Star Actors

The “Stranger Things” franchise is loaded with talent; every actor elevates the already-highly-concentrated energy with a different yet compatible vibe. But don’t take my word for it, take your doubts to whoever runs the Emmys, the cast received last year’s Award for Best Ensemble Cast. It’s hard to beat Winona Ryder, whose performance in “Stranger Things 2” continue to surprise viewers even after remarkable acting in “Heathers,” “Beetlejuice.” “Edward Scissorhands,” and countless other films. Ryder’s vulnerable, passionate, and ultimately phenomenal role isn’t diluted, but it is, rather, perfectly complemented by the rest of the award-winning cast.

  1. 11/10-Star Kid Actors

This casting perfection is not limited to the grown-ups; the most delightful characters tend to be middle schoolers. We’ve already covered Max and Eleven, but it would be impossible to leave out the hardy and lovable Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), the empathetic and resilient Mike (Finn Wolfhard), courageous and clever Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will (Noah Schnapp) — who pretty much endures an exorcism. (Side note: while I was 13, I was avoiding falling on my face or failing 7th grade, while Schnapp is out there perfectly depicting being possessed by a giant spider monster. Just saying). Outside of the show, some of the party acted in the blockbuster horror movie It, appeared on Ellen and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (twice), and even showed up at last year’s Oscars opening.

  1. Eleven’s Reunion with Mike

Mike: “I never gave up on you. I called you every night for — ”

El: “335 days. I heard.”

(Not even going to try to summarize it for you. Episodes 8 and 9: Go watch.)

“Eleven” or “Jane” is portrayed by 13 year old actress Millie Brown. Photo by Haidee Clauer.
  1. Steve Harrington

You may recognize Joe Keery’s Steve from the popular, hair-gelled high school stereotype of last season. But don’t be fooled. Voted not only as “Best Teenager” by HBHA students but also as “Best Mom,” Steve grew to become an irresistible hero and irreplaceable character in “Stranger Things 2.”  Funny, lovable, and inimitable, Steve will babysit his way into the heart of every rational “Stranger Things” fan armed with guidance for the party, a nail-studded baseball bat, and Farrah Fawcett Hair Spray. It is not just the epic battles Steve wins — well, doesn’t lose — against dozens of demogorgons or antagonist Billy Hargrove (‎Dacre Montgomery), nor the self-affirmed fact that Keery’s “hair conveniently grows in a pretty 80s way” that ensures his title as resident King of Hawkins. Instead, it is Keery’s portrayal of Steve’s complex yet authentic compassion that gives the show a wholesome hook, fan favorite, and role model.

“Stranger Things 2” has something for everyone. From the captivating characters and a riveting plot to the action behind-the-scenes, this show will have you hooked — so be sure to start after finals!