Stranger Things came out of nowhere with virtually no promotion other than word of mouth. With the ultimate blend of Sci-fi and Horror added to a nostalgic overload and a heartfelt story that put the nerds on the forefront, a recipe for greatness was created and a new fandom exploded around the globe. The only question was whether it was hype or just the beginning. This latest season they set out to prove to the world the latter. But, as Dan Harmon once said about Rick and Morty, a show that faced similar hurdles, “I don’t care how hard I worked on an episode. If the fans hate it, it’s bad, and I hate it too.” So; us fans at The Nerd Hub sat down to discuss the second season of this phenomenon of a show, and ultimately decide whether or not they achieved their goal of making this series a staple to stay.
We saw a new character addition with Mad Max. What were the positive and negative impacts the character placed on the show in your opinion?
Trey – I actually thought that she worked very well here. Putting another female character into what amounts to a boy’s club always runs the risk of causing the story to devolve into a frustrating love triangle with the girl in question turning her into an object of desire as opposed to an actual character. This can be especially true when dealing with stories revolving around kids this age. In this case, it sort of happened, but it remembered to actually give max a distinguished personality, an arc and whenever the love triangle stuff did pop up, it didn’t really get in the way of anyone’s friendship. It was more, “Oh she likes you? I’m disappointed, but it’s cool. We have bigger things to worry about.” And that was something that I found immensely refreshing. It was nice to see a fresh face in the group and she gave Dustin and Lucas something to do, whereas in the last season they felt like supporting characters in what was clearly meant to be an ensemble.
Jack – Every group has a girl they immediately gawk over and with Eleven out of the group this season Mad Max filled that role. The thing that separated her, however, was her personality and personalized arc that both gave the group members a subplot to mix with the Demogorgon subplot, as well as, a potentially explosive arc for the next season. With Eleven returning to the fold and her limitless protection of friends, this may just be quite literal, but this may provide a growing point for Eleven and Max. I’m definitely interested in seeing her return next season.
Jennifer – I don’t really feel like she added anything to the show other than adding a little conflict between the boys. Her family’s story was fairly common and still is in real life, so showing that side of a family like that is really the only positive impact from introducing Max. I won’t be disappointed if she is not in the next season.
Jonny – I thought the addition of Max to the show was perfect. It gave us a nice story arc to follow. I think she represents rivalry in the show having beaten the group at their favorite games and bringing out the mean side of “El”. It was enough to get me excited to see where her story goes next. Her brother seems like a danger to the group even more so than what we got to see, and with the look he gave her afterward, I have a slight fear for them.
Marlon – I loved Mad Max; she is your typical “One of the guys” type girl and I believe that’s what the group needed to expand their adventures, dialogue, and character development.
Nancy struggled a bit this season with her grief over Barb’s death. What worked about this and if something didn’t, what would it be, and how would you go about it differently?
Trey – Honestly whenever her stuff came on I kind of tuned the show out and played on my phone or something. The thing about the storylines of the older teenagers in the first season is that it was significantly less interesting than what was going on with the kids and this is just as true in season 2. Most of what seemed to be going on with her was tied to a very stupid subplot to expose the government agents who started all of this but seemed to forget that everyone involved was killed in the last season and that the new spooks actually seemed like they had everyone’s best interests at heart. Everything else about her just kind of faded into the background which is where the high school plots belong in my opinion.
Jack – I honestly felt like the whole thing was a ploy to move her from Steve to Jonathon. Fortunately, they did so by also giving them both a subplot until they were needed. A mission. A personal struggle. On top of it all, they did so in an adequate manner that worked about as well as it could have.
Jennifer – Nancy seems like she was struggling with quite a bit, maybe using Barb’s death as an excuse to be “confused” about what she wants. I do think it is less relevant to season two, but the story needed a reason for to be conflicted enough to turn to Jonathan. I really felt bad for Steve once they’ve shown us another side to him and made us like him, and in turn, I dislike Nancy now. I would have left Steve and Nancy alone and just made Jon and Steve friends, they’ve both seen some stuff and everyone needs a friend closer to their own age at least.
Jonny – I think it worked out good, but I thought it wasn’t as deep as it should or could have been. I would have shown a little more grief and guilt, but they had a limited time to convey it as her journey was larger than the single plot point and they did a decent job at getting the misery across in the time they had.
Marlon – I don’t get why she felt bad or anything, it wasn’t her fault what happened. To top it off, I had actually had forgotten about Barb until they brought her up in conversation. So, ultimately this was not something I felt was not a strong suit of either season. They need to leave it behind for the next season.
We saw quite a few love interests this season with Lucas, Dustin, and Max, Nancy, John and Steve, Bob, Joyce and Hopper, and even Will and Eleven. Compared to other shows, how was the execution and how well we’re they tied into the overall development? Should other shows take note, or should Stranger Things look to others?
Trey – I’m not the biggest fan of romances taking over large chunks of the character development in shows or films, but I have to say that it worked quite well here. It all felt appropriate given their ages and actually did seem to tie into a lot of their larger arcs. I’m not sure every show should go this route, but if they do it’s a good one to take notes from.
Jack – I think one thing this show does so well is it makes us like the characters we should like and hate the characters we should hate. This makes it just as hard for us as it is for them to decide who we think these characters should be with. That right there is why this all works so well and where other shows fail. The dialogue is superb. It’s accurate to how these things would really be going down. Lastly, it’s all back burner stuff; rather than trying to cram it down our throat, they tie it well and allow the plot take us for the ride along with the characters who are all on their own mission but not forgetting about life after the fact.
Jennifer – I couldn’t compare the show to others because Stranger Things has a unique mix that works so well because of cast chemistry. I don’t think other show could put as many relationships in and tie it together so well.
Marlon – Bobs character was pretty cool, I love Sean Astin, great casting choice, and he is an original goonie which helped the nostalgia overload, but I feel Joyce and Hopper should have been a couple after all they went through. I think it’s cool that the kids are actually moving through that “girls are yucky” phase. Nancy is good with either Steve or John, they have all been through a lot together. I fell that they should continue how they are with the relationships, because other than the Sci-Fi stuff, that’s how like pretty much is; complicated.
One of the biggest subplots this season was the father and daughter relationship between Hopper and Eleven. One with a void in a daughter and the other with a void in a parent. Did the Sheriff do the right thing by hiding Eleven? Did he do the right thing by hiding the truth about her mother? What advice would you give each of them going forward?
Trey – Yes, because despite the fact that the spooks were significantly nicer this time around, they were still out to get her and do God only knows what to her. Yes, because what can you say to a young girl on that matter? That your mom is a brain-dead vegetable? That the guy you called Papa fried her brain because she was a problem? Just saying that she was gone really should have been enough because in reality she kind of was. And none. I don’t have kids and these are very specific circumstances that you really can’t give advice on.
Jack – As for the house, it was the right thing, but I think he should have trusted her at some point to go outside and stay within her perimeter. The issue however that most people don’t understand is that when you are a cop, you don’t have a lot of time at home and so he couldn’t progress her to that stage. As with every cop’s parenting, this caught up with him. As for the truth about her mother, could you really say that the truth wouldn’t have expedited the situation and sent her off in a search for her mother? At least this way she did so after some training. I think he did everything he could and that’s all you can ask for from a parent. Good intentions. It’s especially hard for Hopper going from a toddler to a teenager with powers. Quite the learning curve on an unpredictable curve that never ends as is. Trust. Faith. Patience. Remember those three things going forward.
Jennifer – Well I would still consider that kidnapping and all, though you feel for Hopper and once you imagine losing a child and you find a child that needs parents, I don’t blame him. He did what he thought was right while trying to fill that void. He’s trying to be there for her even knowing she could think about it hard enough and kill him. He also knows that if the people looking for her find her they will torture and kill her. Despite all of these dangers and struggles, it only drives him more to protect her, even when it comes to the truth; which isn’t right or wrong, but he has good intentions. I would tell them both to remember that he needs her and she needs him, so be grateful for each other and get over things that upset you.
Jonny – I think he did the right thing in keeping “L” safe from the outside world, with the bad people still out there hunting her, she needed a safe place to expand her power and knowledge without too much fear of being caught and tested on again. As for telling her about her mother, I think he was wrong, when she asked, he should have told her the truth. But in the end, it worked out and led to a nice story arc we have for future episodes.
Marlon – It was a great subplot that allowed two lost characters to balance each other out and redefine their purpose. Hiding 11 was a good idea on Hopper, it was needed for her safety, but I feel like he should have told the kids so they wouldn’t worry about her. As a parent, we do what we can to protect our kids and I feel that’s exactly what Hopper was doing by hiding the truth about 11’s mom. My advice is to take it one day at a time.
Was it fair to kill Samwise, I mean Bob, the way that they did?
Trey – His death was rough. More than any other character’s to be sure. You saw every slash, stab and bite. So, it was an effectively tragic death, especially given how much time they spent making him so likable. But was it fair? You know when it comes to killing off major characters in any form of fiction, I don’t even know what that word means anymore. Shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have desensitized me to “unfair” shock deaths and I’m not sure if that word is necessarily the right one to describe it. I didn’t want Bob to die for sure, but given the kind of show this is, I don’t think that unfair is the right word.
Jack – The thing about a character like that is that they provide too much stability. That would lead to the end of the show, or the character growing stale. They did the right thing by killing him and breaking your heart. Doing this allowed the character to go out at a high point, despite being so obvious and painful I think they succeeded there. The one part I would have changed was Bob not bringing his gun. That’s not a move “Bob the Brain” would make and the guns clearly did no effect on the Demogorgon’s anyway, so let’s not make unnecessary moves that degrade him.
Jennifer – No! Absolutely not, that was the most disappointing part of the whole series. A great character was introduced just to kill him, hey used him and then he died. Bob deserved better.
Jonny – No, it wasn’t fair at all, I liked that character. He was so chipper and nice, kinda wanted to hate him while at the same time love him. I saw it coming too and it was still painful to watch, he deserved so much more. I liked how in the aftermath, it show a hint to him in a drawing where he is illustrated s the superhero to the group. Not sure if everyone saw that or not.
Marlon – He was the comic relief and he had to die. He did it as a rescue attempt, a true heroes exit. Was it fair, maybe not, but they did give him a fair way of leave.
Eleven found her mother and the truth about what she was brought up in. This led her to one of her sisters and we saw some different powers, would you like to see more powers and more backstory behind these kids? Do you think Eleven made the right decision or do you think Eight should have had her own choice?
Trey – In future seasons I would like to see more of these guys and have their backstories fleshed out. as for if eleven made the right decision, it seems that the showrunners clearly think so. It was her entire arc. Whereas Eight was stuck in the past, fueled by a constant need for revenge, Eleven realized that such things were kind of pointless and chose to move forward with her life by going back to save her new surrogate family.
Jack – I would love to see these kids and their powers and stories, but to do so would require a complete rework of what this show is about. The only option would be to do a spinoff or to keep them in the background serving Eleven’s progression. I think while yes she did what she needed to do for herself and for her progression, I agree with eight; she may be stuck in the past, but she suffered as much as any and more so than some, so she should have the right to make her own choice just as she gave Eleven. Taking that away from here is like take that free will that the government took. It’s a toss-up in this particular case, however, as Eleven led them to him and it would still be on her conscience if he died under her assistance. Add to it that with the kids complicating things, it was probably best that she uncomplicated them. Better luck next time Eight.
Jennifer – That’s exactly what I thought when they let us know there were more. It only makes sense if she’s Eleven then there are other numbers that came first. She made a decision based off of what she thought was right. Eights choice shouldn’t have had to force Eleven to do something she did not want to do.
Jonny – The whole numbered children with powers is interesting, I would sure like to see more episodes about them and how they tie in together and if any grew up to work for the bad people. “L” totally made the right decision in finding her mother and sister and then leaving them to help the group, had she not taken that trip the group might have very well been done for.
What benefits and downside did the move from a Demogorgon to a Mind Flayer as the antagonist bring to the writing this season?
Trey – I think that the change from a more physical monster like the “Demogorgon” to the “Mind Flayer” was a fantastic choice. The thing about the first season was that the “Demogorgon” was when you get right down to it, a monster on the loose. It was more or less an extremely aggressive animal that was hunting seemingly out of instinct. This time around we actually got to see a monster with actual objectives and intelligence threaten our protagonists, making the situations far more dangerous. Overall it was a vast improvement although I’m not really sure how you top it beyond having them fight Cthulhu or something for season three.
Jack – The best thing about this season was that there were several antagonists on different levels. At the lowest level you still had the government, as well as, Max’s bother and even Eight to an extent; while at the highest end, you had the “Demodogs” and the Mind Flayer. Another thing that normally wouldn’t work for other shows. This allowed them to give everyone their own threat and path that was unique to each’s own while not overextending either one of the protagonists. As for the main antagonist, the “Mind Flayer” I think it worked wonderfully giving this seemingly unstoppable sentient being was a fantastic move that left the solution less obvious making for some wonderful concepts such as “the spy” and the army of “Demodogs”. Two problems arose out of this season going forward, however. One being that yet again the solution was Eleven, and while that may not necessarily be a bad thing, add to it that we now have this omnipotent antagonist that is going to be hard to top. The biggest risk here is making every other character pointless.
What was the most shocking moment this season? Did you see it coming? What put it over other moments?
Trey – It was where it turned out that Will was completely possessed by the “Mind Flayer” and had lured everyone into a trap. That was horrifying and was not something I saw coming. Up until that point, we only had one hint that maybe something was up with him, but had otherwise been straight and apparently helpful to the other characters. So, when it turned out that it was a trap, that blew me away. Not to mention that it resulted in all major problems that hounded the characters throughout the rest of the season.
Jack – There were quite a few shocking moments this season from the trap set by the “Mind Flayer” to Dart eating the cat and so much more, but personally the most shocking moment was the moment it all changed. I really didn’t expect the Mind Flayer to actually be able to infect will the way that he did. Just as I began to think these visions may be less of a danger than he thought, they shocked me by engulfing him with the Mind Flayer in a moment that made me physically cringe.
Jennifer – Bob dying, hands down. After he figured out the tunnel map, I really thought he’d become a regular character. He was very emotionally invested in the whole family and I did not see him getting killed off so soon in the series.
Jonny – My pick is more subjective, but I thought that Max sticking the needle in Billy’s neck was the most shocking for me. I hate needles and when I saw it coming I cringed in terror and had to look away. Also, the fact that she had the willingness to do it and to do it so swiftly make her an even bigger beast.
What was one thing you personally felt was a must keep scene or aspect of the show? Something that would totally change it for you if removed. Why did this moment or aspect stand out? What about it would be a crucial mistake to remove?
Trey – Honestly it would again be the big shocking moment where all the soldiers were lured into a trap, resulting in a large number of deaths. It raised the stakes immensely, put all of the characters in a dangerous situation that lasted the rest of the season and saw the death of some major ones. Taking that out would have resulted in an entirely different final act for the show.
Jennifer – Introducing “8” was something I came into the season not only hoping for but expecting. It was just a necessary element that needed to be explored and they did so while making it weigh heavily on Eleven’s character development. It definitely wouldn’t have been the same if they took off in a different direction with the story.
Jonny – I liked when “L” saves the group and Max is all “Hi, I’m Max” and “L” completely blows her off. That shows us a new side to “L” that we had not seen before and allows us to better understand the character. I believe that it was a must to show that even her, the good guy, could be spiteful and jealous.
Marlon – Every scene with Hopper and “11” were needed and crucial to both characters developments. Hopper learning to be a dad again and “11” getting used to having people around her that care about her. This was the backbone of the show.
Jack – Aside from everyone else’s picks, I would say that Bob’s death was crucial to the third act as well as several character developments. The impact it left for better or worse was one that nobody will forget and will leave us a reminder that those we love most can and will die when they go up against creatures from the “Upside Down”.
Was the overall writing better this season or last, and what aspects attributed to that?
Trey – Yes, absolutely. The season was condensed to eight episodes so there was no fille or fluff. They found the proper balance between the kids, teenagers, and adults, all of the actors came in with improved performances and was overall faster paced.
Jack – I felt it was better, mostly in part due to the ability t write characters arcs into one another and make sense as to why they are where they are at any given time. One thing I always hate is wondering why the hell somebody is where they are or doing what they are doing. That’s when it feels forced and rapidly loses its value. Keeping everything with intent keeps us engaged and looking for more as opposed to being detached and wondering why while other more crucial elements move past us without notice.
Jennifer – The writing was equal to season one with more going on than the first time around, which is not necessarily a bad thing because the show has been consistently good and keeps us on the edge of our seats and wanting to binge watch.
Jonny – I thought this season was better, but not by much. Both seasons really had great stories, but this season expanded on the “Upside Down” world more and boy was that fun. The ending makes me worry that there is far more yet to come. I think that the show will continue to gradually get better and better over time naturally as more things expand, until one day the plot catches up with the quality and it doesn’t, heaven forbid. Hopefully, it’s ended all together properly before that day has a chance to arrive.
Many were shocked with the odd episode count decision with the premiere season. This season they shocked people again by not only using another odd episode count only this time dialing it back even more so than last season despite massive success. Compared to other shows on Netflix that stick to the thirteen episode format, how does this show hold up structurally?
Trey – As I said in the last question, it did. It made sure, for the most part, that there was no filler and kept things moving at a much brisker pace. And as I said in the Punisher Roundtable, forcing them to draw this stuff out over 13 episodes just strains the budget of the show and forces plot points to go on for far longer than they should. Overall, I think it resulted in a better show.
Jennifer – The writers did their thing and made a great story with great characters and backstories, but the odd amount of episodes did make the story feel as if it were a bit cramped towards the end.
Jonny – To me a full season is 20 episodes minimum, so with the newer shows only being around 13, I call those half seasons. That being said, I didn’t keep track of the episodes so this came as a shock to me that they would break from the norm’ and bring it even lower, but I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing seeing as I didn’t even notice until it was all said and done.
Marlon – 7, 13 or 22 episodes, I’ll still watch it as long as its well written and I’ve seen it happen in all formats so that shouldn’t be something to affect them, but it also shouldn’t be a stipulation that they form their writing around. I’m glad they go with however many episodes they feel are necessary if that’s what’s helping them make the quality as good as it is.
Where do you think the show can go from here?
Trey – I honestly don’t know. As I said earlier, the first season was basically a monster on the loose show and this time they escalated it to them battling an Eldritch Abomination. Where can you go from them? Have them fight the actual devil? I really don’t know and the showrunners are going to have a hell of a time trying to top it.
Jack – Between exploring the “Upside Down”, the other experimental children, revisiting the “Mind Flayer” or really anything they can concoct; there really are just far too many paths to see which make more sense. Each possible path in my eyes looks to take the show further off path leaving other options and possibly characters behind. This is the biggest problem with omnipotence and the writers would do well to remember that before they bite off more than they can chew. At this rate, each season can be mind-blowingly good or disgustingly bad.
Jennifer – I would like to say about 9 more seasons! realistically we may only get 2-3 more, but there are so many possibilities. I think any route that brings the other experimental children in the fold would be a sound option.
Jonny – Oh, the sky is the limit with this show. The writers really have so much to work with so far and they’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s to come. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the “Mind Flayer” or his connection to Will.
Marlon – That really is a tough question, but I think that shows just how crazy this writers room can get and ultimately what comes next can’t be predicted.
In Conclusion, not only did the show ensure it is a staple to stay, they also broke open Pandora’s Box of possibilities of where to go to next, as well as, put every film craft stigma to rest for all to see. This show has besmirched those who have failed routinely at implementing aspects that Stranger Things has not only implemented well but implemented much of. It’s hard to put a thumb on what makes this show truly special still, but we are starting to get the idea that they may just care about the story more than most. This is a show all must see, if not solely for the dissection of its craft. Stick with it until the end as there are no more than just over a couple dozen episodes in total, and let us know your thoughts on the matter here when you do.
Stay Tuned for our upcoming Nerds of the Roundtables where we will discuss our thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Crisis On Earth X, and More.
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Writing Contributions by, Jack Flowers, Trey Griffeth, Jennifer Gritten, Jonny Crash and Marlon Ortega.
Editing by, Jack Flowers.