Hopper, All Things ‘80s, and why Bob wins for losing.
Enough time has passed. The spoiler embargo is over, multiple viewings have commenced and the gate’s been sealed. It’s time to break down the winners of “Stranger Things,” Season Two. Please note: Spoilers ahead if nothing from the lead sentence applies to you.
Blatant 80s Nostalgia—Released over the Halloween weekend, The Duffer Brothers book-ended the season with industrial-grade nostalgia that is sweeter than any bite-size candy by the handful could offer. Ghostbusters, Halloween and arcades set up the first two episodes for fan service but also valuable foreshadowing for the season to come.
The. Snow. Ball. Easily realistic yet the most idealized scene in the series. We finally get to see Mike and Eleven reunite while Lucas and Max finally get together. Dustin, having no one to dance with (but eventually bailed out by Nancy), is equally the highest and low point yields extra credit. All with Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper and The Police providing the soundtrack. It’s the sugar frosting that’s going to give you a stomach ache but it’s totally worth it.
Bitchin’ Music—“Stranger Things 2” has a soundtrack that puts Spotify to shame. Easy standouts are Devo, Oingo Boingo, Scorpions, Motley Crue, Nugent, The Clash, Joy Division and Metallica. Take a second listen and discover all the Easter eggs not listed here. Granted, most of the soundtrack is used to cover holes in the subtext or to hang a lamp on something The Duffer Brothers really want us to know about. Subtlety has never been their style so why not have some Ian Curtis?
Underdog Love Stories—Maybe it’s a hot take but Team Hopper, Team Steve and Team Lucas are the sides to be on this year. Of all the characters going through changes, these three have shown the most growth.
In Season One, Lucas was the lone standout for Eleven joining the boys’ party. Season Two, we not only see Lucas expanding the circle but is, maybe, the only voice of reason this whole season. Let’s also not forget that he got a kiss from Mad Max. Steve Harrington’s arc has been the most-praised but it isn’t necessarily the most dramatic. We already knew he was a good guy last season by patching things up with Jonathan Byers. He gets tons of credit by teaming up with the boys and becoming BFF with Dustin, but again, further confirmation of what we already knew. It’s a relief that The Duffers realize he has less James Spader slime and more Matthew Broderick charm.
Hopper though…what a change. Transforming from the schlubby and bitter police chief in season one to being caretaker and potential love interest is the biggest and most believable transformation this season. The ersatz father-daughter relationship between Hop and Elle had the most tension. Bob the Brain is great but I’m rooting for Hopper and Joyce more than any other love triangle. And why not, have you seen the man dance to Jim Croce?
New Faces—That’s not to say Bob wasn’t bad for the series. Had he not died, the Brain would’ve been this season’s MVP. He was the exact person Joyce needed (until Hopper came into the picture). He figured out the map, saved everyone in the hospital and eventually gave his life for the team. Not all his moves were the smartest (like telling Will to basically ask an interdimensional smoke monster to “Go away!”), but most of the season hinged on The Brain’s actions.
The hokey answer to the “loser” category would be the audience having to already wait for a third season that is at least a year away. Doesn’t make it any less true.
Photo courtesy of Netflix