Stranger Things is Back | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Stranger Things is Back

TV Critic Amelia Hiller looks at the first episode of the highly anticipated Netflix original Stranger Things 2

It’s Friday 27th October, and I have been wearing my new Stranger Things jumper all day. After all, I have been waiting a year for the release of a second season and like so many others, I am totally invested in the Stranger Things hype. After binge-watching the first season this time last year (eight episodes just wasn’t enough), I have been eagerly checking social media for news regarding the second season, and if the released trailers are anything to go by, it certainly will not be a disappointment. 

There was an immediate sense of mystery from the opening scene
Will it be as good as the first series? Well, I am yet to find out. What I can say is that I certainly was not disappointed by MADMAX, the first instalment in Stranger Things 2. The episode title is very evasive, although we find out quite early on that Max is a new student at Hawkins Middle School. She immediately catches the attention of Dustin, Will, Mike and Lucas as they suspect she is ‘Madmax’, the gamer who beat their top arcade scores. Although we find out that this is true, I am still a bit confused about why this character got a whole episode named after her. She was pretty entertaining, but a rather minor part throughout, so all I can think is that Max (played by Sadie Sink) is going to form a prominent role later in the series.

The episode began with the classic 80’s vibe which viewers know and love, and there were also a few cultural references which fit in with the set era (e.g. anxiety regarding Russian spies) making the setting even more authentic. On an additional note, Nancy Wheeler (played by Natalia Dyer) really pulled off some classic vintage knitwear! Overall, I thought the theme and setting was very well-established, and the mix between reality and ‘upside down’ did not feel forced at all. If anything, they could have combined the two slightly more without overdoing things for an introductory episode. 

This throws up so many questions which will hopefully be answered sooner rather than later
There was an immediate sense of mystery from the opening scene. There appears to be more characters like Eleven, as a masked crime is being carried out and a girl uses seemingly supernatural powers to prevent police catching up with a getaway vehicle. Her nose bleeds, and the number 008 is stamped onto her hand. This throws up so many questions which will hopefully be answered sooner rather than later, and it could possibly be alluding to a possible ‘army’ of Eleven’s. There was certainly talk of this earlier in the year, when casting calls went out for women aged 18-70 who were willing to have their hair cut short. Apart from this curveball, nothing really seems to have changed in Hawkins. The only things missing were Eleven and her Eggos, as the other familiar and loveable characters all return – the boys are still the same nerdy, argumentative characters as last year and Winona Ryder’s character remains just as jittery about the whole Will situation. 

Things start getting weird very early-on
And Joyce Byers has a right to be jittery. Things start getting weird very early-on, in a spooky transformation of the arcade into an upside-down wasteland. Of course, this is put down to post-traumatic stress by Will’s doctor, but viewers know that there is more to Will’s visions than this. Even though the doctor assures Joyce he can be trusted, there is just something about him that screams ‘villain’. That night at the Byers’ household, the phone rings (going by last season’s event, this is very bad news), and later Will has another ‘vision’. Nothing really happens, and to be honest I was expecting more action on the upside-down front, but I would not be disheartened just yet, as I’m sure there’s plenty of that to come. 

While I could let the lack of demagorgans and other weird happenings slide, I couldn’t disregard the absence of Eleven. The last season left viewers unsure if she was even alive, but after it was confirmed that Millie Bobby-Brown was returning for Stranger Things 2, I presumed that by this point in the episode she would’ve made an appearance. There were literally two minutes left, and I thought I would have to wait. But when I saw those Eggo’s on Jim Hopper’s table, the episode really came together for me. 

The episode was everything I was expecting, and although I did not feel like it was massively packed with action, in hindsight that is probably just me being greedy. There are eight further episodes, and these will unravel many of the questions established in MADMAX whilst also continuing storylines from the first season. Episode one had just the right amount of spooky, although arguably not enough Eleven, and there’s certainly no justice for Barb happening yet so it will be good to see if this occurs later. It is definitely going to be a thrilling series. 


11th November 2017 at 12:30 pm

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