Written by Chad Echakowitz
The excitement for Stranger Things 2 was akin to the early days of Pokémon Go!: people were running around, sharing news on the Internet, and generally refusing to stop talking about it. One year and four months after the first season was released, Stranger Things 2 returned like the Prodigal Son, and we all paid it its due respect. But now enough time has passed and we can reflect on the Season. We can look at its pitfalls, we can examine its more questionable moments, and we can discuss what we would have liked to have seen from one of the best Netflix Originals to ever grace our screens.
In no way am I saying I didn’t enjoy Stranger Things 2. It was masterful from start to finish. I mean, who couldn’t be moved by Bob and Joyce’s relationship? Or Hopper’s ability to be a badass one moment and then a goofy father-figure the next, showing the duality of life and protection given dependent on the context of who you are protecting. But this is not the time to get in to that. It is now time to argue for things we would have liked to see more of in Stranger Things 2. So settle in, and as Samuel L. Jackson said, “Hold on to your butts.”
Obviously, there will be spoilers ahead.
1. The Development of Mike being a Dick
It can be argued that Mike was the main protagonist of Season One. He had a majority of screen-time, his character arch dominated the plot, and his love story with El was a continuous sub-plot throughout the season. Therefore it makes sense that in Season Two, giving him the spotlight again would have been a mistake. But that being said, he is still an integral character to the story. His relationship with El was one of the most endearing things about Season One. It made the show more relatable because, outside of the Sci-Fi nature of the show, it was a simple coming of age story about a boy who is finally discovering love. So the fact that El is gone is not only a big deal for us, it’s a massive deal for Mike.
While it was lovely to see Mike take on a more caring role for Will, continually guarding him and making sure he was alright, it would have been great to see Mike show some more vulnerability over losing El. We lose so much of his story because he had so much less screen-time. We did get snippets of him showing his vulnerability in missing El but it would have been so much more satisfying if we had just a few more scenes where Mike opens up to someone and maybe even sheds a tear over Eleven.
Instead, we get a lot of Mike being mean to his friends and extremely harsh to Max. His caring for Will is important to the Season, as we missed all of that best-friend-love-stuff in Season One due to Will being stuck in The Upside Down. We see a new aspect to Mike's character which is lovely, but it would have been lovelier to see him care for Will while mourning the loss of the first girl he had ever loved, balancing his own feelings while trying to be there for his best friend as well as dealing with a new girl who has not only entered his friend-group, but has also entered a love-triangle between his two other best friends.
One cannot fault Mike for how he behaved. Losing a loved one at any age will make you angry. All I am saying is that it would have been nice to see that anger explained instead of just lulling their and disappearing the second El came back. Yes, you can argue that we saw that vulnerability in the punchy-cry-hug scene with Hopper, but in my completely unsolicited opinion it was too little, too late.
2. More Bob!
Not much more needs to be said here. I just wanted more Bob. Bob is one of the best characters ever. He was so delightful, a lot of people had suspicions that he was going to turn around and be a villain. But no, up to the bitter end, Bob was the best of us. He became part of a family who had suffered a severely traumatic experience, an experience he wasn’t allowed to know about, and he just accepted it and tried to help where he could. He made Joyce smile, he made Will and Jonathan laugh (at him, not with him, but that’s hardly worth noting), and he tried to help heal a broken family. Bob will be sorely missed.
I mean, sure, if you want to get down to the real nitty-gritty technicalities, he did sort of cause Will to get infected by the Mind Flayer in the first place, and was therefore the catalyst for the Season, but we can forgive him for this, right? Please tell me we can. Please.
We all need a Bob in our lives. Whether it’s your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, whatever; if you have a Bob in your life let them know. And if they don’t watch Stranger Things don’t give them any context but enjoy the Bob-like confusion that washes over their face.
3. Where are all these Monsters Coming From?
The Upside Down is supposed to be an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world. But also there are monsters there. I am cool with that. I can get behind that premise because I love D&D, I love this show, and Stranger Things is definitely one of the best made shows on Television. What I’m struggling to get behind is where these monsters are coming from. In Season One, the Demogorgan was the bad guy. It was big, it was scary, and it was eating everything. Then in Season Two we had the Demodogs. They were slightly less scary, but they were still eating and killing everything. The main villain was the Mind Flayer. My question, therefore, is where was that guy in Season One?
Obviously, the world is a pretty massive place. It goes without saying that The Upside Down, as a parallel to our world, must also be massive so it would make sense that the Mind Flayer was probably somewhere else in the world, hanging out with his other Mind Flayer buddies, kicking back, flaying minds. So why then did it come to Hawkins, Indiana? Is Stranger Things saying that because of the porthole, monsters are attracted to Hawkins? If that’s the case, why are they coming so slowly, and only one at a time? It took two seasons to defeat two monsters. Yes, the stakes were high, and very much like D&D, the challenge matched the experience and capabilities of the characters, but it just seems illogical.
When garbage is left outside, it doesn’t just attract a single rat. And when you kill or defeat the rat, a single raccoon doesn't just come along with some mice. When something attracts scavengers, they all come at once; rats, mice, flies, raccoons, cats, and sometimes, depending on where you live, bears. It would therefore make more sense that we should see a lot more than just two different types of monster.
Perhaps in Season Three all hell will break loose and we will see some more terrifying beasts that inhabit The Upside Down. It would be nice to dive deeper in to that world, rather than that world continuously visiting us in drips and drabs.
4. The Mayfield/Hargrove confrontation
Billy Hargrove is terrifying. He is the epitome of an 80’s bully. This could not have been made any clearer even if they had made him lift weights while listening to Rock music and smoking (oh wait, they totally did that). He his horrible to everyone and we only find out why when we meet his father in the last episode of the season. While this explains why Billy is the way he is, it doesn’t completely redeem him and that makes him a good villain. It also explains why he hates Max so much and torments her, being both controlling and distant.
What would have been nice to see – and not just for five minutes in the last episode – was the home relationship of the Mayfield/Hargrove family. Seeing more of the abusive relationship between Billy and his father, the hatred of Billy for his stepmother, and poor Max caught in the middle of all of it, would have created richer characters for two people who played quite a large role in the plot of Stranger Things 2. It would have also been nice to see some interaction between Max and her stepfather. This would have given us a deeper understanding of her feelings towards Billy and their family dynamic. If Max and her stepfather got along, it would have explained why Billy hates her so much and further developed his lone wolf/black sheep persona. If they didn't get along, it would have meant that Billy was being mean to Max just to try and win an unloving father's approval. Either way, we would have had a deeper understanding and a richer character.
There were only nine episodes in Stranger Things 2 and it would not have hurt to add just one more which provided us with a deeper understanding of the Mayfield-Hargrove family. Such an episode would have made the final confrontation between Max and Billy even more satisfying because we would have had more insight into their lives. It would have also made the tension and satisfaction of that moment when Max swung the bat down betwixt Billy’s legs even more palpable.
My one wish for Stranger Things 3 is that we get to see more of this relationship. From the ending montage of Stranger Things 2, it seems like Billy has softened and will back off. I hope this is not the case, and that Billy will come back with vengeance in his heart and we will see more of their family. But that’s for the Duffer Brothers to decide.
Whatever comes our way in Stranger Things 3, we can all be assured it’s going to be good. Though it would have been nice to see Stranger Things end forever on that high note with The Snow Ball, just like in D&D, everything has to be left on a cliff-hanger. I am sure we are going to see some weird and wonderful things next season, and perhaps all of these issues will be addressed. Only time, and the Duffers, will tell.