If you're anything like me, the past month has been leading towards one big event (well two if you include Halloween): the release of Stranger Things 2. After the huge success of the Netflix original's first season, many were left apprehensive about the supernatural drama's fate, wondering if the Duffer Brothers would be able to duplicate the same originality of its debut season. I am warning you now that massive spoilers lie ahead, so please don't read ahead if you have yet to watch all 9 episodes of Stranger Things 2. Bookmark this page, open Netflix, binge and come back when you're ready.

The first season of the Netflix hit show left viewers with a massive cliffhanger as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was dragged into the Upside Down in order to save Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) [you can read a full review and recap of season one here.] Picking up almost a year after the first season's events, Stranger Things 2 tracks the incredible ensemble of characters as they discover that the Upside Down isn't as contained as they thought it was. Now back in Hawkins, Will is still seeing the Upside Down through visions and his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Chief Hopper (David Harbour) aren't sure if it's triggered by his PTSD or not. Meanwhile, Hopper is hiding Eleven out in the woods, protecting her from the people who made her the way she is at Hawkins Lab. While Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are more than happy to have Will back, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) misses Eleven more than they can fathom, and immediately harbours resentment towards Max (Sadie Sink), a new student who immediately catches the attention of both Lucas and Dustin as a love triangle sparks up. Mike however isn't the only one still grieving over those taken by the Upside Down as Nancy (Natalia Dyer) battles with letting go of Barb, sacrificing her relationship with Steve (Joe Keery) when he doesn't realise how to help her move on. In an attempt to get #JusticeForBarb, Nancy becomes closer with Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). The season follows our beloved characters as they try to understand how to go through life knowing what they know now and finding balance in a world that seems impossible to maneuver.

While many aspects contribute to Stranger Things' success, it is undoubtably the show's SAG Award-winning ensemble cast which helps separate it from other television dramas currently on air. The cast grew this season with the addition of some new characters who proved that if there is one thing the Duffer Brothers do well, it's character development. Immediately as the season picks up, we're introduced to a new crew of characters, the first of which is Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), another human experiment from Hawkins Lab labelled as number 008. We get to know Kali and her friends better in a stand alone episode towards the end of the season, and although her and Eleven experienced similar traumas in their youth, even the small amount of time we spend with Kali proves how differently the two young women have reacted to their upbringing. With season 2 we're also introduced to Max, the California skateboarder who moves to Hawkins at the start of the season. Max serves as a sort of foil to Eleven; outspoken where the season 1 protagonist is reserved. Where the two girls differ in their emotional openness, they're fueled by the same motivation to fit in and find a chosen family, a dynamic I'm eager to see explored in future seasons. Max however doesn't join the Indiana scene alone as she is joined by her step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), the human villain that compliments the supernatural threat of the Upside Down. Billy is built as the traditional 80's teen bully, filling the spot that Steve left when he was humanised in the first season. The season also introduces the characters of Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), the new head of Hawkins Lab; Murray (Brett Gelman), a conspiracy theorist and P.I. hired by Barb's family to uncover the truth about their daughter's disappearance; both Lucas' family, including younger sister Erica (played by Priah Ferguson who may or may not be the best thing about season 2) and Dustin's mother. However, the new character that makes the most lasting impression on the season is Bob 'the Brain' Newby, Joyce's lovable and nerdy boyfriend played by 80's child star of Goonies and Lord of the Rings fame Sean Astin.

Bob's appearance in the show is like a breath of fresh air as he represents a very different type of masculinity than what was previously showcased on the show. Where we've seen brute heroism from characters like Hopper as well as Jonathan and Steve, Bob's heroism comes from a place of intellect and greatly mirrors the way Mike and his friends view the world and how they can protect themselves. While he is initially treated like the butt of the joke both by Hopper and Jonathan, he quickly reveals himself to be the true hero of the season, saving much of the core cast before sacrificing himself to the Upside Down. His appearance on the show also serves as a wonderful addition as we get to see Joyce in a healthy relationship, one that was contrasted in the first season with her toxic marriage to her ex-husband.

Where the addition of new characters helped diversify the emotional field of the show, new relationships blossomed even between previously established charactersStranger Things saw wonderful dynamics that only help develop the characters more. Lucas and Dustin's friendship is pushed when Max moves to town and seeing their home lives helps cements them more in the world. The relationship between Hopper and Eleven is also beautiful, as the two try to find balance between their new found familial situation and desire for independence. While glancing at the Sheriff's attempts at being a father, the shining light of parental figures in Stranger Things 2 is none other than Steve Harrington. When Steve finds himself detached from everything when he and Nancy break up, he acquires a new role as babysitter/honorary father-of-the-year to the younger cast. This relationship between the High School senior and the middle-school pre-teens is beautiful, as they seem to finally have someone in their lives who puts their collective safety and well-being above finding out the truth.

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The new character dynamics only help fuel praise towards the show's team of writers, who managed to go above and beyond the success of the first season. Stranger Things 2 excels in it's comedy and the moments of the show that don't take place in the supernatural are that much better, helping truly cement the everyday lives of the characters which weren't seen as much during the show's premiere season as the writers were more focused on developing the series' story-world. The writing is yet again elevated by the amazing cast. While Ryder and Harbour deliver incredible performances again, the true star of the season is thirteen year-old Noah Schnapp who delivers a stellar helping to flesh out Will, who was only a supporting character in the first season. The young actor's talent is mind-blowing, sparking rave reviews from critics and fellow actors alike.

The show's second season also goes above and beyond in it's technical aspects. With incredible cinematography, wonderful editing and a soundtrack that rivals some of the best in the industry, Stranger Things 2 truly exceeds expectations. The world the show takes place in is only fleshed out further in the second season, creating dynamics and layers I didn't even think were possible. Once again, Netflix has proven that its immediate release of all episodes is both it's biggest burden and its most precious gift, as the ability to binge-watch an entire season in 24 hours is marred by needing to wait over a year for the next one to come out. While Netflix has not told us when the show will return, a third season has been confirmed. With Eleven now adopted by Hopper, and the students joining Nancy at Hawkins High, I am exceedingly excited for season 3 of the hit show and will probably be posting an entire article on what I want out of it since the curiosity door still remains locked.

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