Stranger Things 2: MADMAX

Season 2, Episode 1

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How do you follow one of the most instantly successful opening seasons of the last decade? That is the question that is probably keeping the Duffer Brothers up at night. The Stranger Things creators spawned a monster hit with the first season and by doing so, they have made things so much more difficult for themselves second time round. No pressure…

Let’s catch up.

Hawkins and its inhabitants still seem to be kind of sleepwalking through life following the events of season one. Mikey is still bummed out about Eleven, Jonathan is still pining after Nancy and Hopper looks like he has spent the last year sleeping in his car and listening to Joy Division. Elsewhere, Joyce Byers has found love and my boy Steve Harrington is struggling with the transition from jock to scholar. Aside from the usual suspects, there a bunch of new faces to become acquainted with. Bob Newby (Sean Astin) is an unlikely love interest for Joyce Byers being as he seems to be a fat jackass.I have never liked Astin, possibly because of how annoying Samwise Gamgee is, and he does nothing for me in this episode. Faring better are Paul Reiser as the new doctor at the institute and Brett Gelman as an investigative journalist hired by the grieving and desperate parents of fan favourite Barb.

If this feels like a lot to pack into one episode then that is because it is. MADMAX rushes by at an astonishing pace and this results in an episode that takes a lot of chewing before it can be properly digested. The only time the show really slows down is when we focus on the charming side story of new girl Maxine and the horrifying fact that she has beat Dustin’s high score on Digger. It is comforting to see the boys acting their age with the stakes a lot lower than at the end of the first season but Will Byers hallucinations suggest that they shouldn’t get too comfortable.

As opening episodes go, MADMAX is a solid if unspectacular entry. The references are a little too close to ‘member berries for comfort but Stranger Things has earned a little trust from its audience by this point. The fact that everyone knew Millie Bobby Brown was due to return as Eleven kind of robbed her reveal of any real power although the prospect of her sharing a house with Hopper for a few episodes is a delicious one.

Oh, we also see a dickbag dressed in denim being admired by the female half of Hawkins High. This guy better not get fresh with Steve Harrington or he will get what is coming to him, mullet or no mullet.

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