Stranger Things 2: Trick or Treat, Freak

Season 2, Episode 2

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It’s Halloween in Hawkins so it is fitting that there are a number of ghosts haunting the town. Nancy is haunted by the spectre of Barb culminating in her acrid behaviour at the big party where she gets basic bitch drunk and pretty much tells Steve Harrington that she doesn’t love him. Poor form Nancy. Meanwhile, Mike can’t escape the ghost of El and his feelings for her. His annoyance that life has moved on without him is understandable although that doesn’t make Dustin and Lucas’ pursuit of Max any less adorable. It is loneliness that haunts Eleven as she is pretty much a prisoner in Hopper’s bachelor pad. None of these conflicts are resolved in Trick or Treat, Freak as the Duffer Brothers continue to pose more questions than answers.

That certainly doesn’t make episode 2 of Stranger Things 2 any less satisfying however. It occurred to me partway through this episode that I enjoy watching this show more than anything else out there at the moment. I love Game of Thrones but it can be plodding and exhausting at times. In contrast, each episode of Stranger Things is compelling and action packed with plenty of room for character development on the side. The scene in which Hopper and Joyce Byers reminisce about simpler times is as real as anything I have seen on TV this year, and I watched every episode of Big Little Lies for chrissakes.

By the end of the episode nothing concrete has happened but we are moving towards something big. The Nancy/Steve/Jonathan love triangle arc seems to be heading towards some kind of conclusion and it is likely that Eleven wont put up with being stuck with Hopper for much longer. Another episode of Mike moping around wouldn’t do the show any favours either. So far Stranger Things 2 has been vastly enjoyable without a great deal happening. That needs to change in episode 3 but it has been a strong start for the returning show.

Pop Culture Watch: I’m not the best at this historically but I’m going to see how many references to pop culture I catch each week. We have two references to Halloween here. Firstly, when El is wearing the ghost sheet over her head accompanied by a single note from the Halloween score and secondly when Max arrives wearing a Michael mask. Jason from Friday the 13th also receives props as his mask is being worn by one of the jerks who scares Will, kicking off his mental meltdown. There is a Ghostbusters motif running through the episode but more subtle were the nods to Animal House and Dungeons and Dragons. The former is homaged by the drunk guy being sick at the party while wearing a toga while latterly we see a D & D board tucked away in Mike’s bedroom. A nice nod to the game that started the whole show way back in season 1. What did I miss?

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