The second season of Stranger Things debuts on Netflix this week
Even stranger things await in season 2 of Stranger Things
Can the TV phenomenon of last year – which drew us into an extraordinary mystery of top-secret government experiments, frightening supernatural forces, a vanished boy and one very strange little girl called Eleven – transport us again to the point where the extraordinary blurs into magic?
Can Stranger Things get any stranger? You bet it can.
Judging by the creepiness of the Shadow Monster reaching down with huge tentacles from the blackened heavens in the latest trailer for Stranger Things 2 – which returns with nine new episodes this Friday on Netflix – we had better strap ourselves in for another jaunt into The Upside Down, the dark dimension of monsters and horrors that parallels our own.
After 18 Emmy nominations for their first outing, series creators Matt and Ross Duffer, the 33-year-old identical twins known professionally as the Duffer Brothers, promise to explore the bigger mythology of their supernatural world in this season.
“Security went up this year; we had to shred scripts at the end of the day,” says Matt, keeping any spoilers close to his chest. “We talked to the Game of Thrones people; they told us what to do [to protect our secrets]. Because no one has it worse than Games of Thrones.”
Here’s what we do know: the second season picks up around Halloween 1984, a year after the events of the original series, and the good citizens of Hawkins, Indiana, are still in shock from the horrors of the Demogorgon creature and the secrets of Hawkins National Laboratory.
While Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has indeed been rescued from The Upside Down, much to the relief of his frantic mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and police chief Hopper (David Harbour), a larger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived. Despite Will’s apparent post-traumatic stress disorder, his nightmarish visions will come in handy in helping all to figure out the bigger picture. Tearful, his voice cracking with fear, he sobs, in the trailer: “I don’t know [what it is] – I felt it... everywhere.”
His school buddies Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are also back to stand by their pal and tackle the new threat. A new girl on the block, the red-haired Max – played by Sadie Sink, a former Broadway Annie – joins the team.
“Mike is definitely a lot more paranoid and a little more distraught and on edge [this season],” Wolfhard says of his highly intelligent character. “He’s a lot more punchy and teenagery.”
After a powerful performance that won her an Emmy nomination at the tender age of 13, Millie Bobbie Brown is also back as the psycho-kinetically empowered Eleven, the young girl of few words who escaped her lab tormentors last season. To our delight, she is, apparently, very much alive and will play a major force in the new season’s events – and is still being stalked by the manipulative scientist Dr Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine).
“She also finds herself distraught and disoriented, not really knowing what’s going on,” Brown adds.
Chief among the new faces is Sean Astin as local Radio Shack manager Bob Newby, a former schoolmate of Joyce’s, as well as her new boyfriend. Astin, lovingly remembered as Frodo’s saviour Samwise in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, can also lay claim to playing Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, a seminal film that inspired the Duffers.
Also watch for Paul Reiser as Dr Owens, a Department of Energy honcho who runs the lab and is keeping the rift to The Upside Down open for his own nefarious reasons. Reiser previously made his mark in sci-fi lore as Burke, the outwardly trustworthy yet ultimately treacherous Weyland-Yutani Corporation representative, in Aliens.
From pop cans to walkie-talkies to Dungeons and Dragons to wood-panelled station wagons, Stranger Things sweetly evokes the 1980s and its Spielbergian-influenced heyday of movies such as ET the Extra-Terrestrial and The Goonies, as well as darker Stephen King-nuanced tales such as Stand By Me and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Much credit for the subtle, authentic period feel here goes to production designer Chris Trujillo, who created the world of Hawkins, Indiana, of 1983 in Atlanta, Georgia, and imbued it with a gritty feel.
“I like to think that the texture of the whole thing moves away from the slick, fast, social-media-centric, fast-cutting modern TV-making – and that has a lot to do with (its success),” he says.
The Duffer brothers wanted “a recreation of what we remembered and loved growing up as kids in the 80s – a reinvention of classic American cinema from the early 80s. This was a dream project for me because this was my world as a kid,” Trujillo says.
“You walk onto the set and you feel like you’ve fallen straight into an 80s movie,” says Charlie Heaton who plays Jonathan Byers, Will’s quiet “outsider” big brother.
“It is enjoyably nostalgic for those of us who remember the 80s,” adds producer Shawn Levy, who received an Oscar nomination for his work on last year’s sci-fi hit Arrival, “but for a kid or a teenager for whom that is another era, it’s just a great story.”
The second season of Stranger Things will be available on Netflix from Friday