Making a good, much less great, sequel is no easy feat. Whenever the original reaches a certain height of popularity, there will always be elevated anticipation as fans eagerly await a follow-up. Such was the case for Netflix’s Stranger Things, an original series that shot to the upper stratosphere of popularity almost as soon as it was released, an instant fan-favorite that became a global phenomenon. Everyone involved in the creative process of very well knew that the second season would be highly-anticipated, an event all its own, that would come under far more scrutiny than its predecessor.
Thankfully, the creative powers behind the show were more than up to the challenge. Not only was Stranger Things 2 worth the hype, for a decent portion of the audience, the sequel managed to surpass the original in a lot of ways. In order to achieve this task, it appears that the series might have looked to one of the more successful and universally adored science-fiction sequels of all time: 1986’s Aliens, the fan-favorite sequel to Ridley Scott’s original masterpiece.
The shift from Alien to Aliens was quite noticeable. Where in the first movie you had only one monster to terrorize the ensemble cast, there was a whole bunch in the sequel to up the ante. Multiple Xenomorphs were present in Aliens, to truly make them feel like a terrible force that couldn’t be overcome. For its second season, Stranger Things would borrow that approach. In the first season there was one monster, the Demogorgon, as the main threat to the cast. In season two, there wasn’t just one monster anymore, but dozens of Demodogs, to pick off at a bigger and more scattered group of characters. This was effective in differentiating the threat from the first go-round, while making sure that every character from the large cast had something to do — while being in constant danger of getting ripped to bits and pieces.
In fact, there was a scene in Stranger Things 2 that seemed quite reminiscent of Aliens. In Chapter 6, “The Spy,” many Hawkins Lab soldiers are sent down in the tunnels, only to be hunted down by a bevy of Demodogs. Dr. Owens and his fellow scientists observe the soldiers on a radar that looks to be a direct homage of the famous Aliens scene where Ripley and her fellow soldiers realize that, thanks to a motion tracking device, the ceiling above them is filled with Xenomorphs.
Next, we move on to the main villain of the season, the Shadow Monster. Not only was he bigger in size, he was also very big in influence. Thanks to his possession of Will, his grasp of Hawkins was all the more tight, and it almost led to the downfall of the city. With his hivemind, he was able to control all the other Demodogs to do his bidding. Therefore, a correlation could definitely be drawn between this Shadow Monster and the Alien Queen, the main threat introduced in Aliens. The Queen is bigger, and even more dangerous. She is able to create Xenomorphs and control them — to give them orders and dispatch them. There are definite similarities between the two monsters, but the Shadow King managed to turn into something even more frightening than the Alien Queen ever could. And it would appear as if he is only getting started.
Finally, the biggest comparison between Aliens and Stranger Things 2 may just rest in their most iconic and popular characters. In Aliens, Ripley proved to be a strong female character, a fighter and a survivor that managed to kill the unkillable. In that way, Stranger Things more than followed suit. It’s not only that Eleven came back, stronger and more determined than ever, to save everyone and close the gate to the Upside Down for good (hopefully), it was also the fact that new character Max was able to take down her brother when Steve, Dustin, Mike and Lucas weren’t able to, and that Joyce, Will’s mother, was crucial in exorcising the Shadow Monster from her son. All three of them proved instrumental in saving the day, just like Ripley did in the far reaches of space.
Need any more convincing? Well, there is also the fact that both Stranger Things 2 and Aliens share a cast member. In fact, Paul Reiser, who was brought onto the series’ second season as Dr. Owens, Brenner’s replacement at Hawkins Lab, also starred in Aliens as Carter J. Burke, a representative of the shadowy Weyland Corporation.
However, make no mistake. Stranger Things 2 is very much its own entity. These similarities were only drawn to compare how the two productions managed to up the ante and become highlights in their respective mediums of cinema and television, decades apart. These shared traits might have been coincidental, or they might have been on purpose. Either way, the results more than speak for themselves. Stranger Things 2, the sequel, not only proved fantastic, it also set a bar for itself that a third season will have quite a difficult time measuring up to.
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