SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the second season of Stranger Things, streaming now on Netflix.
The debut season of Stranger Things was met with near universal praise, and for good reason. The show was the perfect blend of horror and sci-fi, neatly packaged by Netflix as a nostalgic coming-of-age tale for fans of stories like The Goonies, E.T. and Stephen King books in general. However, it wasn't without its flaws, with some viewers pointing out that, as opposed to homage and inspiration, quite a few arcs in the show felt like straight rip-offs of said influencers.
These critics found the series too derivative, believing it aped the older films rather than placing a contemporary, updated spin on the genres involved. This was actually made fun of this season where Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) tried to divulge what happened in Season 1 to a newcomer to Hawkins, Indiana, in Max (Sadie Sink). She laughed it off and basically called it unoriginal, echoing some of the flak thrown at the show.
Thhe #JusticeForBarb movement wondered why everyone was concerned with the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and not Barbara Holland (Shannon Purser). Then we have the reaction over Lucas, the show's one black character, and his family, who were placed in the periphery while the white kids and families got more screen time. This time around though, the Duffers, well aware of these red flags, were more than ready to address these issues head-on, even attempting to rectify them.
The Duffers have never shied away from admitting what influenced their storytelling, taking The Goonies influence in particular a step further by casting Sean Astin for Season 2. He played Mikey Walsh in Richard Donner's 1985 classic film, and as Stranger Things 2's Bob Newby is a nerdy gem of a person. He cares for Will thanks to the romance with his mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and also because he sees himself in a youngster who is bullied at school. In a way, the Duffers made Bob feel like an older version of Mikey, transplanted to Hawkins, looking at maps, solving puzzles and, basically, helping save the day.
Aliens, The Thing and The Exorcist were also among the many influences seen this season, reaffirming the Duffers' love for old-school film, but the time machine didn't stop there. '80s gamers willhave recognized a couple of arcade games thematically linked to the show's narrative this year. Dig Dug tied directly into the Upside Down infecting Hawkins through underground tunnels, while Dragon's Lair paralleled Lucas and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) fighting over Max, who an analogy for Princess Daphne (the object of the hero's affection in the game).
This reiterated that the Duffers are kids of the '80s, making it clear that whether it's walkie-talkies, kids biking as in E.T., walking on train tracks as in Stand By Me, offering refuge to a mysterious Demodog as in Gremlins, or whether it's Eleven's (Millie Bobby Brown) rebellious punk gang as per James Cameron's Terminator 2, what shaped their formative years as teens and eventually as creators, will always have a place in Hawkins.