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First STRANGER THINGS 2 Reviews Say It Lives Up to Season 1… Eventually

With so much great television on the air, it’s tough to find a show that it seems like everyone is watching and talking about. Netflix’s Stranger Things became just that last year, earning fans from what felt like every corner of our lives during its first season. But with success comes the burdens of expectations and Stranger Things 2 has a lot to live up to.

Even with so much hype to live up to, it appears that we shouldn’t be too worried. Early reviews reveal that the series’ second season—or, as the creators want you to think of it, sequel—delivers the goods, even if it could have done so a lot faster and with fewer episodes. Here’s a sampling of what the initial reviews had to say. (Don’t worry, this is a spoiler-free roundup.)

Julia Alexander at Polygon says the show’s decision to do a sequel rather than a normal followup season was a mixed bag: 

“While Stranger Things 2 deserves credit for taking a big risk and pulling it off (for the most part), there are some problems with its pacing. The fact that it’s modeled after a sequel acts like a double-edged sword. Storylines that can be contained within one episode are dragged out across an entire season, while other storylines that need more room to grow fester in the show’s underbelly.”

The season won over a skeptical Alan Sepinwall at Uproxx, who thinks the Duffer Brothers managed to avoid the issues that plague most sequels:

“The whole thing could very easily fall prey to all the worst symptoms of sequelitis, but despite some bumps along the way—one bad storytelling choice in particular—Stranger Things 2 largely justifies its existence. The first season’s epilogue left me with no interest in returning to this world, yet I had an enormous smile on my face for a lot of the new episodes, and particularly the last two, which turn out to be a tighter and more exciting climax than we got last time around.”

Mo Ryan at Variety thinks the season was slow to develop, but that its second half gave us the show we remember:

“Until Stranger Things 2 really gets going—and that takes a while—it trails an air of self-consciousness that veers into strained fan service at times. The good news is, the show’s core cast remains an extremely versatile and effective ensemble, and once the story kicks into a higher gear about halfway through the nine-episode season, a lot of the old magic returns.”

Kelly Lawler at USA TODAY found that while the season was more intimate and exciting than the first, it was a little bloated:

“Overall, the new season has a stronger character focus, and some of the supporting roles from Season 1 are fleshed out to great effect, particularly Lucas, Dustin and Steve (Joe Keery), who may end up being the fan-favorite breakout of the year (sorry, Barb). But the episodes are each a hair too long, which sometimes undercuts the building tension. The new season has nine episodes, up from eight, and at times the plot meanders.”

Daniel Fienberg at The Hollywood Reporter found it to be a satisfying sequel that avoids many anticipated problems:

“Stranger Things 2 is quite good and, if your expectations are in check, largely satisfying. The Duffer brothers fall into very few traps of self-importance or self-awareness, and they deliver a second season with an expanded assortment of ’80s influences, an expanded cast of instantly embraceable characters and some expanded Stranger Things mythology without the bloat that inevitably dooms sequels.”

On the other hand, Entertainment Weekly‘s Darren Franich felt that the season was a way-too-long ripoff of season one:

“In lieu of a second season, Netflix has thrown a nine-hour Stranger Things party, watch along on social media, click here if you recognize the reference! But no one wants to stay at a party that long, and it’s worth pointing out that no classic ’80s movie mentioned in this review ran over two hours. No one will complain if Stranger Things 3 rips off the concept of brevity.”

Clarisse Loughrey at The Independent thinks the safe but smart second season was successful because it focused on its characters:

“Credit it all to two central ingredients: characterization and tone. Stranger Things 2 narrows in even closer on its central cast here (to the point you’ll forget about Barb all over again). The kids, Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Steve (Joe Keery), and Nancy (Natalie Dyer) were all beautifully fleshed out in the first season, and here we’re allowed to settle into that comfortable familiarity.”

Katharine Trendacosta at io9 says that fans have nothing to worry about:

“Here’s the thing about Stranger Things season two: If you liked season one, and pretty much everyone did, then you’ll like this season just fine. Everything is turned up a bit, but the soul of Stranger Things remains what it was last season—a story about friendship, family, and giant piles of ‘80s nostalgia.”

With such a slow start, sounds like we’ll definitely have to binge the whole season in one sitting. As opposed to our original plan of stopping after an episode or two to get a sandwich or a bag of chips.

But how are you planning on watching the show? And after reading these reviews, what are you most looking forward to? Forget the Upside Down, go to our comments section below instead and let us know.

Images: Netflix

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