Stranger Things S2 EP.1: ‘Madmax’ Review
Spoilers ahead, feel free to come back once you’ve seen the first episode.
Stranger Things is back, and all your nervous energy can be put at ease. It has got off to a thrilling start. Immediately, we are introduced to a car chase that ends with a pile-up of police cars as the entrance to the tunnel the criminals drive through collapses in as they escape. Cut to one of the girls in the escaping van; blood trickles from her nose. It seems like Eleven is not the only one with Psychokinetic abilities, the woman’s arm is tattooed, ‘008’ identical to Eleven’s ‘011’.
It’s going to be interesting to see where this new team will take us, now that we have proof there are others out there in the open with powers like Eleven, it could change everything. Just how big are these experiments and how many people have been subjected to them? Will Eight meet Eleven?
Almost a year on, it seems like Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will have moved on from Dungeons and Dragons, as they all desperately search for quarters to use at the local arcade. We find out that Dustin’s high score in the arcade game ‘Dig Dug’ has been beaten by someone named ‘MADMAX’. Shocked, the foursome is desperate to find out who has achieved such an impossibility. Meanwhile, Will stumbles out of the arcade with visions of the Upside Down.
The premiere echoes elements of the pilot episode. Whilst the rest of the boys are pre-occupied with their games, Will is isolated. In the pilot it was because he got lost, now he is getting frequent visions of the Upside Down, and he is struggling to deal with this new reality. A new girl at school, Max, turns out to be the new high score holder at ‘Dig Dug’ and the boys are mildly obsessed with having her join their gang, she is uninterested.
Sheriff Hopper is called to investigate a field of rotting Pumpkins that died overnight. That doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting investigation though if I suspect rightly, and the incident is connected to the Upside Down; Hawkins is in for a rough Halloween. As the town prepares for the spooky festival, the threat from the Upside Down looms.
The premiere does a great job at giving adequate screen time to all the different strands of the storyline taking place at once as it layers the original ensemble and introduces us to a host of new characters; Siblings Max and Billy, Joyce’s new boyfriend Bob and Dr. Owens at the lab.
Dr. Owens in particular seems like he’ll be playing an important role as the season progresses, and not a good one. When Joyce and Hopper take Will to him for a check-up, he seems silently invested in what Will has to say, despite dismissing it to Joyce and Hopper as PTSD. Though Will is clearly suffering, it is much more than trauma as it is very much current and ongoing. His visions seem less like flashbacks and more like glimpses into the Upside Down in real time.
The number one thing that drew me to this show, the authenticity and nostalgia of the 80s is still going strong. It’s super exciting seeing scenes at the arcade, the school, the Sheriff’s department, Hawkins now even has a RadioShack. The tight-knit community that Hawkins appears to be only serves to remind us of the chaos that will inevitably ensue from the supernatural threats that loom over the small town.
Finally, the big-non-reveal, Eleven is still alive. Hopper has been visiting her regularly in a secluded shack, which looks incredibly cosy, in the woods, hiding her, feeding her and looking after her.
Stranger Things is a welcoming escape from 2017, we all need it. A great start to season two.