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TV Review: Stranger Things 2.02 "Trick or Treat, Freak"

EPISODE: 2.02 "Trick or Treat, Freak"

SYNOPSIS: After Will sees something terrible on trick-or-treat night, Mikewonders if Eleven is still out there. Nancy wrestles with the truth about Barb.

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REVIEW: When Stranger Things 2 debuted it's first images and trailers, the fact that the kids were all wearing costumes from GHOSTBUSTERS caused collective nostalgia to blow through the roof. For children of the 1980s, GHOSTBUSTERS is one of the most iconic movies to have grown up with. So, seeing these beloved characters feel the same way is quite heartwarming. In fact, this second episode of season two carries a lot of moments that brought me back to being an 80s kid again. From the argument over who gets to be Peter Venkman, being the only kids dressed up for Halloween at school to why Three Musketeers are the worst candy bar, "Trick or Treat, Freak" is full of nice little moments. But, the episode also has to manage developing plot threads involving pretty much the entire cast and almost pulls it off. This second episode doesn't do a lot to propel the story forward but it does answer some questions lingering from last season.

First off, the episode explains how Eleven made it out of the Upside Down after her showdown with the Demogorgon. She somehow found a rift back to our world, used her powers, and escaped back to Mike's house. Crawling with agents, Eleven ran and hid in the woods, surviving off of squirrels until Hopper found her and brought her to the cabin she has been stuck in since. Wanting to go trick or treating, Eleven pleads with Hopper to take her, but it is just too dangerous. He instead agrees to bring her candy and hang out with her, but first he has to go to work. The dynamic between Hopper and Eleven is already an interesting one, but keeping her away from the main group for this long allows for the introduction of Max to the group. Dustin and Lucas invite their new crush to go trick or treating with them but her inclusion throws Mike off. He instead takes Will home after his friend has another flash into The Upside Down.

What seems to be the biggest shift this season from the last is how central Will Byers is to the story. While his disappearance anchored the first run of episodes, this is the first time Noah Schnapp has been featured so heavily. Having Will back certainly throws the balance dynamic of the characters off, even more with the inclusion of so many new faces. This episode also sees Sean Astin's character tossing the idea of taking Joyce and her family and moving from Hawkins to Maine. Astin, an 80s mainstay, plays his character as an endearing goof, but it also adds another face we need to sort through. No impact is greater felt in this hour though than Dacre Montgomery's Billy. Max's stepbrother, Billy is a sadistic bully who jokes about running down Max's new friends on the road. Montgomery, best known for starring in POWER RANGERS, is a bit over the top as Billy and almThis is never more apparent than when Steve Harrington's old crew shows that they are following Billy now. Steve has pivoted to being a decent and good guy who loves Nancy but Nancy cannot deal with it as she is still hung up on Barb's death.

All the while, Will's vision of a massive black creature on the horizon in the Upside Down remains looming in the future. At the Department of Energy, Owens and his team continue their ventures into the alternate dimension, looking for something unspoken. Hopper, meanwhile, continues the investigation into the rotting pumpkins and finds that the blight is impacting farms all around Hawkins with the dessicated goo we saw in the Upside Down last season. Could the evil of that world be crossing into ours? Is that the reason why Will's visions have been getting more and more frequent? That question remains unclear as this episode switches quickly between the fractured relationships between our characters from last season and the newly introduced ones over these firsr two episodes.

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This episode also features some heartwarming scenes shared between Hopper and Joyce as well as Mike and Eleven. On the adult side, Hopper seems to be the one shoulder Joyce can cry on who understands what they all went through and Hopper seems to want more out of it. They recall shared time under the bleachers back in school, but Joyce seems reluctant to take it beyond daydreaming. Eleven, tired of being cooped up in what looks like a replica of the cabin from THE EVIL DEAD, uses her powers to reach out to Mike. For a split second, it seems like they actually may have connected, but the moment is fleeting and leaves Mike angry and Eleven distraught. The connection between these couples is palpable and one of the strongest elements of The Duffer Brothers writing. I just hope that they don't get stuck in a very slowly paced story that doesn't develop as naturally as season one did. The episode wraps with Dustin returning home to discover some kind of creature in his garbage can. What exactly it is remains a mystery until the next episode.

Many moments in this episode felt rehashed from last season including Joyce worried that Will was missing, Jonathan pining over Nancy, and Nancy getting drunk at a party. It hits so many of the same beats we have already seen that it I was left feeling deja vu throughout. I am definitely enjoying seeing these great characters return for more stories, but the pacing of these episodes feels much slower than before and with only nine episodes in this volume, it seems like we should be further along in the story. Sequels always have to be bigger and grander, but that is typically a feature film concern, not television. I hope my concerns are not going to amount to anything, but so far we have seen a visual upgrade but not so much a narrative one.

Next on Stranger Things: 2.03 "The Pollywog" Dustin adopts a strange new pet, and Eleven grows increasingly impatient. A well-meaning Bob urges Will to stand up to his fears.

Source: JoBlo.com

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