The second season of #Stranger Things—or, if we should, Stranger Things 2—successfully recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that principally follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the brand new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting buddies, most of whom assume she’s disappeared or lifeless. As the collection’ breakout character, performed by its strongest younger actor, Eleven is a pure candidate to hold her personal largely self-contained storyline, however the pressure of constructing a brand new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking expertise to the restrict, and eventually exhausts them altogether in its seventh #episode, “The Lost Sister.” The outcome is an unmitigated embarrassment.
In “The Lost Sister,” Eleven, who has run away from her surrogate father, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), and located her delivery mom in a state of apparently irreversible catatonia, units out in the hunt for the closest factor to household she has left: her “sister” Kali (Linnea Berthelsen). Kali, who has a telltale “008” tattooed on her internal arm, is a product of the identical authorities challenge that gave Eleven her psychic powers, and so far as she is aware of the one dwelling individual on the planet able to understanding what she’s been via. (The episode raises the likelihood that Matthew Modine’s villainous Dr. Brenner is probably not as lifeless as he beforehand appeared, however that is still unconfirmed, and in any case there’s an enormous distinction between being the experiment’s instigator and considered one of its unwilling topics.) Like Eleven, who now is aware of her actual identify is Jane, Kali has gathered a gaggle of pals round her, however as an alternative of lovable small-town tweens, they’re grown-up lawbreakers, and it is with their introduction that “The Lost Sister” turns into a real, even historic, catastrophe.
We’ve already caught a glimpse of Kali’s gang within the season’s very first scene, narrowly escaping the Pittsburgh police till Kali coaxes them to hallucinate a crumbling overpass, however they’re reintroduced in Chicago by the mocking voice of Axel, who steps away from the group’s cozy oil-drum hearth to drawl, “Well, well, what do we have here?” like he’s auditioning for a task in a low-budget knockoff of The Warriors. He’s adopted shortly by the gang’s different members, whose repartee isn’t a lot snappier. One appears askance at Eleven’s small-town Indiana duds, and quips “There aren’t any cows to milk here, kid. Go on back to the farm, now.” Later, one begins to sing “Old MacDonald” and the others take part with a lusty “E-I-E-I-O.” You’d assume road toughs who reside by their wits might include one thing just a little sharper.
The dialogue is dangerous, and the plot is perfunctory—Kali needs to hunt out and kill the individuals who imprisoned her; Eleven decides that vengeance is not her factor, though she does dig eyeliner—however the imagery is the pits. Kali and co. inhabit a graffitied warehouse that appears like a Street Fighter backdrop, they usually’re accomplished up like Central Casting lowlifes from a nasty ’80s TV present. More particularly, they appear to be the laughably off-base “punks” from the infamous episodes of CHiPs and Quincy that tried to warn community TV viewers concerning the risks of ripped T-shirts and delinquent lyrics in 1981 and ’82—though one way or the other 35 years and innumerable music-scene documentaries later, Stranger Things’ illustration is even phonier and extra laughable. (Considering that there is ample footage of the Chicago punk scene from this exact time interval, it’s much more inexcusable how lame and generic the characters are.) Axel has an enormous multicolored mohawk that renders the masks the gang wears to commit their crimes completely ineffective; his pal Dottie has teased-out rainbow-gray hair and an enormous bow that makes her seem like a Harley Quinn cosplayer; Mick has an enormous, puffy Afro; and their stout comrade Funshine has a popcorn-butter goatee harking back to a Luc Besson alien. Their types don’t mesh, however they’re additionally not distinct sufficient to inform us something concerning the characters, besides perhaps that the present’s costume designer needed to reduce corners someplace and figured if anybody was going to skip an episode, this is able to be the one they’d skip.
Back within the early ’80s, Hollywood costumers have been clearly taking their cues from Penelope Spheeris’ invaluable The Decline of Western Civilization, which captured Los Angeles bands like X and the Germs in motion. (The latter’s lead singer, Darby Crash, appears to have been a specific inspiration.) Throughout the last decade, punks of varied sizes and shapes turned a Hollywood staple, whether or not they have been menacing a time-traveling Arnold Schwarzenegger, crashing Sarah Jessica Parker’s party, or just making it tough for Kirk and Spock to have a civil dialog. The most charitable studying of Kali’s gang is that they’re a gloss on these inventory figures, but when so then they’re at greatest a replica of a replica, lazily ported over with no creativeness or discernment—precisely what the Duffer brothers’ detractors accuse the present, often wrongly, of being. One of probably the most hanging issues about Stanger Things’ first season was the best way it recreated its interval setting with out citation marks; for all its apparent homages to Spielberg et al., it felt prefer it befell in the actual 1980s, not a fictional model of them. It’s not a lot of a spoiler to disclose that “The Lost Sister” ends with Eleven headed again to Hawkins, ostensibly as a result of she’s remembered her obligation to guard her pals. But you couldn’t blame her if she merely obtained sick of hanging round these characters and simply determined to separate.
Correction, Nov. 2: This publish initially referred to the character Funshine as Funsize.