Cast: Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers), David Harbour (Chief Jim Hopper), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Sean Astin (Bob Newby), Paul Reiser (Dr. Owens), Linnea Berthelsen (Roman), Dacre Montgomery (Billy), Sadie Sink (Max), Joe Keery (Steve), Brett Gelman (Murray Bauman)
Airdate, time: The nine episode second season of “Stranger Things” premieres this Friday on Netflix.
Season three synopsis: It’s 1984 and the many of the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the Demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived.
What to expect this season: After a stellar debut season it has to be hard for fans of “Stranger Things” to temper their excitement for season two. Some great trailers (especially the one featuring Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”), a full season of cons and guest appearances that helped viewers get to know the young cast better, and a perfect release date is sure to have “Stranger Things” aficionados shaking with anticipation.
Even though season one told a complete story, there are still lingering questions going into season two. Where has Eleven been? We know from the trailers that she shows up sometime but how? There’s been some new characters we’ve caught glimpses of (Sean Astin, Paul Reiser), however, we don’t know how they play into this season's story yet. And what other surprises can viewers expect? After watching the first few episodes, I’d like to tell you but this is a spoiler free preview. That said, in honor of Eleven, here are my 11 takeaways from the first few episodes of “Stranger Things.”
1. There wasn’t a lot of Will (Noah Schnapp) on-screen last season as being stuck in the Upside Down tends to reduce your screen time. We see a lot more of him this time around. He has a bond with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) that feels honest and sincere.
2. You would have thought that everyone in America knew about the events that happened in Hawkins in the first season but based on how people in town act, that’s certainly not the case. The only ones who seem to be aware of the Demogorgon and the Upside Down were those involved. Everyone else just goes about life like nothing happened.
3. The use of sound in the second season of “Stranger Things” is remarkable. The drip of a water faucet, the buzzing of fluorescent lights, a needle going into an arm, and even the background music and soundtrack are all used brilliantly. The audio not only keeps you on your toes, it keeps you glued to the screen.
4. We get to see Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) fairly early. I can’t tell you exactly how she’s first revealed but it will certainly catch viewers off guard. The story of returning to her friends takes place over multiple episodes.
5. Love is in the air early in Hawkins. Steve (Joe Keery) and Nancy’s (Natalia Dyer) relationship seems to be doing well. She’s even helping him work on a college entrance essay. But more surprising is Joyce’s (Winona Ryder) new boyfriend Bob (Sean Astin). He’s about as dorky and Ned Flanders-y as they come but this new beau seems to be a good guy.
6. As you would expect there are a ton of 80s references in “Stranger Things” but my favorites occurred during a Halloween house party thrown by a high schooler. I saw someone dressed like Tom Selleck from “Magnum, P.I.,” Jeff Goldblum from “The Fly,” Tom Cruise from “Risky Business,” Pee Wee Herman, and Madonna.
7. Several characters are having a difficult time dealing with what happened last season. Mike misses Eleven and is upset that some of his friends seem to have moved on. Nancy feels responsible for Barb and doesn’t know how to handle her guilt. But the person in the worst shape is Will. He’s having “flashbacks” of the Upside Down and is teased by classmates for seemingly coming back from the dead.
8. Paul Reiser’s character, Dr. Owens, is now in charge of the Hawkins National Laboratory. He checks in with Will periodically to see how he’s doing. Dr. Owens appears like a decent sort but can we really trust anyone who works at this lab?
9. A couple of new kids move into town from California. Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is a Camaro driving bad boy. His sister Maxine, who goes by Max (Sadie Sink), is a tomboy who likes to skateboard and play video games. Naturally this makes some of the boys instantly attracted to her.
10. Barb’s parents are still not over her disappearance so they hire an investigator. This introduces viewers to another new character, Murray Bauman. He’s played by actor/comedian Brett Gelman.
11. We get a lot of Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) early in the season and he’s as dorky, funny and likable as ever. We even get to meet his mother, who is as goofy and quick with a laugh as he is. Dustin also discovers something peculiar that might have some importance as the season goes on.
That’s all I can say without giving anything away and I refuse to play spoiler. The second season of “Stranger Things” gets off to a fantastic start. The series returns this Friday on Netflix.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.