Season one plot:
Four misfits befriend a strange girl. One of the boys disappears. Scientists open portal for a weird dimensional being to enter the earth. Being has no clear motives but to eat people. Cringe-y teen romances. Girl saves everyone and closes the portal.
Season two plot:
Four misfits befriend a strange girl. One of the boys disappears often. Scientists open portal for a weird dimensional being to enter the earth. Being has no clear motives but to send dogs that eat people. Cringe-y teen romances. Girl saves everyone and closes the portal.
I suppose it’s hard to write surprises when the formula works. There is something grating about manufactured nostalgia (which seems to be pushed the forefront of this season). There is a blatantly awkward KFC product placement in the very first episode.
More grating is the push for diversity, so much so that an Indian girl named Kali is shoehorned into the season with no significant impact to the plot. A white man with a mullet and pornstache chastises his sister for seeing a black boy. The feminine, sensitive guy gets the pretty girl this time.
The Lovecraftian horror elements are toned down. Like the transition from Alien to Aliens, Stranger Things 2 replaces the Demogorgon for…. multiple Demogorgons. Horror is displaced by action. A Cthulhu-like monster haunts the season, without ever materializing (literally).
There are some redeeming character arcs- the scientist who was portrayed as the typical evil guy in the first season- shows more depth and even regret this time. Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington continues to shine throughout the story. The show excels when putting together characters who don’t like each other.
Still, I cannot help but feel let down by the the rest of the characters. Eleven was very obviously resuscitated for fan service, with her story and origin providing no real satisfaction to the plot. All four boys more or less behave exactly as they did in the last season. The new girl is a complete Mary Sue character. Sean Austin is completely wasted as Bob Newby, a flat character that remains cliched till the end.
How Would I have rewritten this show?
For starters, I would keep Eleven dead.
It would have been interesting to contrast Bob and Jim as potential father figures to Will- the soft, caring family man and the hard-ass police officer, and probably reversing the roles as the show progressed (this is a recurring motif in the show, after all). That would probably give Will some nice growth as he gravitates to either one. I think this is what the writers wanted, but they failed, in my opinion.
Giving the Cthulhu-creature sentience didn’t work at all. Making it communicate via Will was a mistake. There is a legitimate problem trying to make multi-dimensional beings terrifying in a way that you can portray on screen- in this case it just lets loose hounds that run around eating people (as is the case with nearly all American horror). I think giving it a human form, with mysterious but intelligible motifs would have been far more terrifying, and would have added much more real diversity to the cast. The being could have possessed Bob, for example.
I would not make Max a romantic interest to any of the boys.
A group of super-powered teens performing crimes somewhere would have been far more interesting than Kali and her gang of cringes. Kali is the wrong name, too. In fact, a villain mutant would have been a nice way to contrast Eleven.
I would have prolonged the mystery of the vines till the penultimate episode, to give the police an actual mystery to follow and contrast it with the UFO specialist. The two of them could have ended up working together.
I don’t know, I can think of a lot more.