Stranger Things 2 review round-up: From 'masterful' to 'oddly gutless'

The critics are divided on the new season

Jack Shepherd
Tuesday 24 October 2017 09:08 BST

After months of build-up, the second season of Stranger Things has almost landed. Whereas there were few expectations on the first season’s shoulders, fans are expecting something big from the sequel. Can the Duffer Brothers deliver?

According to the critics, who have been privy to watching all nine episode before release, the directing duo has just about landed their second outing. There’s some trepidation — apparently, some of the upcoming episodes are bloated and many story elements are basically recycled from last season — but overall, the second season’s been relatively well received.

The Independent called Stranger Things 2 “a safe move, but it’s a smart one.” The reviewer added: “Founded in the familiar, it’s allowed to put to the side any temptation that might arise by show’s enormous success.”

Variety called the new members of the cast “uneven”, praising Sean Astin’s new character while being critical of other newcomers to Hawkins. However, the regular cast members continue to be their delightful selves and the show still has the “emotionally effective storytelling” that made the first season a huge hit.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter said “the story is very close to that of the first season”, but the repetitiveness of the plot couldn’t stop the reviewer “tearing through all nine episodes almost as quickly as I received them.”

Entertainment Weekly, one of the harsher reviews, found more issues with the plot, writing how “there is no excuse for wheelspinning through tired story beats”, calling the writing “oddly gutless”. Conversely, Wired called Stranger Things 2 “a masterful sequel, both expanding and tying up elements of its predecessor.” Read snippets from the reviews below.

The Independent

For a second spin, it all comes together fairly wonderfully. But there’s a concern here, too. Stranger Things ends with a sense of the cyclical once more. With a season 3 and 4 already discussed, there’s a point where the trick will tire. And why should they remain stuck in the same place? Their style, their world has been thoroughly established by now. Why not break out and explore?


Until Stranger Things 2 really gets going — and that takes a while — it trails an air of self-consciousness that veers into strained fan service at times. The good news is, the show’s core cast remains an extremely versatile and effective ensemble, and once the story kicks into a higher gear about halfway through the nine-episode season, a lot of the old magic returns.

The Hollywood Reporter

Some repetitiveness of plotting and the lack of thematic value found in the period setting aren't quibbles that kept me from tearing through all nine episodes almost as quickly as I received them. The first few chapters may have some tablesetting slowness, but they have strong cliffhangers pushing from one episode to the next, building to a breathless finale. In the ways that count, there's no sophomore slump for Stranger Things.

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Entertainment Weekly

This season is set in 1984, the same year that Gremlins was satirizing every genre trope that Stranger Things treats as High Gospel. So there is no excuse for wheelspinning through tired story beats. But maybe you think that’s the point, that the oddly gutless storytelling reflects how safely the show has hermetically sealed itself off from the stresses of today... No one will complain if Stranger Things 3 rips off the concept of brevity.


Stranger Things 2 won't disappoint fans of the original. It ranks as a masterful sequel, both expanding and tying up elements of its predecessor, while adding enough new elements to the world that a third instalment has plenty to work with. Oh, and don't be surprised a certain character leaves fans clamouring for a new class to be added to the real-world Dungeons and Dragons once they've lapped this up.

The Telegraph

This remains an exhilaratingly brilliant show. The Duffer brothers have promised that this season will be bigger, darker and scarier – and they deliver in spades. The attention to detail, both in period set-pieces and plotline complexity, is as mesmerising as the electronic score. The pressure has been on to create a season that could match the staggering hype eventually poured onto the first. This second outing more than lives up to it.


There will come a point where the Duffers and Netflix are pushing their luck with this series, where there will be too many characters and too many plot twists that evoke eye rolls and moans of, “Oh, this again?” Thankfully, it’s not there yet. Not all sequels live up to the original; this one does better than I ever would have imagined.

Rolling Stone

Everybody in this story has seen people die or disappear for no good reason, and no matter how bravely they search for answers, sometimes the answers don't come. That's the real power of Stranger Things – once you come into contact with the monsters, even if you escape from the Upside Down, you might not be able to come all the way back home.

Stranger Things 2 will be available on Netflix from October 27

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