Stranger Things continues to entertain, fascinate

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Stranger Things continues to entertain, fascinate

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Brothers Ross and Matt Duffer gave us Stranger Things last year, a tale of a group of middle school kids in a fictional Indiana town, pursuing and being pursued by entities from some kind of alternative universe. They wind up joining forces with a young girl raised in a lab so as to develop psionic powers, and they face unearthly evil as well as sinister government forces to rescue their buddy from the “Upside Down” he’s trapped in, pursued by a demigorgon and with only their wits and nerd fixation on Dungeons and Dragons as weapons.

The series was an immediate hit. and not just because it finally gave Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers) a chance to prove to everyone in Hollywood who’d written her off that she wasn’t close to finished as an actress yet. It wasn’t even the oh-so-retro feel of it all, from the templates borrowed from Stephen King novels (the series owes much to King’s novel It, the movie version of which just came out this fall) or even the small-town feel of the setting which is all but absent in today’s minimall-saturated America.

In truth, the kids just stole the show. They were terrific in every way.

“(Our young actors), to us, just felt there was something authentic about it,” Ross Duffer told NPR this month. “Once we found this group of kids, we ended up shaping the characters around them.”

It shows. The chemistry between these actors was solid enough to carry them through a successful second season. This time,  Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolfhard, who was also in It), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) are reunited to fight demidogs, creeping vines, decaying vegetation and, once again, sinister government forces threatening to overtake the town, the state, the entire world even. Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Will’s brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) become entangled, both operationally and romantically, trying to find a way to out the government conspiracy that led to their friend’s death in Season One. Nancy’s boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery) becomes, in his own words, “a damn good babysitter” as he proceeds to defend his charges from bullies and demons alike. And Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who’s in hiding with Sherrif Hopper (David Harbour), is itching to reunite with her friends and find out what happened to her mother.

Sean Astin appears as Joy’s love interest, which is kind of a kick, if anyone knows enough about eighties movies (think Mikey from The Goonies courting Lydia from Beetlejuice), and Paul Reiser appears as a behind-the-scenes government scientist who comes off as too complacent to be as threatening as he probably needs to be. But it doesn’t matter. We’re rooting for Mike and Eleven to get to dance together. We’re cheering for newcomer Maxine to get the better of her sadistic brother in law. And every time these kids jump on their bikes to go fight evil, every time they use Morse Code on their wireless radios, every time they click as a well-functioning unit, we want to be a part of their club. Seriously. Admit it. We do.

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Stranger Things continues to entertain, fascinate