Stranger Things 2
Although I watched Stranger Things in a few chunks, I watched Stranger Things 2 the way it was meant to be watched—all in one sitting! I'm not a TV/cinema guy, so this is gonna be pretty short.
This review will have light spoilers. I'm going to try to write the review so that you can still have full enjoyment of the series, but I wouldn't read if you wanted to go in completely blind.
To me, the best comparison of Stranger Things 2 to Stranger Things is Virtue's Last Reward to 999: it hits a lot of the same beats, but is bigger in scope and more technically impressive. Yet it doesn't feel quite as good; what made the first work good was the personal scope and spark of originality, and retreading the same ground with more money just doesn't capture that.
More of Stranger Things 2's plot also seemed more driven by pointless drama and characters needlessly doing idiotic things compared to the original. A lot of the latter being caused by Dustin. Most of the latter. Man I hated Dustin this season. There were also a lot of shots where nothing happened, but there was extremely tense music building up. The first couple of times it was a bit creepy, but once it became clear that these shots never amounted to anything it instead became boring padding.
One of the things that I did like, however, is that we got to see more of how the main cast interacted with each other beyond just with Mike. Mike is the protagonist of the show, but plenty of relationships not involving him were on display. Steve and Dustin, Will and Jonathan, Hopper and Elle, Lucas and Max; these relationships revealed a new side to these characters. Even Billy and Mike's mom got a scene together. I felt that giving the characters a world outside of their interactions with Mike really breathed some life into the show.
Finally, the episode "The Lost Sister" was apparently hated, but I think it was actually my favorite episode this season. It does feel much more like a special rather than a part of the season, but that may just be what drew me to it. "The Lost Sister" took us to a place that Stranger Things never did, and in a season that paralleled the first so closely, I treasured that variety.
This review is dedicated to Bob, the Barb of Season 2