Stranger Things 2, episode 1 review: MADMAX

Stranger Things- Credit: Netflix
Stranger Things- Credit: Netflix /

Our review of Stranger Things 2, episode 1 Madmax and our grade for the season premiere.

Next: Stranger Things 2 preview

It’s one year after the events of season one and in the first scene of the Stranger Things 2 premiere, we got an answer to one of the questions fans were dying to know about. There are other girls like Eleven. The opening scene sees a group of robbers fleeing police when one of the criminals uses her telepathic powers to cause a bridge to collapse and to get away from the cops. Her arm was marked 008. More on that later.

Dustin, Lucas, Mike and Will are at the arcade playing Dragon’s Lair and bragging about who holds the high score on Dig Dug when Mike ventures off and looks outside and has visions that he’s back in the Upside Down. That’s not a good sign, but it’s something fans knew to expect based on the trailers that spilled those secrets.

Chief Hopper gets a visit at the police station from Murray Bauman, a freelance investigative journalist, who alerts him to possible Russin spies with mind control powers infiltrating the country. Hopper is told the Russian spies kidnapped and killed Barbara Holland. Hopper cuts the visit short when he gets a call to investigate a poisoned field of pumpkins, the day before Halloween.

Steve and Nancy are still together and they’re saying “I love you” to each other, but could Nancy have eyes for Billy, the new boy with long air and a mustache at school? She’s still friendly with Jonathan and probably recognizes that he still has a crush on her. Billy is the older brother of Max, the new girl in the boy’s class who also is the arcade game wizard. She’s a skateboarding master too and the boys are very curious about her. She knows they’re curious too and tells them to stop spying on her. But Lucas and Dustin are drawn to her arcade prowess.

More from Netflix Originals

Joyce is happy, which is a sudden departure from last year and good for her to find some happiness in the form of Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin, a former high school classmate of hers. He sells electronics and hates scary movies.

But it’s not all rainbows and roses for Joyce as the nightmare from last season is still fresh in her mind. Will undergoes some medical testing, and Chief Hopper goes along for some moral support. This is where we meet Paul Reiser’s character, Dr. Newby. Will tells him about the vision he had at the arcade about being in the Upside Down and the storm outside. Will said he felt an evil looking at him that left him frozen. This evil wanted to kill everyone else, Will says, but not him.

Dr. Owen tells Joyce things are going to get worse before they get better, so Will is going to have plenty more episodes and personality changes stemming from the PTSD. Joyce and Hopper are reluctant to trust Dr. Owen and they probably should be considering there were people watching the testing of Will and there are some weird experiments going on with the door to the Upside Down behind closed doors. Jonathan comforts him by telling Will, he would rather hang out with the Zombie Boy than anyone else because Will is his best friend and being normal is not something to aspire to be. Will has another vision after his chat with his brother and movie night, this time he sees a menacing multi-legged creature hovering in the crimson sky.

Next: 30 fun facts about Stranger Things

Nancy and Steve visit Barb’s parents and notice they’re selling the home. But they’re selling the home because they hired Murray to find Barb. Her parents are hopeful she’ll be found but Nancy doesn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. Nancy’s younger brother, Mike, is also having a troubling time with letting things from the past go. He tries to talk to Eleven through the walkie-talkie. He’s done this for 352 days. He’s letting her know he’s still there and wants to know if she’s okay.

The episode closes with Hopper in a safe house where he has been keeping Eleven safe. This fatherly bond he has with her is filling a spot in his heart after the death of his daughter we learned about in season one. Her hair is long and curly as they eat a TV dinner. Little do they know Hawkins is about to be under siege.

B+. . Stranger Things. S2E1. Madmax

Parting Thoughts: The season premiere answered some questions we had. First, there are other girls like Eleven, but 008 isn’t using her powers for good, and we have to wonder the extent to which these human experiments are capable of. Could there be a war between girls like Eleven and 008?

Secondly, Will may be out of the Upside Down but the Upside Down isn’t done with him. His PTSD may not just be visions like Dr. Owen suggests, and the worst does seem inevitable. After all, it was the season premiere, so things will certainly be escalating. It looks clear to me that Mike and Nancy are also dealing with PTSD from season one with Nancy harboring the guilt about Barb’s death and Mike feels like he lost the love of his young life. Joyce, too, is triggered by the phone ringing, that she won’t soon escape the nightmare that happened last year.

All in all, it was a solid premiere that set up the story and gave us enough of a sense where the characters are that the rest of the season should pick up steam, just as it did in season one when things picked up after the second or third episode.