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MovieMad16 07-06-22 06:19 PM

Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things
 
Talk about great timing

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Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by the Duffer Brothers that is streaming on Netflix. The brothers serve as showrunners and are executive producers along with Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen.

Set in the 1980s primarily in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the series centers around numerous supernatural events occurring around the town, specifically around their connection to a hostile alternate reality called the "Upside Down", after a link between it and Earth is made by a government child experimentation facility. The series stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Brett Gelman.

The Duffer Brothers developed Stranger Things as a mix of investigative drama and supernatural elements portrayed with horror, science fiction and childlike sensibilities. Setting the series in the 1980s, the Duffer Brothers infused references to the pop culture of that decade while themes and directorial aspects were inspired by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, David Lynch, Stephen King, Wes Craven and H. P. Lovecraft. They also took inspiration from experiments conducted during the Cold War and real-world conspiracy theories involving secret government experiments.

Stranger Things has attracted record viewership on Netflix, and has received critical acclaim for its characterization, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing, and homages to 1980s films. Critics regard Stranger Things as one of Netflix's flagship series, with it having achieved a dedicated fanbase and being credited with launching the careers of many of its younger cast members. Stranger Things has received many awards and nominations, including nominations from the Golden Globe Awards, British Academy Television Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, Writers Guild of America Awards, and Grammy Awards, as well as wins from the Primetime Emmy Awards, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, American Film Institute, Critics' Choice Television Awards, and People's Choice Awards.

Stranger Things has argueably become one of the most talked about shows in the world right now. Like few before it, it has descended into pop culture global phenomeon, launching new stars, creating iconography, and relaunching fledging talents back into the limelight With a fun premise, relatable characters and setting, Stranger Things has taken Netflix to the next level and become a favourite amongst many audiences.

MovieMad16 07-06-22 06:28 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

Chapter One: The Vanishing Of Will Byers

INTRO: The episode that started it all. The disapperance, establishing Hawkins, and the slow burning mystery that follows.

SUMMARY: In November 1983 in Hawkins, Indiana, a scientist is attacked by an unseen creature at a U.S. government laboratory. 12-year-old Will Byers encounters the creature and mysteriously vanishes while cycling home from a Dungeons & Dragons session with his friends Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson and Lucas Sinclair. Will's single mother Joyce Byers reports his disappearance to the police chief Jim Hopper, who starts a search and assures Joyce that almost all missing children are quickly found. The lab's director Dr. Martin Brenner investigates an organic substance oozing from the lab's basement, claiming that "the girl" cannot have gone far. A nervous young girl wearing a hospital gown wanders into a local diner. The owner, Benny, learns from a tattoo of "011" on her arm that her name is Eleven. Brenner, monitoring the phone lines, sends agents to the diner after Benny calls social services. The agents kill Benny, but Eleven manages to escape using telekinetic abilities. Joyce's phone short circuits after receiving a mysterious phone call that she believes is from Will. While searching for Will in the woods, Mike, Dustin and Lucas come across Eleven.

REVIEW: The opening of this episode is great. Mysterious, yet establishing the small yet developed world of Hawkins, Indiana and the core characters involved. The opening scene of the dead scientist is great. Mysterious and chilling. We then follow with the introduction of the four boys playing dungeons and dragons and are introduced to their key characteristics. Mike, Dustin, Lucas & Will. As well as Nancy and several others too. When returning home, Will is chased by something sinister which results in him suddenly disappearing. From there, we get the opening titles which invoke a lot of nostalgia for its loo, its sound and tone regarding the series to come. We’re then introduced to more characters throughout: The rest of the Byres family Jonathan & Joyce, Jim Hopper the sheriff, Steve Harrington, as well as several minor characters throughout Hawkins. There’s a slow reaction to Will Byres’ disappearance, with many characters having different reactions to it – concern from his friends, fear from his family, bemoans and groans from the police. Throughout the episode, it switches to different perspectives in clever ways. From Mike to Nancy to Hopper to Joyce to then the mysterious girl character of Eleven. Eleven is the centre of the mystery this season, a young girl with a shaved head, barely speaks, and possesses a strange number of psychic powers, with a government agency coming after her. And this agency is ruthless. Murdering the owner of a diner for just interacting with the girl, which makes the tension even higher as a result. The end of the episode sees the boys and Eleven encounter each other in the rain, ending on a cliffhanger. For an opening episode, its great. The nostalgia vibes for the 80s are high and strong, paying homage to a lot of 80s films without being too specific. Its kept vague and basic, with a simple story with a strong supernatural theme. No complexities or multi-layed plots. Just a story about something strange and sinister going on in a small town. With strong action and intriguing characters, this is a good opening episode.

RATING: 86% - A-

MovieMad16 07-06-22 06:35 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

Chapter Two: The Weirdo On Maple Street

INTRO: The mystery continues to develop with the discovery of Eleven, the hunt for Will and the attack on Barb.

SUMMARY: The boys bring Eleven to Mike's house, where they disagree on what to do. Mike formulates a plan for Eleven to pretend to be a runaway and seek help from his mother, Karen. Still, Eleven refuses, revealing that "bad men" are after her. Will's brother Jonathan visits his estranged father Lonnie in Indianapolis to search for Will, but Lonnie rebuffs him. Hopper's search party discovers a scrap of hospital gown near the lab. After recognizing Will in a photograph and demonstrating her telekinesis, Eleven convinces the boys to trust her, as they believe she could find Will. Using the Dungeons & Dragons board, Eleven indicates that Will is on the "Upside Down" side of the board and is being hunted by the "Demogorgon" (the creature). Mike's sister Nancy and her friend Barbara 'Barb' Holland go to a party with Nancy's boyfriend Steve Harrington. Searching for Will near Steve's house, Jonathan secretly photographs the party. Joyce receives another call from Will, hears music playing from his stereo, and sees the creature coming through the wall. Left alone by the swimming pool, Barb is attacked by the Demogorgon and vanishes.

REVIEW: Taking place straight where Episode One ended, we get a more thorough introduction to Eleven. She can talk, just minimally. And she puts a lot of trust in Mike immediately, thus beginning their unique connection that has lasted throughout the wider story. A huge chunk of the town now start searching for Will, making this issue wider and more stressful for his loved ones, particularly Will’s mother Joyce. There is a moment where Joyce believes she has heard Will over the phone, and a weird static destroys the electricity in her house, as well as Joyce having a very scary supernatural encounter. Jonathan, believes Will may be at their estranged father’s house, only to no avail. Though we do discover the fractious relationship Jonathan has with his dad, as we assume also Will also shares. Meanwhile, Will’s friends interrogate Eleven further about Will but only know more about her abilities which weirds them out yet also intrigues them. Meanwhile, Nancy tries to distract herself by digging deeper with Steve’s clique, staying over his house in the evening whilst Barb is left aside. But it is in Nancy’s neglect of her best friend that Barb encounters the monster and disappears, leading to another cliffhanger ending. Again, another strong episode from this season, as hints at Eleven being different than usual as well as Will potentially being alive, despite no idea where he might be. There are still very strong performances across the board, especially from Winona Ryder and Jim Harbour. With Jim Hopper, we get a hint also of his tragic past a bit more which was good character development. I believe now that the ante is slowly building up, and making for an intriguing story to flesh out.

RATING: 84% - A-

MovieMad16 07-06-22 06:43 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

Chapter Three: Holly Jolly

INTRO: The aftermath of Barb's attack as more residents of Hawkins begin to ask questions.

SUMMARY: Barb awakens in the Upside Down: a decaying, overgrown alternate dimension. She attempts to escape, but is attacked by the Demogorgon. Joyce believes Will is communicating through pulses in light bulbs. Brenner allows Hopper to view doctored security footage from the night Will vanished, leading Hopper to investigate Brenner, discovering his involvement with Project MKUltra, a CIA experiment into the brainwashing potential of psychoactive drugs, and that a woman named Terry Ives alleged years earlier that Brenner took her daughter. Eleven recalls Brenner, whom she calls "Papa," punishing her for refusing to hurt a cat telekinetically. Steve destroys Jonathan's camera after discovering the photos from the party. Nancy later recovers a photo of Barb, realizing that she is missing. Returning to Steve's house to investigate, Nancy encounters the Demogorgon but manages to escape. Joyce paints an alphabetic board on her wall with Christmas lights, allowing Will to sign to her that he is "RIGHT HERE" and that she needs to "RUN." Believing Eleven knows where Will is, the boys ask her to lead them to him. Eleven leads them to Will's house, to their frustration. From there, they follow emergency vehicles to a quarry, just as Will's apparent body is recovered from the water.

REVIEW: We kick things off where the last episode ended: Barb’s death. Gory and scary, it is edited in sync with Nancy & Steve’s night of passion upstairs. We then move forward to the morning after, with Eleven exploring an empty Wheeler house, which in itself triggers flashbacks with things like a Diet Coke commercial and cats. Joyce continues her determination to talk to Will, using fairy lights and a drawn alphabet on the wall so Will can better communicate with his mother. But out of that comes a sudden encounter with a monster who breaks through the walls. Nancy continues to be worried about Barb’s disappearance, despite the bullies’ jokes, who by the way are perfectly nasty, with a great representation of 80s style high school bullies. It doesn’t help that Jonathan is them exposed as a peeping tom which involves a very humiliating scene with the bullies. Out of that scene, Nancy finds a picture of Barb sitting by the pool, which makes her curious, and eager to explore more. The episode’s end strikes an emotional cord – Will’s ‘body’ is uncovered at the quarry, striking a lot of emotion and sadness as the episode concludes. It’s another good episode, though slightly weaker than the previous two, yet the mystery is still very intriguing.

RATING: 84% - A-

MovieMad16 07-12-22 10:33 AM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

1x04 - The Body

INTRO: With Will's body supposedly being discovered, you think the story ends there. But oh no....

SUMMARY: Joyce refuses to believe that the body found at the quarry is Will's. Mike feels betrayed by Eleven until she proves that Will is still alive, channeling his voice through Mike's walkie-talkie. The boys theorize that Eleven could use a ham radio at their school to communicate with Will. Nancy notices a figure behind Barb in Jonathan's photo, which Jonathan realizes matches his mother's description of the Demogorgon. Nancy tells the police about Barb's disappearance. She later fights with Steve, who only cares about not getting in trouble with his father. Hopper has suspicions regarding the authenticity of the body found in the quarry when he learns that the usual coroner was sent home. Hopper confronts the state trooper who found it and beat him until he admits he was ordered to lie. The boys sneak Eleven into their school to use the radio, while Joyce hears Will's voice on her living room wall. Tearing away the wallpaper, she sees him. Eleven uses the radio to channel Will talking to his mother. Hopper goes to the morgue and finds that the body is a dummy and, suspecting that Brenner is responsible, breaks into the lab.

REVIEW: The episode focuses on the aftermath of Will’s ‘body’ being found, in which a lot of emotion is running high. Yet for Mike, he manages to hear Will’s voice through the walkie talkie via Eleven’s powers. Because of that, he is keen to explore further, and assembles the rest of the boys to help. By using the science room to contact Will, they make a breakthrough and are unconvinced of Will’s supposed ‘dead body’. There is also a good confrontation with the bullies, which results in Eleven using his powers to make one of them pee themselves. Meanwhile with Joyce, she is still communicating with Will and manages to make a breakthrough as a result when she encounters Will through the upside down. Jonathan & Nancy still continue to bond, both beginning to connect the clues with Barb’s disappearance, coming to the conclusion that there is something supernatural in Hawkins, and set out to investigate. As for Jim Hopper, well he continues to investigate Hawkins Lab himself, slowly putting the pieces together and eventually discovering that Will’s body is a fake and sets out to uncover the secrets in Hawkins Lab once and for all. Overall, the episode is very strong and arguably the best so far as all the different story strands continue to build really well, with the stakes getting bigger and more exciting to watch unfold.

RATING: 93% - A

MovieMad16 07-12-22 10:39 AM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

1x05 - The Flea & The Acrobat

INTRO: Tensions arise as the citizens of Hawkins begin to piece together a terrifying puzzle.

SUMMARY: Hopper searches the lab, finding the substance in the basement, before being knocked out by the lab's guards. The boys ask their science teacher, Mr. Clarke, if it would be possible to travel between alternate dimensions, to which he answers that there could be a theoretical 'gate' between dimensions. Hopper awakens at his house and finds a hidden microphone, realizing that Joyce was right the whole time. The boys follow their compasses, hoping that a gate would disrupt the Earth's electromagnetic field. Eleven recalls memories of being placed in a sensory-deprivation tank to eavesdrop on a man speaking Russian telepathically; while listening, she came across the Demogorgon. Fearing another encounter with the Demogorgon, Eleven redirects the compasses. Lucas misinterprets this as an act of treason, leading Mike and Lucas to fight and Eleven to telekinetically fling Lucas off Mike. While Dustin and Mike tend to the unconscious Lucas, Eleven runs off. Nancy and Jonathan formulate a plan to kill the Demogorgon. Searching in the woods, they encounter a wounded deer. Nancy follows it through a gate to the Upside Down, drawing its attention to her.

REVIEW: Will’s ‘funeral’ begins the episode, though a handful attending aren’t so convinced of Will’s demise. Lonnie shows up in this episode, believing Joyce to be unwell, and from his perspective we can understand even though it is clear he is wrong. Jim Hopper manages to intercept the compound, but is ultimately drugged, though does discover the portal before passing out. When back in his residence, he manages to discover the microphone bugged, and therefore comes a bit more prepared when he tells Joyce the truth. We’re also let into a clue of his history when he has a moment with his ex-wife over the phone. Meanwhile, with the boys, they manage to decipher a logic for the now called Upside Down, where they believe Will is. As they try to find out more, Eleven gets scared for them and misleads them during their attempt to find Will, which gets Lucas pissed at her, thinking she’s a traitor. There’s a falling out amongst the group with Lucas fleeing at Eleven’s power. Lastly there’s Nancy & Jonathan who team up to go hunting in the woods for the monster. Yet they end up encountering a dead deer, which is then killed by a Demogorgon after Nancy follows it into the upside down, ending the episode on another exciting cliffhanger. It’s another good episode, though slightly not as strong as the previous one. Yet the story still continues to develop and build slowly, with exciting story strands slowly coming together.

RATING: 92% - A

MovieMad16 07-12-22 04:46 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

1x06 - The Monster

INTRO: Jonathan & Nancy enter the upside down, the boys unite against a big threat, and Hopper big deeper.

SUMMARY: Jonathan pulls Nancy back through the gate. That night, Nancy is afraid to be alone and asks Jonathan to stay in her bedroom. Steve, attempting to reconcile with Nancy, sees them together through her bedroom window and assumes they are dating. Joyce and Hopper track down Terry Ives, who is catatonic and tended to by her sister Becky. The latter explains that Terry was a Project MKUltra participant while unknowingly pregnant, and believes Brenner kidnapped her daughter Jane at birth due to her supposed telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Nancy and Jonathan stockpile weapons to kill the Demogorgon, theorizing that it is attracted by blood. Steve gets into a fistfight with Jonathan after calling Nancy a slut. Eleven walks into a grocery store and shoplifts several boxes of Eggo waffles. Searching for Eleven, Mike and Dustin are ambushed by a group of bullies but are rescued by her, as she uses her powers to break one bully's arm after he attempts to kill Mike. Eleven collapses and recalls being asked by Brenner to contact the Demogorgon and, in her terror, inadvertently opening the gate. She tearfully admits to Mike that she is responsible for allowing the Demogorgon to enter this dimension. Lucas sees agents who have tracked down Eleven preparing to ambush Mike's house.

REVIEW: Taking place straight after the last episode ended, Nancy manages to escape the upside down, and both her and Jonathan are both traumatised by what has gone down, resulting in them seeking comfort and to stay by each other for the rest of the night. Something that Steve Harrington gets the wrong idea of and slut shames Nancy publicly, which results in a huge fight in the alley after Steve and his bullies friends get really unpleasant, resulting in Jonathan getting arrested. The other story revolves around the boys, who are all quite divided after the events of the last episode. Lucas goes to investigate the gate himself, and discovers secrets regarding Hawkins Lab, and must decide to warn his friends before its too late. You then have Eleven on her own, wandering around Hawkins. She steals some food from a supermarket which attracts attention from both the boys and Hawkins Lab. Mike & Dustin are then confronted by their school bullies following the incident before where Eleven made one of them wet themselves. But before any danger can happen, Eleven saves them and scares them away. Joyce & Jim team up, discovering Terry Ives, a mute woman who was wronged by Hawkins Lab before, in which they begin to piece together Eleven’s history and unearth a bigger conspiracy as a result. This episode is good, though slightly weaker than before, but slowly but surely the sense of things coming together is becoming clear. This episode in particular was a highlight for the bully groups on the show, who were both very convincing and sinister.

RATING: 85% - A-

MovieMad16 07-12-22 05:14 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

Chapter Seven: The Bathtub

INTRO: All groups finally unite as the end nears and the search for Will nears its climax.

SUMMARY: Lucas warns Mike that agents are searching for Eleven. Mike, Dustin, and Eleven flee the house. Eleven telekinetically flips one of the agents' vans that blocks their path, and the kids escape. Lucas reconciles with Mike and Eleven, and the kids hide from the agents. Nancy and Jonathan reveal their knowledge of the Demogorgon to Joyce and Hopper. The group contacts the kids, and everyone meets at the Byers' house. Joyce and Hopper realize that Eleven is Jane Ives. The group asks Eleven to search for Will and Barb telepathically, but her earlier feats have weakened her. They break into the middle school and build a makeshift sensory-deprivation tank to amplify Eleven's powers. Eleven finds Barb dead and Will alive using her telepathy, hiding in the Upside Down version of his backyard fort. Realizing that the gate is in the basement of the lab, Hopper and Joyce break into the lab, but are apprehended by security guards. Nancy and Jonathan head back to the Byers' house, planning to lure and kill the Demogorgon, so it can't interfere with Joyce and Hopper. In the Upside Down, the Demogorgon breaks into Will's fort.

REVIEW: Again, taking place straight after the episode, and the boys are on the fun, from Hawkins Lab. Chased by multiple vans, the government are on their trail. But Eleven’s powers and quick thinking keep them ahead. Luckily, Jim Hopper manages to save him and as the episode continues, our three groups of characters all start to unite, making it fun to watch all these new character interactions as they begin to peace everything together regarding Will, The Upside Down, The Demogorgan and Hawkins Lab. With the use of a large bath, Eleven manages to see through the upside down, finds Barb’s body, and Will still alive, but with little time to save him, and so a race against time begins. The cliff-hanger ending however makes it thrilling as one of the Demogorgan’s manages to capture Will. I enjoyed this episode a lot, especially with the ensemble all coming together, and with a real clear build up to an exciting finale.

RATING: 94% - A

MovieMad16 07-12-22 05:20 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

Chapter Eight: The Upside Down

INTRO: The finale of an exceptional series establishes the stakes and threats in ways almost unmatched in other TV shows.

SUMMARY: Hopper, haunted by the death of his daughter Sara from cancer years earlier, gives up Eleven's location to Brenner, who in exchange allows Hopper and Joyce to enter the Upside Down to rescue Will. Nancy and Jonathan cut their hands to attract the Demogorgon at the Byers' house. Steve, intending to apologize to Jonathan about their fight, arrives just as the Demogorgon appears. Steve, Nancy, and Jonathan fight the Demogorgon and light it on fire, forcing it to retreat to the Upside Down. Meanwhile, Eleven and the boys hide in the middle school when Brenner and his agents arrive to kidnap Eleven; she kills most of them before collapsing from exhaustion. The Demogorgon appears and attacks Brenner, seemingly killing him. Hopper and Joyce find Will in the Upside Down, unconscious with a tendril down his throat, and revive him using CPR. The Demogorgon finds the kids, and Eleven disintegrates it but disappears. Will is hospitalized. One month later, Nancy is back together with Steve, and both are friends with Jonathan. Will coughs up a slug-like creature and has a vision of the Upside Down, but hides this from his family.

REVIEW: A plan is set into motion to save Will, with Joyce & Jim entering the upside down whilst they have the chance, following the trail to locate Will. They do manage to find Will, but Hopper & Joyce have to perform CPR to save his life, which they do succeed in. However, the CPR triggers unpleasant memories for Hopper regarding his daughter’s death, which does raise tension throughout the episode. Meanwhile, the boys are with Eleven in the gym, and encounter agents arriving to retrieve her. However, the Demogorgon intercepts, killing a lot of agents in the process. In the end, Eleven seemingly sacrifices herself to save the other boys, but is she truly dead? Meanwhile, Jonathan & Nancy fight the Demogorgon in the Byres house, but Steve Harrington stumbles upon the situation and enters the fray, discovering the truth about what has been really going on, playing brave at a crucial moment also. From there, the ending of the episode is good too, with all things and character arcs resolved, and the nightmare overall has passed, although a few clues are left lingering to leave it open for a new season. Overall, it’s a solid end to the season, and a great story overall. The rewatch has been fun, reminding me that the first season was magical and unique, and I’m eager to continue on for the rest of the seasons.

RATING: 95% - A

MovieMad16 07-14-22 06:45 PM

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Connor Macgregor's

Stranger Things

Season One Retrospective


STORY

For starters, Stranger Things is an absolutely terrific tale from beginning to end. You have real believable characters rooted in personality, in goals, in attitude to everything around them. They’re all unique and play into the wider story really really well. The story ultimately feels like an original idea with homages to tributes to a lot of 80s media from previous years. You also have a good location in Hawkins, Indiana, as well as the variety of age groups within the story, switching from perspectives throughout, and not keeping the story stale or detached from any age groups. It ultimately comes down to a simple story with nothing too complicated.

CHARACTERS

Will – Arguably the centrepiece of this entire season. His disappearance is what sets all the events off and triggers each and every character’s arc throughout. Lots of characters have a personal connection to him. Family, friends, concerned community members. And because of that, it is Will’s bravery and determination that carries him through against tough odds.

The Other Boys – Will’s friends all play a strong role in the story. All of them likeable and fun to watch. Mike is the leader, the one that gathers his friends together to help figure out what is going on. Dustin is the funny one, with the broadest of personalities, where as Lucas is more skeptical and cautious but still brave when things go down to the wire. When Eleven arrives, they all have different reactions to her, yet all protect her as a team, each having their moments throughout the season, and overall being the heart of the story.

Eleven – A mysterious child that comes to Hawkins and kick starts a load of problems as a result. Her powers fascinate the boys, but she comes to rely on them to cope with this new strange world, especially Mike. There rises a small but lovely connection with Mike, who she comes to rely on emotionally. With her telepathy, she is a very cool young character, and well performed by Millie Bobby Brown throughout.

Joyce – A great role here for Winona Ryder. A concerned mother fraught with emotion, fear and erratic behaviour. She’s dealing with any parent’s worst nightmare, and is determined to find her son against the impossible odds. I really enjoyed Joyce and her arc is terrific fun from beginning to end, never giving up on her son, and witnessing terrifying things to get him back.

Jim Hopper – The grumpy cop stereotype that was seen quite a lot in 80s movies, especially one in sci fi and horror movies. However with Hopper, you have a character with a traumatic past who is battling with these deep emotions and trauma whilst trying to find this missing boy in what has been a safe and quiet town. But of course as he continues to dig, the case grows more sinister and Hopper has to battle incredible things beyond his imagination. However, you do have a good man underneath who will do anything to protect the town and its citizens.

Jonathan – A take on the loner/weirdo stereotype but reversed and developed into quite an interesting and important role. His attempt to keep it all together is admirable as his mother in his eyes loses the plot. Yet he also tries to defend her from his father who he has a very seething hatred for. There’s also his attraction to Nancy, which evolves into the two of them investigating Barb’s disappearance, which makes for a great couple bubbling up in the service. Jonathan ultimately comes into his own in the final act in a really fun way.

Nancy – A take on the girl next door trope but with a twist of course. Her role as the older sister in the Wheeler family is nice, and evolves over the course of the season. Her character arc is very relatable about growing up and finding her identity. Her best friend’s disappearance in Episode 3 kick starts her arc as she searches for Barb, which becomes crucial to the wider arc. She teams up with Jonathan to investigate, but as a result has to deal with bullies and her boyfriend Steve who wrongly assume her to be cheating on Steve. Yet she stands out and grows throughout the story, as well as getting a really good look at her worldview, in particular with how she views herself compared to her parents.

Martin Brenner – A standard villain who is shrouded in mystery and cruelty. Yet, Matthew Modine performs this role well and makes me eager to see more of this character in the future.

The Wheeler Parents – Very much a normal 80s set of parents. The deadbeat dad whose main interest is sleep and dinner, a busybody mother who probably knows she could do better, and a toddler daughter so adorably cute. It does bring a setting for Mike, Nancy and Eleven’s hiding spot. They are very much a nice family on the surface.

Steve – In many ways the breakout character for Stranger Things going forward. But here, he is a standard school jock character who loves being popular. Yet this character is more sympathetic and nicer than usual high school jocks in the 80s. He still has slightly douche moments with his friends, but he does make up for it later in the story.

Barb – A wonderful guest character that ended up getting an emmy nod due to how iconic she was. The nerdy best friend who is attached to Nancy despite her group doing so much to exclude her. Her death scene is iconic in the show, a sad yet memorable and crucial death to move Nancy’s story forward throughout the season.

The Bullies – We get realistic and nasty bullies for different age groups here in this show. Troy & James are the bullies to the young boys in Middle School. They’re quite intimidating and even Troy gets scary when he brandishes a knife and threatens Dustin with it, only for Eleven to come to the rescue. Eleven does humiliate Troy quite badly by making him pee himself at one point. In High School, you have Tommy & Karen who are lackeys someway to Steve. They’re nasty to both Jonathan & Nancy in certain parts of the story and both actors do very well to be unlikeable on screen.

Mr Clarke – Arguably the most fun minor role in Stranger Things. A wise mentor to the boys, filling their head with knowledge in crucial parts of the story. He comes across a very nice teacher that we would’ve all liked to have when we were in school.

The Other Officers – More fun background characters who are more cynical and out of the loop with what is going on with Will. Yet they are good fun side characters to watch.

Lonnie – The disgraced father in the Byres family. Very much hated by everyone, yet all he is trying to do is make sense of his missing son, although we later find out that he might have his own selfish intentions regarding Will.

Other Government Agents – Minor sinister villains working for Brenner, and add an overall fear factor throughout the series. What works about them is how you have no idea who is an agent and who isn’t, and that fear stays throughout the series.

OTHER

I really enjoyed the 80s setting in this series as it sets upon a tone of nostalgia and fun without it being apart of some existing franchise. The town of Hawkins is typical in its small-townness, a place slowly forgotten by bigger worlds, and thus becomes a good setting for a story like this where the mystery and supernatural element is well contained and private. It ultimately adds a sense of character to Stranger Things. You also have simple effects that aren’t too overloaded and play very well into the mystery of the story. Also you have good fun costumes that are fitting for the decade, for the style, without being too overblown, too modern and keep pretty straight to standard.

Season Rating - 89% = A-

MovieMad16 07-15-22 06:22 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x01 - Chapter One (9): Mad Max

INTRO: Stranger Things 2 continues the story set up by Season One, with all the surviving characters coping with the events of the first season, and adjusting to new situations in this season.

SUMMARY: On October 28, 1984, a girl with the psychic power to make people see things and with a tattoo reading "008" on her arm is part of a criminal gang that manages to rob a bank and get away in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In Hawkins, the town prepares for Halloween. Maxine "Max" Mayfield, a new girl at school, captures the boys' attention. Joyce is dating her old high school classmate Bob Newby, Hopper investigates a field of pumpkins mysteriously rotting, and conspiracy theorist Murray Bauman investigates people who sighted Eleven, believing her to be a Russian spy. Mike and Nancy deal with their respective losses of Eleven and Barb, and Will has been experiencing episodes of apparent hallucinations of the Upside Down and an enormous, tentacled shadow monster. Joyce and Hopper take Will to see the lab's new director, Dr. Sam Owens, who has been giving Will routine medical exams ever since his return. Owens theorizes that Will's episodes are PTSD brought on by the anniversary of his disappearance. The gate in the lab's basement has been growing, worrying Owens. Nancy and Steve have dinner with Barb's parents, who still believe their daughter to be missing and who have hired Murray to find her. Hopper goes home to a cabin in the woods where he secretly lives with Eleven.

REVIEW: The opening of this season is different, with no connection whatsoever to our main cast. It involves a gang robbing a bank, and a similar set of powers being used like Eleven’s. It fools the police and they get away. Season Two takes place around a year from Season One, as everyone involved before tries to return to some form of normality following the events of the upside down. The Boys story involves the arcade, gathering enough quarters to play and relax. Yet for Will, everything isn’t so normal as he keeps getting visions being in the Upside Down. Then there’s Jim Hopper, patrolling the town like all is nothing, yet is getting pestered by a journalist called Murray, investigating Barb’s disappearance. Joyce is also trying to move on, with a new romance called Bob, and trying to reach a sense of normality with her family. However, The Byres family do have to liaise with Hawkins Lab to some degree as they do tests on Will after he was in the Upside Down for so long, following an agreement with Hopper. A host of new characters also enter the mix. One of which is Max, a ginger tomboy girl who the boys take a curiosity to, and try to uncover the mystery of her. Her older brother Billy is also mysterious, inheriting a bad boy complex that may unmatch Steve. Speaking of Steve, his relationship with Nancy is still intact though they endure an awkward dinner with Barb’s parents, as the guilt on Nancy is still hard. The final twist of the episode involves Hopper & Eleven as Hopper is revealed to have kept Eleven all this time in his cabin, which I found a very clever and intriguing episode. It’s a good opener overall, with my interest piqued and eager to learn more about the Eleven situation as well as some of the new characters introduced. It’s also really happy to be back in the Hawkins environment and further following these characters so well built in the first season.

RATING: 88% - A-

MovieMad16 07-15-22 06:43 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x02 - Chapter Two (10) - Trick Or Treat, Freak

INTRO: Halloween hits Hawkins, featuring dress up, parties and more mysterious things happening in the town.

SUMMARY: Flashbacks reveal that Eleven escaped from the Upside Down, but was forced to hide from agents. In the present, it is Halloween. Eleven asks Hopper if she can go trick-or-treating, but Hopper insists that she needs to remain hidden until he can reach an agreement with Owens allowing her to live a normal life, frustrating the home bound Eleven. More pumpkin fields rot across town, and Hopper discovers an organic substance – similar to the substance in the lab – in the fields. Nancy wants to tell Barb's parents the truth about her death, but Steve says it is a bad idea, as the agents might come after them if they tell anyone the truth. Instead, they attend a Halloween party, where Nancy gets drunk and berates Steve for his lack of empathy for Barb's parents. Steve leaves and Jonathan takes Nancy home. The boys go trick-or-treating and are later joined by Max. Will has another episode during the night and tells Mike about his visions, leading Mike to admit that he is trying to contact Eleven. Eleven tries to contact Mike using her powers, but is unsuccessful. Dustin returns home after trick-or-treating and finds a strange creature in his trash can.

REVIEW: We have a Halloween themed episode, which therefore allows the characters to have fun and enjoy themselves, mainly the younger cast. With the reveal of Eleven, we flashback to how she ended up with Hopper. It’s revealed that Eleven managed to get back to our realm with ease, and had been hiding in the forest for a while, away from society and relying on her own instincts. Back in the present day, she is in the cabin with Hopper, yet bored and trapped without allowing to go out which makes for a lot of angst and frustration. Then there’s the boys, all wearing Ghostbusters outfits and look adorable in the process. Yet their curiosity for Max continues to linger, as Dustin & Lucas spot an exchange Max has with her brother. It doesn’t take long for Max to join in with the boys, scaring them with a Michael Myers outfit. However, the fun soon ends when Will has another flash into eh upside down and encounters The Mind Flayer for the first time. Mike is also still missing Eleven and has a moment where he tries to reach her through the walkie talkie yet doesn’t realise that Eleven is watching him through The Upside Down. Then there’s Jim, who continues to investigate the strange rotting pumpkins and believes something suspicious is occurring. Lastly, there’s Nancy who remains in torment over what happened with Barb. Steve just doesn’t understand with what is going on with her, which results in a drunken confession from Nancy which leaves him chest fallen. Jonathan then appears and helps Nancy home, continuing to build the spark between them both. It’s not a bad episode, but it is the weakest one yet, with very little going on in terms of plot development and a lingering wait for the story to really kick off properly.

RATING: 79% - B+

MovieMad16 07-16-22 06:07 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x03 - Chapter Three (11) - The Pollywog

INTRO: The aftermath of Halloween kicks in and several characters face bewildering and scary situations.

SUMMARY: Flashbacks reveal that Hopper found Eleven in the woods and agreed to take care of her in his grandfather's old hunting cabin if she agreed not to leave the cabin. In the present, Bob encourages Will to face his fears, not understanding the extent of Will's episodes. Nancy persuades Jonathan to help her tell Barb's parents the truth, and the pair arrange a meeting with Barb's mother in a public park the following day, fearing that Owens may be tapping the phone lines. The creature Dustin found in his trash can is a small, slug-like animal that he names D'Artagnan ("Dart"). He shows Dart to the other kids, and Will concludes that it is from the Upside Down, as it makes a noise similar to one Will heard in his hallucinations. Hopper accuses Owens of failing to keep the gate contained, becoming increasingly concerned about the pumpkin fields. Frustrated with being holed up, Eleven leaves to look for Mike; at the school, she sees him arguing with Max and mistakes it as flirting. Heartbroken, she leaves. Will suffers from another episode and follows Bob's advice to confront the shadow monster, but it possesses him.

REVIEW: Dustin brings into his a baby demogorgan, naming it Dart in the process. I loved his interaction with his mother which is hilarious and sweet at the same time. Dustin decides to treat the demogorgan as a pet, keeping him secret too. Telling the rest of the boys, they try to figure out what to do with the young demogorgan all whilst slowly but surely letting Max into the group. When the demogorgan escapes, they all team up to hunt the pet around the school. Will ends up finding it, but at that moment, has an encounter with The Mind Flayer with his possession being the cliffhanger ending of the episode. With Eleven, she finally decides to free herself from the cabin and explore the town once again. She goes to the school and sees Mike & Max together, getting the wrong impression and using her telepathy to hurt Max slightly. She leaves but not before Mike figures out that it might be El. Hopper continues to investigate the fields more, and liaises with Hawkins Lab to find out what is going on. By the end of the episode, he discovers Eleven has been out and isn’t happy. Joyce continues to romance her new boyfriend Bob, but slowly begins to discover Will’s problem and by the end of the episode, sees the Mind Flayer through the video Will filmed on Halloween. With Nancy, her guilt for Barb’s death continues to build, and she ends up attempting to phone Barb’s mother to tell her the truth, however Hawkins Lab overhears the conversation and they begin to intervene. Lastly there is Steve, who is still trying to keep his stature in school in tact, as he continues to be challenged by Billy and having his ego threatened as a result. This episode is better than the previous one, more exciting with the different stories, and ultimately more fun also. It’s strong and exciting, with a great cliffhanger at the end.

RATING: 85% - A-

MovieMad16 07-16-22 06:18 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x04 - Chapter Four (12) - Will The Wise

INTRO: Is Will possess? Will Eleven discover some secrets? Will Dustin reveal Dart?

SUMMARY: Joyce and the kids awaken an unconscious Will. Joyce takes Will home, but finds him acting strangely, drawing scribbles on pages and demanding that the house be kept cold. Joyce calls Hopper, and together, they discover the scribbles line up. Hopper recognizes that the drawings represent vines, and he leaves. Nancy and Jonathan are caught by agents when they try to contact Barb's mother and are taken to the lab, where Owens shows them the portal to the Upside Down. He admits Barb died in the Upside Down, and says that he wants to prevent foreign governments from learning of it. They are released, and it is revealed that Nancy secretly recorded Owens' admission. An infatuated Lucas tries to get closer to Max, but her violent older stepbrother Billy Hargrove intervenes. Upon returning to the cabin, Eleven argues with Hopper over her sneaking out, culminating in her destroying the cabin's windows in a fit of rage. While cleaning up the mess the following morning, she finds Hopper's research into her biological mother, Terry Ives, and tries to contact Terry with her powers. A horrified Dustin finds that Dart has broken out of its cage, has devoured his pet cat, and is an infant Demogorgon. Hopper digs into one of the pumpkin fields and finds a tunnel leading to the Upside Down.

REVIEW: Before its too late, Will is rescued from The Mind Flayer’s grasp yet remains in a state of trance and panic following the events of the last episode. We slowly begin to discover that The Mind Flayer has a hold over Will, as Joyce discovers little things like how low his temperature has gone down, his sudden hatred for hot water and heat in general, and the performance from Noah Schapp giving this sense of possession by something greater slowly eating into Will’s subconsciousness. Jim continues to deal with Eleven which following the previous episode, a heated fight between the two emerges resulting in the equivalent of a puberty-based temper tantrum from Eleven. Jim takes his mind off things by continuing to investigate the fields and discovering the vine like tunnel underneath. Where as Eleven, she comes across a box with notes and paper clippings of her past, which in turn leads her to discover her mother, and leads her to want to know more. The boys and Max are still searching for Dart yet Max continues to have a frustration of being kept out of the loop completely. Mike sticks alongside Will, wanting to be sure that he is ok, whilst Dustin now has to deal with an increasingly growing Dart who has come across the cat Mew Mew and killed it. Max also has to deal with her growing attraction to Lucas whilst also keeping him away from her toxic older stepbrother Billy. Jonathan & Nancy continue to attempt to uncover the truth about Barb, however Hawkins Labs intervenes in their plans and try to warn the two off. However, Nancy is one step ahead of them, having recorded the conversations, and chooses to head out of town with Jonathan. Steve also continues to grapple with Billy as well as facing the prospect of losing his status in high school, and isn’t coping with this threat very well. Another good episode with a strong set of stories moving along nicely, though continues to be below the standard of the first season. Yet the show is still going at a steady and exciting pace.

RATING: 82% - A-

MovieMad16 07-16-22 06:24 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x05 - Chapter Five (13) - Dig Dug

INTRO: Hopper is in trouble, Eleven goes on an adventure, and Will slowly loses his memory. Oh and Steve Harrington & Dustin Henderson begin to build a beautiful friendship.

SUMMARY: Hopper becomes trapped in the tunnels and passes out. Mike sleeps over at the Byers' house to help Will recover. Will has a vision of Hopper, leading Joyce to recruit Bob's help to determine its meaning. Bob identifies the network as a map of Hawkins and the pumpkin field as the place Hopper was going. Nancy and Jonathan take the tape of Owens' admission to Murray, who realizes the public will not believe the unbelievable story and suggests watering it down to make it more palatable. Lucas reveals the truth of Will's disappearance to Max. Dustin traps Dart in his basement and enlists Steve's help to recapture it. Eleven tracks down Terry and Becky Ives. Terry and Eleven are able to communicate using their psychic powers, and Terry reveals to Eleven that she tried to rescue her at the lab and was subjected to a brain-damaging dose of shock therapy by Brenner. Eleven learns there was another girl trained like her. Joyce, Bob, Will, and Mike rescue Hopper, though scientists from the lab soon arrive and set the tunnels on fire. As this happens, Will collapses and begins convulsing and screaming in agony.

REVIEW: Ditching the cabin, Eleven goes on a solo adventure in search of her mother, finding her where she was before in the first season, and uniting for the first time with her aunt and mother in the flesh. With her powers, she communicates with her and is shown the truth of how her condition came to be. It is a sad yet gripping sequence to watch, as we feel for Eleven and what she sees. Dustin continues to search for Dart, yet has no one to help him all of a sudden, and turns to the most unlikely of people: Steve Harrington, and thus a fantastic duo is formed in the process. With Lucas & Max, Lucas tells the truth to Max about what has been going on, only for Max to be sceptical about the whole thing. So Lucas sets out to get proof of his story. Mike sticks with Will for a few episodes, and both of them through conversation begin to learn more about The Shadow Monster possessing Will. Joyce & Bob devise a map based on Will’s drawings in a bid to save Hopper from the vines. Hopper’s decent in the vines is quite a scary sequence, yet it isn’t fatal as Joyce & Bob manage to save him, though when Hawkins Lab arrive to attempt to destroy the vines, it hurts Will from the inside and causes him to seizure. For Nancy & Jonathan, they manage to locate the journalist involved in Barb’s disappearance. Together, they show him the tape they recorded in Hawkins, and through a deep discussion, they decide to moderate and dilute the story slightly in a bid to hurt Hawkins more and cause the greatest of damage. Dr Owens meanwhile is noticing that the problem with The Upside Down is getting worst and is eager to investigate more before its too late. Again, another good episode as we begin to learn more about El’s past as well as exploring further with Will and seeing Dustin form his own path by teaming up with Steve Harrington. We continue to set up once again an exciting and thrilling finale.

RATING: 86% - A-

MovieMad16 07-16-22 06:35 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x06 - Chapter Six (14) - The Spy

INTRO: Twists and turns across this episode as the threat against Hawkins suddenly becomes more real and more scary.

SUMMARY: Will is rushed to the lab, demonstrating memory loss. Owens theorizes that the shadow monster is a virus that has spread to Will's brain and is controlling him, and that the creatures from the Upside Down share a hive mind. Therefore, damaging the tunnels will be lethal to the now-infected Will. Nancy and Jonathan spend the night at Murray's, who forces them to admit their feelings for each other. The following morning, the trio sent copies of the tape of Owens' admission to numerous newspapers around the country. Nancy and Jonathan discover Will's drawings upon returning to the Byers' house. Lucas and Max regroup with Dustin and Steve, and the group attempt to lure Dart to a junkyard. Max apologizes for being hostile to Lucas, explaining that Billy's violence results from his father remarrying Max's mother. Dart arrives to the group's horror, flanked by a pack of adolescent monsters. The group is cornered until the pack unexpectedly runs away. Will discovers a location that the monster prevents him from seeing. Unaware that the monster is manipulating Will, Owens sends a team to investigate. The team is attacked by the adolescent monsters, who make their way into the lab.

REVIEW: After a season and a half of will they won’t they, Jonathan & Nancy finally give into passion after their success at taking down Hawkins. The journalist Murray in the following morning is very smug about it also, which makes for a funny scene to watch. They return home to find everyone gone with a sneaking suspicion from Jonathan about who might be involved. Will on the other hand is in the Hawkins hospital, where he is slowly losing his memory in regards to people like Bob and such. Concerns quickly come from everyone, especially Joyce & Hopper. Dr Owens is therefore torn on what to do next, and eventually sends in an expedition into the mines overseen by him and Hopper. However, it was all a trap by The Mind Flayer as they slowly die off one by one in brutal fashion. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode shows the Demogorgans breaking through the lab, endangering everyone inside. We also see Dustin & Steve team up for the first time, and have a lovely chemistry with one another, like a brotherly sibling chemistry that works beautifully. Teaming up with Lucas & Max, they attempt to lure Dart out. This ultimately works, but then more Demogorgans arrive which give Max the first proper exposure to these monsters, meaning that there’s no going back now for her. Steve is ultimately brave in this scenario and even shares the secret of his hair to Dustin. I think this is another solid episode, though there’s no Eleven in this episode which is interesting. I like the Mind Flayer’s plan of invading Will’s mind which is in itself a very scary idea. But like before, it does a very good job at being a slow build to another epic finale.

RATING: 96% - A

MovieMad16 07-16-22 06:46 PM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x07 - Chapter Seven (15) - The Lost Sister

INTRO: Eleven goes on a field trip to Chicago. What could possibly go wrong?

SUMMARY: Eleven travels to Chicago, Illinois, and finds the other girl from Terry's memories, named Kali. Realizing they have similar tattoos and were both experimented on by Brenner, Eleven and Kali consider themselves sisters. Kali can project images into people's minds and lives among a street gang that seeks revenge on Brenner. Eleven reveals that Brenner is dead, so the gang decides to kill the man who tortured Terry instead. Kali helps Eleven hone her abilities by demonstrating that channeling her anger is the key to strengthening her powers. After Eleven uses her powers to find the gang's target, named Ray, the gang travels to Ray's apartment to kill him. Eleven begins to choke Ray with her powers, leading him to claim that Brenner is still alive. Eleven refuses to kill Ray after seeing a photo of his two young daughters, who are discovered at that same moment to be contacting the police, and refuses to allow Kali to kill him. The gang flees to their hideout, and Kali insists Eleven either stay and avenge her mother or return to Hawkins. Eleven has a vision of Mike and Hopper's plight at the lab and decides to return while Kali and her gang escape from the police.

REVIEW: So this is an entirely Eleven centric episode. Taking place at the end of her story in Episode Five, we follow Eleven as she goes on a trail to find Karli AKA Number Eight. Finding files in her mothers house (I’m amazed Hopper didn’t find them when he was there), it sends Eleven off into the city of Chicago to search for Karli. Of course, Eleven finds the city landscape bewildering and alien as she’s never experienced something like this before. She comes across the gang in a warehouse and after exchanging powers, she joins them in their escapades. The character of Karli is a mixed bag overall. Whilst taking in Eleven as a younger sister surrogate, she is consumed with anger and vengeance and that’s what has fueled her goals in this episode, going after ex Hawkins Lab people that robbed her of a normal life. This occurs when they come across a man that was apart of lobotomising Eleven’s mum. Despite almost killing him, Eleven rebuffs at the last minute after seeing his children scared. She then sees through the upside down that Mike & Hopper are in danger and decides to return to Hawkins to save them. All in all, it’s a mixed episode overall. Divisive at the time of airing, and still divisive today. The problem is the fact that the episode takes us out of the main story, adds nothing to the wider story at all, and comes across sub par as an episode in itself. The only positives are the fact that it’s some nice development for Eleven, though the gang characters are ultimately lacklustre as side characters.

RATING: 76% - B+

MovieMad16 07-18-22 11:31 AM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x08 - Chapter Eight (16) - The Mind Flayer

INTRO: All groups unite as Will's life once again hangs in the balance.

SUMMARY: The pack of creatures attacks the lab, killing most of the scientists. Realizing that Will is a spy for the monster, Mike convinces Joyce to sedate Will to prevent the creatures from tracking them. Mike, Joyce, Hopper, Bob, and Owens take Will's unconscious body to the lab's security room to barricade themselves from the creatures. The lab's power goes out, and Bob volunteers to reset the breakers and allow the group to escape. Bob's mission succeeds, allowing Mike, Joyce, Hopper, and Will to escape. Doctor Owens then stays behind to guide Bob to the way out. However, the monsters attack and maul him to death in front of Joyce, leaving her devastated. The survivors are rescued by Nancy, Jonathan, Steve, Dustin, Lucas, and Max and return to the Byers' house. Desperate to seek revenge on the shadow monster, who Dustin realizes is equivalent to the 'Mind Flayer' in Dungeons & Dragons, the group theorizes that the Mind Flayer wishes to spread into this universe and that killing it will kill all the creatures connected to it – including Will. Using Morse code, they are able to communicate with the real Will, who instructs them to "CLOSE GATE." The Mind Flayer finds their location and sends the creatures after them. As the creatures close in, one suddenly crashes through the window and lands on the floor, dead. The door then unlocks itself, and Eleven walks in, having dispatched the other creatures.

REVIEW: Picking up from the end of Episode Six, Demogorgans run amok across the lab, with many of the staff at Hawkins suffering as casualties. Yet it is Bob and Bob alone that volunteers to go down to switch the power back on. And for 5/6ths of the mission, he does extremely well, only to die at the final hurdle when he should’ve run full stop to the door. He sadly is killed by a Demogorgan which is a sad loss for Joyce, yet its enough for her to escape unharmed. It is there after that all three groups eventually unite, and rendezvous back at the Byres House to figure out what exactly is happening again regarding The Upside Down. They realise that Will is slowly being invaded by the Mind Flayer, but is managed to communicate through morse code to everyone else, instructing them to close the gate. They begin to form a plan to do this, which is helped with a returning Eleven who saves everyone by killing the remaining Demogorgans. On a side note, we also have a bit of backstory with Billy, with a bullying father who instructs him to find Max, which is designed to set up a bit of tension for the finale. It’s a great episode with some fun interactions between many of the characters. I enjoy watching the characters figure out the major problems involving Will and The Upside Down, and with Eleven’s return, it sets up for a very exciting finale once again.

RATING: 97% - A

MovieMad16 07-18-22 11:36 AM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

2x09 - Chapter Nine (17) - The Gate

INTRO: Will everyone gather to save Will? Will Eleven learn to harnest her powers for the right moment? Will Max have the courage to stand up to Billy? Will anyone get to go to the snow ball?

SUMMARY: After a brief reunion, Eleven, and the group devise a plan to close the gate without killing Will. Hopper and Eleven head to the lab to close the portal, on the way to seeing Dr. Owens, who has been attacked and injured upon attempting to escape. During this time, Jonathan, Nancy, and Joyce purge the virus from Will by overheating him in Hopper's cabin. To prevent the creatures from attacking Hopper and Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Max, and Steve plan to enter the tunnels to lure the pack. Billy arrives at the Byers' house, having been instructed to find Max by his father, and gets into a fight with Steve. Max manages to sedate him, and the group enters the tunnels to enact their plan. Nancy manages to release Will from the Mind Flayer's grasp by branding him with a poker. Despite the Mind Flayer's attempts to thwart her, Eleven unleashes her anger, successfully closes the gate, and kills the creatures. One month later, Nancy's tape has exposed the lab, leading to its closure. Barb receives a funeral, and Owens, who survived his injuries, forges a birth certificate for Eleven, naming her Jane Hopper. Mike, Eleven, Dustin, Will, Lucas, and Max attend their school's winter dance where Lucas and Max dance and kiss as well as Mike and Eleven, while Dustin dances with Nancy after being turned down by a girl. Meanwhile, the Mind Flayer is still alive in the Upside Down, towering over the school and watching the group.

REVIEW: After a season apart, Mike & Eleven are finally reunited and the scene in the opening between them is beyond adorable. Yet Mike also discovers that Hopper had been keeping her away from everyone, which understandably makes Mike pisssed over being deceived and robbed of so much potential time with El. Never the less, a plan is put in motion to save Will from the mind flayer and close the gate off completely. With that, one last team this season, the team is divided into three groups once again. Hopper & El go to the lab to close the gate, The Byres & Nancy take Will to a cabin to suck out The Mind Flayer, where as Steve and the kids go to Hopper’s cabin to lure away the Demogorgans. But that plan is derailed somewhat when Billy arrives to take Max, yet she manages to stand up for herself, put Billy in his place, and come up with a plan to destroy the vines to help Will. With that plan in motion, it provides closure for Dustin & Dart before the vines are lit up and torched. The Byres & Nancy initiate a plan to suck The Mind Flayer out of Will by warming up his body to an extreme heat. This ends up being successful though the sequence itself is intense on screen and the acting all around terrific. Then of course you have Hopper & Eleven, who return to Hawkins Lab to close the gate once and for all. Luckily, Dr Owens survived the fallout from the previous episode, and agrees to assist Eleven at the end of the episode. In the aftermath, Owens allows Hopper to adopt Eleven after everything they’ve both been through, Barb is given justice which results in Hawkins Lab shutting down for good. And then finally we have the snow ball sequence which is an undeniably sweet ending for this season. It shows the kids growing up, and establishes two new couples: Lucas & Max, as well as Mike & Eleven being official. All in all, it’s a fantastic finale which is fun and thrilling all around, but not before leaving some teases for Season Three.

RATING: 100% - A+

MovieMad16 07-24-22 09:54 AM

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Connor Macgregor Reviews...Stranger Things

Season Two Retrospect

STORY

I said before that Stranger Things 2 reminded me very much of Jaws 2. A solid sequel that does everything right except illicit the magic that it conjured from Season One. It feels very much like a sequel, retreading old plot points from before, yet also branching into new exciting areas for these characters to go to. It also retains the formula of splitting the various characters up into several groups: Kids, Teens & Adults, although it mixes up a little bit midway through the story.

CHARACTERS

Eleven – All things considered, the worst part of Eleven this season was the good awful hair on her head. Not a great look at all. Other than that, Millie Bobby Brown delivers another top notch performance of a psychic girl with a lot of development issues and teen puberty issues flowing around. The sheer frustration of being isolated, as well as also going through puberty also doesn’t help, especially Hopper who becomes a surrogate father to her. Her longing for Mike is also felt strongly here too, as well as battling against Hopper’s ground rules around the house. She does however get the opportunity to reunite with her mother albeit briefly. What was also lacklustre was her one episode adventure with the street gang, after she came across the information of Eight. Never the less, through all of that, she gets a sweet ending for the snow. Going to the snow ball and sharing her first kiss with Mike.

Will – Will’s possession arc was terrific and the main story revolving Season two. It provided Noah Schapp fantastic performances, as well as being in general a very interesting and scary story to see unwind throughout.

The Other Boys – Mike is much more moody in this season, and understandably why due to his longing for El, yet he does his best to keep it all together and be a good friend for Will. He does eventually reunite with Eleven, leading to a lovely final scene between the two at the end of the season. Their romance continuing to blossom to new heights. Lucas & Dusty are also good too this season, as they rival over a new girl and then with Dusty finding a baby demogorgan, calling it Dart affectionally. We also see more of Lucas’s and Dusty’s families which just add more dimension to the characters.

Max – A new girl among the kids category. More tomboyish and grouchy, she none the less enters the group well due to her curiosity towards them. She has a tough relationship with her older brother which plays into her arc, and is the subject to a war of attraction between Lucas & Dustin, ultimately choosing Lucas and starting a blossoming romance between the two.

Nancy & Jonathan – Most of the season is them teasing a will they won’t they vibe, until finally they cave in mid way through the story. Their story involves Nancy trying to avenge Barb’s death, in which a sequence of events leads to the downfall of Hawkins Lab thanks to Murray. They eventually give into passion at the end. I should though say that their role is more of a backseat from the last season, not as crucial as it was before.

Steve – I think Steve’s role is so fun here, as his arc involves him trying to keep his life attached what with Nancy and such. But yes, it all ultimately falls apart and he ends up finding a new passion: babysitting. A mentor to the young children in a time when they needed one. His rivalry with Billy was fun too, with frequent intense constant run ins throughout the season.

Billy – The new human villain of the season, who challenges Steve throughout. As well as that, he becomes a threat to Max & Lucas in various ways. That being said, he does have a soft side with fun flirting with Mrs Wheeler in the final episode. Dacre Montgomery does a great performance throughout this season and I look forward to more of him in Season Three.

Jim Hopper – Following Season One, Hopper is trying to balance everything in Hawkins, get it back to normal. He makes a compromise in liaising with Hawkins Lab, though he does keep Eleven secret which is huge on his part. Hopper ends up investing new Upside Down threats such as tunnels and such, as well as dealing with Eleven’s powers and puberty issues, so yeah the character has a lot to grapple with and does it very well. And David Harbour does a fabulous job as a result.

Joyce – Joyce is trying to get her life back to normal following the events of Season One, though not quite the same way. She does however start a sweet romance with Bob who is great with the family, though when things hit the fan, the focus on Will and his issues take centre stage. Her story is mainly a repeat of Season One though she is more stable and less erratic.

Bob – The nice new boyfriend of Joyce played by Samwise Gamgee himself. He is kind, very helpful, and eager to build a strong relationship with Joyce and her sons. His heroism pays off at the end when he saves everyone from the Demogorgans by resetting the power, only to be killed as a result in a tragic scene.

Dr. Sam Owens – We have now a nicer more cooperative Hawkins Lab scientist following Matthew Modine in Season One. Hawkins Lab as a result play a more netural position in this season, and are there to help Hopper & Joyce with various issues throughout the season. Sam Owens ultimately proves to be a good ally for Hopper throughout Season two, and as a result survives the season and starts to give Eleven something of a life back.

Eight – Eight is another young person with powers, albeit different from Elevens in some ways. Yet she is the focus of an episode where Eleven seeks her out and tags with her gang life to learn more about harnessing her power using anger, something which has been Eight’s fuel for most of her free life. As a result a conflict between her and Eleven emerges some what due to Eleven’s reluctance to truly fall into that attitude. But still none the less an interesting character with a missed opportunity.

Erica & The Sinclair Parents – Erica is a very cute and sassy side character, who is both fun and irritating towards Lucas. Lucas’s parents were also fun to watch for the short scene they were in, as well as generally also being nice too. The breakfast scene in one of the episodes was also fun to watch.

Murray – The journalist investigating into Barb’s death and unofficial matchmaker. Whilst his leads and theories are slightly wrong, meeting Jonathan & Nancy puts him on the right path and is crucial to shutting Hawkins Lab down at the end.

Barb’s Parents – It’s a sad minor story that anchors around Nancy’s arc, as they continue to try and uncover the truth regarding Barb’s disappearance. It then goes into Nancy’s overall guilt about what happened, yet they do get closure at the end sadly.

Mr Clarke – Another small role again for this character, but still lovely to watch on screen. He plays pretty much the same role as before but just a bit less this time.

Mrs Henderson – A very funny and adorable mother to Dustin, though tends to act and behave like a best friend which is adorable acting as a result. She loves her cat Mews and is ultimately quite a fun, silly character to watch.

Hawkins Lab – As I said before, Hawkins Lab are more neutral this time around, though are still trying to keep things hidden. They play adversaries for Jonathan & Nancy, yet are more supportive regarding Will, Joyce & Hopper’s stories.

OTHER

There were things about the season that wasn’t as strong as before. For one, I felt this season rethreaded old plot points a bit too much, and ultimately it became much like a repeat performance in a way. It didn’t have the same unique magic that Season One ultimately did. Then of course was The Lost Sister episode, which took the audience out of the main story, and made a set of gang characters that came off quite cringe and ultimately, that angle of the story had little point in it.

RATING: 88% - A-


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