First I’d just like to say that while I’m writing this second of my two posts on Stranger Things 2, I’m eating a 3 Musketeers bar. I normally don’t eat these except when I buy the fun size Mars variety packs for Halloween, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say that 3 Musketeers is in my top five, but the nougat really is a nice change from your average dense, heavy candy bar filling.
All right. Last week I promised to write about the new more heroic, more mature, and more comedic Steve, and I was also asked to write about the new characters (besides Bob, whom I addressed last week). So here we go.
Have you noticed that classically good-looking people are few in Stranger Things and that when they do appear, they are sometimes a bit morally suspect? We’ll talk about the long-lashed, almost girlishly pretty bad boy Billy in a moment, but for now, let’s think about Steve, who was probably the most attractive person in season one (if you can get past his hair. You have to do that with a lot of characters in this series. It’s 1984.). In season one, he was at worst a bully (though his sidekicks were the ones who were really mean to Jonathan) and at best a doofusy dreamboat who took a fancy to Nancy (who, since we’re on the subject, is a cute girl but is a little too waifish, with her enormous eyes, to be classified as model-gorgeous). In this season, Steve earns sympathy by getting dumped (in an awkward, inconclusive sort of way), earns B.A. points by wielding a nail-spiked baseball bat (less sleek but perhaps more effective than Negan’s barbed wire-wrapped Lucille on The Walking Dead), and ends up becoming a protector, style mentor, and life coach of sorts to the kids, especially Dustin. (I think I actually squealed out loud with delight when I saw that Steve was driving Dustin to the Snow Ball.) He’s still a good-looking guy, but now that he’s become more relatable (significantly, that happened partly because he got his face beat to a pulp), he can fit in with our band of misfits.
Now, the person who beat Steve’s face to a pulp: Billy. Obviously, this guy is a classic example of the adage that hurt people hurt people. When we got a glimpse of Billy’s verbally and physically abusive father in action, Billy became a lot more understandable as a character, but for me, he didn’t became sympathetic. He’s still arrogant, a bully, a mean big brother, and a racist. As I mentioned last week, I haven’t looked at anything on the internet about this season yet, but I have this feeling that some people may be shipping the now-single Steve with Billy—after all, they had a tense conversation in a locker room and are the two most attractive people in town. I hope it doesn’t happen. I like Billy as an antagonist, and I like Steve carrying a torch for Nancy. Let’s keep it that way.
Quickly, my thoughts on the other new characters:
Billy’s sister Max, AKA Madmax: She was more interesting for the reactions she caused in the other characters (especially Eleven!) than for herself, but I think she has potential to be a strong member of the team. My favorite moment with her was at the Snow Ball when she kissed Lucas and then smiled. I think it was her first actual smile all season, and it was a sweet moment.
The doctor from Hawkins Lab, Sam something? (Paul Reiser): I like that his character put a more complicated and human face on the operation than we saw last season. I thought he did a pretty brave thing staying in the building and guiding Bob over the walkie-talkie when all those demodogs were running around. But I’m still not sure if I like him. It seems like his story trajectory is not yet finished, so perhaps we’ll see him next season.
Again, let me know what your thoughts are!