There was a lot of anticipation for the second season of Netflix's Stranger Things and, considering the success of the first season, it's pretty easy to see why. The supernatural drama series was met with worldwide acclaim and quickly became Netflix's most talked about original show. With a string of award nominations under its belt and a premise like no other show on TV, I think it's safe to say that we all had high hopes for the sophomore season.
The second season of #StrangerThings hit #Netflix this past Friday and it didn't disappoint. The social media reaction has been positive and the critic reviews speak for themselves. Many viewers binge-watched all nine episodes on the day of release (myself included), which is what Netflix encourages its subscribers to do — and the payoff was well worth the wait. Complete with new characters, new threats and a brand new dynamic, it's safe to say that we'd be justified in saying that the second season trumps the almighty first.
But what led me to that conclusion? There are many reasons, from a well-developed storyline, incredibly consistent character development and outstanding performances from the cast, Stranger Things 2 was everything a fan of the show could've hoped for. There were a lot of aspects to appreciate, from incredible special effects to the new characters, but there is one major thing that set Stranger Things 2 apart from its predecessor, and that's the meatier, juicer role given to actor Noah Schnapp and his character Will Byers.
While Stranger Things is and always will be an ensemble piece, there's no denying that a large part of the second season's appeal was finding out how Will Byers was coping after his harrowing ordeal in the Upside Down during Season 1. As a result, Scnapp was upgraded to a series regular and this set in motion one of the greatest performances we've ever seen from a young actor on screen.
Note: This article contains major spoilers from Stranger Things 2.
Viewers Were Able To Experience Will's Trauma This Time Around, Unlike The First Season
Will Byers disappearance back in the very first episode of Season 1 served as the inciting incident that started the entire story of Stranger Things. While it was later revealed that Eleven had created the gateway between our world and the Upside Down, it was Will's disappearance that the Duffer Brothers used as a starting point for the viewers to enter into this bizarre and cruel world of Hawkins, Indiana.
Due to the mystery of the show, viewers discovered Will's whereabouts through other characters, like Eleven and Joyce. Because of this, the character wasn't heavily featured on screen. Everything about Will's harrowing experience was relayed to us through Joyce (or the Christmas lights to be more exact) or Eleven, so it was second-hand information. Until the young boy was rescued in the season finale, we had no idea of the horrifying conditions he was living in or of the emotional effect his time in the underworld was having on him.
That all changed in the second season. This time around, we actually saw what was happening to Will, from being haunted by images of the Upside Down to the Mind Flayer monster that was taunting him in his dreams. I don't know about anyone else, but I felt like I got to experience Will's trauma with him this time around. And that made Stranger Things much darker than it was last year, because this horrifying thing was happening to a young boy that we had come to know and care for — and there wasn't anything we could do to stop it.
By giving the viewers more time with Will, his dreams and ultimately his possession, proved extremely difficult to watch because we knew that he was such a good-hearted boy. Don't get me wrong, of course we felt bad for him in Season 1 but viewers were more inclined to sympathize with Joyce, because we were experiencing the events from her perspective. Season 1 was about the disappearance of a boy, but Season 2 was about that same boy's journey back home. Will's constant presence in the show this season made Stranger Things a much more disturbing, albeit better, show.
Noah Schnapp Delivered A Terrific, Award-Worthy Performance
After the first season of the show, all anybody could talk about Millie Bobby Brown's wonderful performance as Eleven — a performance that would later earn her an Emmy nomination. This time around, Brown was equally as convincing and endearing as her gifted character, but the standout performance of Season 2 was no doubt Schnapp and his terrifyingly brilliant performance as Will. Whether he was screaming at the top of his lungs or having an emotional conversation with Joyce, Schnapp delivered scene after scene, and episode after episode.
Will is such an important part of the Stranger Things universe and, after viewing Season 2, I found it hard to believe just how little Schnapp and his character were featured in the first season. But it makes us all the more thankful that we got to see the actor work his magic this time around.
One of the best things about Schnapp's performance in Stranger Things 2 was how good he was during Will's fall from grace. The young actor convincingly jumped from good Will to possessed Will and, during the interrogation scenes, it became easy to tell which Will was in control because of Schnapp's effective facial expressions. Whether he was capturing the innocence of Will or the sinisterness of the monster in possession of Will, Schnapp's performance was unlike anything I've ever witnessed before and if there is any justice in this world the young actor will be receiving an Emmy nomination for his work in Stranger Things 2 — specifically the amazing finale.
The second season of Stranger Things concluded with Will finally a free man, but this raises the question of where the character will go next in Season 3. Whether or not he will be directly involved in the next batch of supernatural terror that invades Hawkins has yet to be seen, but the young boy proved this season that he's a force to be reckoned with and I'm really interested to see how the character will develop in future seasons.
While I don't particularly want to see Will endure anymore emotional or physical torture, I'm hoping that the character will continue to be at the centre of the show, because it will provide Schnapp with plenty more opportunities to wow us with his acting chops and that thought alone is enough to get me excited for Season 3.
Stranger Things 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
Were you pleased with the increased amount of screen time Will Byers received in Stranger Things 2? Did Noah Schnapp blow you away with his acting chops? Tell us in the comment section below.