The summer of 2016 was dominated by talk of one show - Stranger Things. As of today, the much anticipated second season has arrived on Netflix and having previewed it this week, we are happy to report that it lives up to the heavy weight of expectation put on its eighties shoulder pads.
Don't worry, we have no intention of spoiling it for you, other than to say that the story picks up a year on from the events of season one. Eleven is still missing in action, Will is still adjusting to life on this side of the Upside Down, and Joyce has gone from on-edge obsessed mother of missing kid to an on-edge over-protective mother of found kid.
The story manages to move seamlessly on to the next chapter and while 'Papa' may be gone from Hawkins lab, the place is still as weird and dodgy as ever only this time it's Paul Reiser at the helm of things, clocking in a performance that would make you wonder just why his career never really quite took off after Mad About You.
The kids are still on form and while Dustin may be proudly supporting his own set of gnashers and a protective Mike always has one eye on Will, not much else has changed in the group's dynamic. What we loved about this lot in season one is that none of them were written as one-dimensional characters but instead of just reverting to form, we actually get to know each of them a little bit better. Will, a character who remained mostly off-screen last season takes centre stage this time around, and thankfully young actor Noah Schnapp is up for the task.
There are a few more added characters too that all serve their purpose well, including of course the addition of eighties icon Sean Astin to the cast, who may just seem like a loveable schmuck, but he is not to be underestimated. Shout out too to Lucas's little sister Erica, played by Priah Ferguson, who steals pretty much every scene she is in with her adorable sassiness.
She has tough competition, but Millie Bobby Brown is still the undisputed star of the show, this time playing a much more emotionally frayed version of the eggo-loving Eleven we met last season. She struggles to cope with everything she has been through and all she's lost, but at the same time, is deep in the midst of a teenage crush on Mike, who she formed a strong bond with last season. Saying all that though, Eleven is now a teenager with superpowers, and she's not afraid to show it.
You Barb fans out there will not be disappointed too, as she has not been forgotten and if Nancy Wheeler has anything to do with it, there will be #justiceforBarb.
Overall, there's still that glorious nostalgic eighties vibe throughout with mentions of Terminator and some nifty Halloween Ghostbusters costumes but they don't overindulge in it, and while there are a few well-placed eighties anthems, they don't take over from the atmosphere setting score that stood out from the original.
What this season does so well really is that it manages to not mess with what made Stranger Things so good in the first place. It expands well on the original premise - the monster is even scarier and the stakes are much higher - but it still delivers that compelling slow-build to what manages to be a satisfying conclusion that still leaves you with plenty of unanswered questions to ponder while you await the already commissioned third season.
We have a feeling we could be following the antics of those Hawkins kids for many a year to come, who knows, we might even get as far as Ghostbusters II.