Stronger (Film Review) – A Moving Performance By Jake Gyllenhaal

Stronger is a biographical drama directed by David Gordon Green. The film stars Clancy Brown, Miranda Richardson, Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman who loses his legs at the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. After this horrific event, Bauman must adapt to his new life with the help of Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Simultaneously, he struggles to cope with PTSD and depression from the terrorist attack he was a victim of.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Stronger

Stronger quickly became one of my most anticipated films to see during award season because of Jake Gyllenhaal. Without a doubt, he is one of my favourite actors working today. He has brought his best to every film that I have seen him in. Moreover, I find it remarkable that he did not receive Oscar nominations for his work in Nightcrawler and Nocturnal Animals.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Because of my adoration for his work, I expected nothing less than a stellar performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Clearly, the emotional source material he was working with provided a great opportunity for him to showcase his range as an actor. Buzz around Stronger has been high since its premiere at Toronto Film Festival back in September 2017. I hoped that the film would live up to the hype.

My Thoughts on Stronger

Stronger is an emotional film which, at is core, has a powerful central performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Once again, he proves his talent as an actor and that he is one of the best working today. While likely that, once again, he will probably go unnoticed when it comes to an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, his work in Stronger should not be forgotten.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley in Stronger

Aside from an individual standpoint, Jake Gyllenhaal also works well off the performance given by Tatiana Maslany in Stronger. I liked the complexity of the relationship their characters had. It was anything but straightforward when it came to their commitment for one another. Indeed, one scene where Jeff completely loses it in a car with her and they berate each other showcased this. It also showed the ability of Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany as actors when it came to portraying raw emotion.

Stronger Is Never Brash, Crude Or A Cliché

Yet, Jake Gyllenhaal is also great in the more understated moments of his performance. This is very apparent when he showcases the depression and PTSD his character is going through that seem to be ignored by his family. In fact, I would argue that the majority of Stronger is very understated. It is never brash and the film takes its time but it is engaging throughout.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Stronger is never over the top or clichéd either. Certainly, it would be very easy for this story to be told in a less mature way. However, Stronger is very mature which makes the more graphic scenes that much more affecting. Indeed, a scene which brutally depicts the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing is very tough to watch. Moreover, having that scene intertwine with seeing Jeff Bauman at his lowest point of recovery was heart-breaking. He was reliving that traumatic experience in a horrible situation and it was not easy to watch.

Due to the tough, depressing subject matter, I will not be eager to watch Stronger multiple times. However, it is a film you need to see just for the magnificent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal alone. Moreover, the film does showcase the human spirit, especially with its ending which leaves you with a feeling of hope. While I do not feel that Stronger will get a lot of award recognition, it does rank amongst the more emotionally affecting films I have seen in 2017.

Battle of the Sexes (Film Review) – Emma Stone’s Best Performance Yet

Battle of the Sexes is a biographical sports film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The film stars Austin Stowell, Elisabeth Shue, Bill PullmanAndrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Battle of the Sexes is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The film also explores the personal situations of both King and Riggs who struggle to deal with their public and private lives both before and during the buildup to the tennis match.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival back in September 2017. Since then, the film has been receiving a lot of praise, especially when it comes to Emma Stone’s performance. I was first introduced to Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man. I loved her in that film and she has continued to impress me with her acting ability ever since.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

Whether its Superbad, Birdman, The Help, Crazy Stupid Love or La La Land, Emma Stone is establishing herself through her performances as one of the best talents working in the film industry today. Some critics even described her performance in Battle of the Sexes as the best of her career. Consequently, I could not wait to see whether that was true for myself in the film.

I was also looking forward to seeing Steve Carell continue to delve into the dramatic side of acting. Certainly, everyone knows Steve Carell through his brilliant comedic work in films such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Still, Carell has really impressed me with his dramatic roles in films such as Foxcatcher and The Big Short. I wanted to see more of this side of Steve Carell’s acting prowess in Battle of the Sexes.

Based on the trailers, I expected a blend of comedy and drama with Steve Carell’s depiction of Bobby Riggs. Conversely, I believed that Emma Stone’s portrayal of Billie Jean King would be purely dramatic. My overall hope was that Battle of the Sexes would be a film that I considered to be worthy of nominations at the Oscars.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Andrea Riseborough as Marilyn Barnett in Battle of the Sexes

My Thoughts on Battle of the Sexes

While that wish was not met, Battle of the Sexes is a decent film that is elevated by great performances. The best of these performances comes from Emma Stone who steals the film. She is absolutely brilliant as Billie Jean King and, like many film critics, I strongly believe that this is the best performance she has ever given in a film. She lost herself in the role and the struggles her character went through in the film were very affecting.

I also really liked Steve Carell and Sarah Silverman in the film. Silverman provided the understated comedic moments in Battle of the Sexes through her character’s personality. I always like that type of humour in films. The comedic moments that involved Steve Carell were more over the top but that was the nature of Bobby Riggs in the film. He was a larger than life personality and Carell did a good job at portraying this. Yet, he also had a great dramatic scene with his wife that showed the vulnerable side of Bobby Riggs. It was actually one of my favourite scenes in Battle of the Sexes.

Battle of the Sexes Is Not Best Picture Worthy

However, I would argue that the overall film does not match the quality of the performances in it. Battle of the Sexes is not a great film worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. For me, the film takes a while to find its footing. Indeed, I much preferred the second half of the film to the first. More of the great moments in the film, such as Bobby Riggs’ dramatic scene with his wife, happened in the second half.

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

The lack of consistency meant that I was not captivated by the story of the film from beginning to end. Still, I will say that Battle of the Sexes is a very timely film. Some of the themes and messages of the film are very resonant for the current climate we are living in. As a result, this does make Battle of the Sexes necessary viewing. If you have the time, give this film a chance because you may like it more than I did.

Overall, Battle of the Sexes has great performances in it. However, the film itself does not match the quality of those performances. Emma Stone may get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress but that is as many Oscar nominations as I would give to Battle of the Sexes. You may feel different if you see the film though.

Justice League (Film Review) – An Abomination

Justice League is a superhero film directed by Zack Snyder (yeah, sure it was) and it is the fifth instalment in the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU). The film features an ensemble cast that includes Ray Fisher, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, J. K. Simmons, Connie Nielsen, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck.

Justice League takes place after the events of Batman vs. Superman. We see a world devoid of hope after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) seek to continue the legacy of Superman by forming a team of superheroes, i.e. the Justice League. This team have to combat the apocalyptic threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Justice League

To say that I was buzzing for Justice League is a lie. Despite how much I liked Wonder Woman, everything I was seeing and hearing about Justice League did not fill me with confidence. Truly, the DCEU has been divisive and this has caused a reactionary nature at Warner Bros. to fester. Consequently, the production for Justice League was tumultuous.

Ben Affleck as Batman Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman Ray Fisher as Cyborg Ezra Miller as The Flash and Jason Momoa as Aquaman in Justice League

Zack Snyder had to step down from the film after a tragic family loss. Joss Whedon then stepped in to finish the film. From that point, all we heard was how the film went through massive re-shoots. Clear evidence of this is apparent when we see the trailers for the film. To me, the trailers for Justice League were inconsistent when it came to showcasing the tone and look of the film.

Then, when the reviews came out, Justice League seemed as though it was another divisive film in the DCEU. Going into the film, my expectations were low. Very low. Still, despite its mixed critical reception, the consensus I was seeing about the film is that it was fun. So, at the very least, I hoped that I would be entertained by Justice League.

My Thoughts on Justice League

Do people have a different definition of fun to me? Seriously, this is the worst cinema experience I have had in years. Justice League is awful. Sure, it is lighter in tone (the darker tone in the DCEU was never an issue for me) but it is not fun to watch. By far, it is the worst DCEU film I have seen (I have not seen Suicide Squad). This film is a gigantic mess. It is quite clear that Zack Snyder’s influence on Justice League is not mixed well with Joss Whedon’s. It is a massive step backwards for the DCEU, so much so that I see no other option but to reboot this clusterfuck.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman Ben Affleck as Batman and Ezra Miller as The Flash in Justice League

Clearly, despite the love towards Wonder Woman, the audience is not responding well to the DCEU. We need to look no further than the fact that Justice League had the lowest box office opening for a DCEU film yet. Moreover, it is not going to make $700 million at the worldwide box office. This is staggering. Justice League was supposed to be DC’s The Avengers and it is not even going to make $1 billion worldwide.

After seeing Justice League, it is easy to understand why the audience is abandoning the DCEU because the film sucks. For one, the story is awful. The plot of Justice League is thin, generic and completely lacking any reason to get emotionally invested. I did not care about what happened to any of the superheroes in the film.

Steppenwolf

The main reason why I did not care about the fate of the protagonists was because of Steppenwolf. For me, most great superhero films have compelling villains. Just look at The Dark Knight. It has a villain in Heath Ledger’s The Joker that, for me, is second to Darth Vader as the greatest villain of all time. Steppenwolf is one of the worst villains I have ever seen. Aside from the awful CGI that was used for him, the reason why I detested Steppenwolf in Justice League is because he is just another villain who wants to destroy the world.

Steppenwolf in Justice League

We have seen this time and time again and it is really boring to keep seeing this type of villain. They have no depth or interesting qualities about them. I will say that the voice-work for Steppenwolf by Ciarán Hinds was good. Still, we get no meaningful, interesting reason as to why Steppenwolf has the aims that he has. When the superheroes are fighting a villain that you do not get invested in then you have no reason to care about the story and what unfolds in a film. Sadly, Justice League suffers that fate.

The introduction for Steppenwolf was also quite rushed and the same goes for the protagonists in Justice League. Honestly, a lot of the film just felt like cut-scenes put together with no connecting tissue. The formation of the Justice League was very rushed and it was not executed well. No time was given to delve into the characters and no character in the film really had any development.

Batman

In fact, I would argue that someone like Batman regressed as a character. Undoubtedly, Ben Affleck’s Batman was the best thing about Batman vs. Superman. I loved how Batman was portrayed as though Bruce Wayne was the mask and Batman was his real identity. For me, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman vs. Superman had a lot of depth.

Ben Affleck as Batman in Justice League

All of that great work was completely undone in Justice League. In this film, the character was portrayed as though Batman was the mask and Bruce Wayne was the true man. I hated this and it made Batman one of the worst parts of this film. Additionally, it does not help when you clearly notice how bored and disinterested Ben Affleck looks throughout Justice League. It is no secret that Affleck wants out of the DCEU. After seeing Justice League, I think it is the best thing for all parties that this happens.

Additionally, they tried to give Batman some comedic moments in an effort to make Justice League more fun. Some of the comedy in the film does work but it is not with Batman. It is when Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) were involved that the film had some laughs. Still, even then, it was mixed. For instance, Flash’s line about blood sugar made me chuckle but his whole brunch thing felt very forced.

Seeing Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth influence Aquaman to spill his deepest thoughts was also funny. Yet, the whole surfer dude shtick started to grain on me. Still, despite some funny moments with Flash and Aquaman, the comedy in Justice League does not work for Batman. One scene in particular where he is with Superman has an attempt at humour which is awful.

Ezra Miller as The Flash in Justice League

The Worst Things About Justice League

That leads me into what I believe is one of the worst elements of Justice League. We knew that Superman would come back from the dead in Justice League. Even though the marketing for the film left Henry Cavill out completely, we knew it was coming. It was something I was actually interested to see in Justice League.

The execution of Superman’s resurrection is terrible. It is the definition of anti-climactic. While I have never had much affinity for the character, Superman is an icon to many DC fans. Moreover, he is essentially a God within the universe he lives in. His return should have been an epic, unforgettable moment that is the emotional crux of the film. It was none of those things. I was very unsatisfied with the way he came back to life in Justice League.

Another element of Justice League that was be terrible were the visual effects. I already mentioned how bad the CGI was for Steppenwolf. However, the general visual effects that are on show in the final act of the film look like something out of a PlayStation 2 game. Additionally, the CGI used to digitally remove Henry Cavill’s moustache is very noticeable. All of this just cemented my belief that Justice League was rushed to make its November release date.

Henry Cavill as Superman in Justice League

My Final Thoughts on Justice League

For me, apart from some humour working, the only thing that I did not think was awful was Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot embodies that character very well. If the DCEU is rebooted, then it is unfortunate that it will probably mean the end of that incarnation of the character.

Still, Warner Bros. are just setting themselves up for more failure if they do not radically change something with the DCEU. I truly believe that Justice League is the final nail in the coffin for this franchise, at least in its current form. If you want to waste two hours of your life, then go ahead and watch Justice League. I never want to even think about it again.

Call Me By Your Name (Film Review) – Good Film, Great Performances

Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age film directed by Luca Guadagnino and it is the third and final instalment in Guadagnino’s ‘Desire’ trilogy. The film stars Michael StuhlbargAmira CasarEsther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Call Me By Your Name takes place in the summer of 1983 and the story focuses on a budding romantic relationship between Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer). Oliver is an American who is assisting Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) with his work on an archaeological site in Italy.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Call Me By Your Name

I have known about this film ever since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival back in January. Even then, it was touted as a film that could do well when it comes to award recognition. We have indeed seen this play out in the last couple of weeks. For instance, Call Me By Your Name has garnered nominations at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. The film has also won awards from the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

A lot of the praise towards Call Me By Your Name has been focused on the performances, particularly in relation to Timothée Chalamet. Certainly, after nominations and wins for Best Actor from various film institutions, it seemed nailed on that an Oscar nomination would follow suit for Chalamet. Nevertheless, I did my best not to let the hype raise my expectations for this film to an unattainable level. But, I still went into Call Me By Your Name excited to hopefully see an emotionally moving film.

Timothee Chalamet as Elio in Call Me By Your Name

My Thoughts on Call Me By Your Name

Overall, I liked Call Me By Your Name. Yet, I do not have the same love for it as a lot of other people do. I will get to the reason why I feel this way shortly. But, I want to shower deserved praise on the qualities of this film. Firstly, the cinematography of Call Me By Your Name is fantastic. Every shot was stylish, expertly crafted and artistic and, consequently, the film felt like a painting in motion.

Clearly, the lush setting of Italy helped in this regard but it was a beautiful film to look at regardless. Moreover, the visual beauty of Call Me By Your Name made for a very soothing visual experience. I felt completely relaxed while watching this film and it made me appreciate other qualities in the film such as the music. Still, the best thing about the film are the performances in it.

The Performances in Call Me By Your Name

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are great in the film both individually and when they are together. The relationship that develops between the characters they play is very authentic and this elevated the quality of the film. However, Michael Stuhlbarg gave my favourite performance in the film as Elio’s father, i.e. Mr. Perlman. As I said above, all the focus is on Timothée Chalamet when it comes to award recognition. While not undeserved, it does seem as though Stuhlbarg is being overlooked for the same type of recognition.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman in Call Me By Your Name

Honestly, a scene that he has with Timothée Chalamet towards the end of the film was astonishingly moving. While watching that scene, I felt that Stuhlbarg had guaranteed himself an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. I hope this still happens. Nonetheless, I doubt it will happen the more that time goes by where he is not nominated for awards that, in the past, have signalled what could happen in similar categories at the Oscars.

Stuhlbarg also provided the majority of the humorous moments in Call Me By Your Name. Clearly, comedy will always play a part in coming-of-age films. However, the humour in this film was not overt. Instead, it was the subtle delivery of the lines that made the film funny in parts. Still, drama is at the heart of Call Me By Your Name and the film felt different to many other coming-of-age films I have seen in the past.

I Like Call Me By Your Name, I Do Not Love It

For the most part, I was invested in the story and its dramatic elements. Yet, I do not revere Call Me By Your Name to the degree that many others do. This is because, for me, the story was not executed to the best standard possible. Certainly, some scenes in the film were what I considered to be filler. Those scenes dragged out the film to a length that was not required to tell this story. I dug the pacing for the majority of the time while watching the film. But, during the second half of the film, some scenes did not really add to the story being told and the film dragged as a result.

Armie Hammer as Oliver and Timothee Chalamet as Elio in Call Me By Your Name

A scene involving masturbation into a peach comes to mind when I think about one of these filler scenes. If you cut out just that one scene, nothing is taken away from the film. More importantly, the relationship between Elio and Oliver is not worsened in its development or genuineness. The film is over two hours long and it did not need to be. It could have been much tighter and I would like the film much more than I do if it was. Still, while I do not regard Call Me By Your Name as one of the best films I have seen this year, it is a good film and worth seeing.

Is Call Me By Your Name Best Picture Worthy?

This film reminded me of Carol in a lot of ways. Much like how I felt about Carol after watching it, I do not believe that Call Me By Your Name is worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. I have no problem if performances in the film and technical elements such as the cinematography get Oscar recognition. However, the film as a whole did not convince me that it deserves a Best Picture nomination.

Despite this, if it does receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, I will not be surprised. Certainly, the buzz is high and, as I said, it is a good film that you should watch. Yet, even though I am in the minority, I need to be honest with my opinion. Call Me By Your Name is just not as great as it could have been or as many others regard it to be.

Stranger Things Season 2 (Television Review) – Better Than Season 1

Undoubtedly, one of the most anticipated television shows of 2017 has been Season 2 of Stranger Things. The first season was a cultural phenomenon and, if you read my review of the first season earlier this year, you will know that I really liked it. A big reason why Season 1 was so good was because of the kids and the chemistry they had together and they were all back for Season 2.

Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) return for Season 2 in addition to Winona Ryder and David Harbour as Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper respectively. Noah Schnapp has a bigger role as Will Byers in Season 2 of Stranger Things and we have new characters such as Bob (Sean Astin), Max (Sadie Sink) and Billy (Dacre Montgomery) making their debuts too.

The story of Season 2 of Stranger Things is set one year after the events of the first season and the focus is on Will who is still recovering from his harrowing experience in the Upside Down. We find out that Will still has a connection to and is influenced by the Upside Down which leads to the characters finding out the shocking truth that a larger threat from the Upside Down exists; the Shadow Monster. In order to save Will, the Shadow Monster must be defeated.

Noah Schnapp as Will and the Shadow Monster/Mind Flayer in Stranger Things Season 2

My Knowledge and Expectation for Season 2 of Stranger Things

As I said above, I watched the first season of Stranger Things on Netflix and, after finishing what I thought was a very good season of television, I was intrigued to see where the story would go. Obviously, I had high expectations given how much the first season impressed me with its characters and world-building. I wanted more of the same in this regard but I also wanted this second season of Stranger Things to move away from its reliance on 80s nostalgia.

Clearly, a big reason why the first season of Stranger Things was so widely loved was because of its ability to pay homage to 80s pop culture. However, as I look back at the first season, I do feel as though its reliance on 80s nostalgia to pull people in meant that the story was never given the chance to be its own unique thing. I hoped that Season 2 of Stranger Things would find a better balance of paying homage to the 1980s while being its own story at the same time. Moreover, I still wanted the show to have that great blend of science-fiction and horror.

My Thoughts on Season 2 of Stranger Things

I have to say, there are not a lot of weak points in Season 2 of Stranger Things. This is a pretty flawless season of television that continues the greatness of the first season but it also improves on the first season due to the fact that Season 2 does not rely on 80s nostalgia. Obviously, it does pay homage to the 1980s through its brilliant synth score and music choices which included bands such as Metallica, The Police and Scorpions (a band that was also featured in GLOW).

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven and Finn Wolfhard as Mike in Stranger Things Season 2

Season 2 of Stranger Things is also influenced by movies such as Aliens and Ghostbusters. However, it does not rely on these things to shape the story like Season 1 did. The story of Season 2 felt much more like its own thing. One of the brilliant aspects of Season 2 which cemented how special this season of Stranger Things felt was the arc of Will Byers and the brilliant performance Noah Schnapp gives as this character.

Will Byers

Truly, Noah Schnapp gives one of the best child performances I have ever seen. The levels that he goes to while playing Will is extraordinary and it pushes him right to the forefront when it comes to award recognition. Additionally, seeing Will struggle with what is essentially PTSD from his time in the Upside Down was very gripping and set the stage for what was quite a harrowing arc for his character.

Indeed, he becomes possessed by the Shadow Monster and the Shadow Monster is actually feeding off Will who is, in some sense, a host for this mythical creature. Some of the scenes in Season 2 of Stranger Things which showcase this are very disturbing and it proved how great an actor Noah Schnapp is for his age.

Noah Schnapp as Will in Stranger Things Season 2

This was particularly evident in the eighth episode of Season 2, titled ‘The Mind Flayer’, where the possession of Will by the Shadow Monster is at its peak. It made for some quite emotional scenes involving the people who love Will as they try to get through to him by recalling their most cherished memories of him. For me, this eclipsed any moment in Season 1 of Stranger Things.

It was also great to see Will spend more time with Dustin, Mike and Lucas and the chemistry between the kids is still fantastic and helps Stranger Things be as great as it is. Whether it was them turning up to school as the only ones dressed up for Halloween or obsessing over who beat the high score at Dig Dug, the moments they shared as a group were very funny. If Stranger Things is to have more success in the future, then these kids are vital in achieving this.

Hopper and Eleven

Additionally, it is easy to see how the whole cast feels like a family both on and off-screen. All the relationships in this show are very authentic and this is especially true for the relationship between Jim Hopper and Eleven. I did not expect these two to be together in Season 2 of Stranger Things. This made it quite a nice surprise when we found out in the first episode, titled ‘MADMAX’, that Eleven has been in hiding and Hopper is looking after her.

David Harbour as Hopper and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things Season 2

I loved the relationship they had. Obviously, it had a father/daughter vibe to it and, as Season 2 of Stranger Things progressed, you could tell how much Hopper cared for Eleven. This made complete sense given the tragedy which surrounded his own daughter and this affection he has for her was especially evident in ‘The Spy’ which was the sixth episode of Season 2.

It was also cool to get flashbacks of Eleven’s time on her own after she escaped the Upside Down and before Hopper found her. One of the funniest moments in Season 2 of Stranger Things happened in one of these flashbacks. Indeed, in the second episode, titled ‘Trick or Treat, Freak’, we see a squirrel being flown into a tree by Eleven (I know, it is a horrible thing to happen but it was so funny!).

The New Characters

Aside from the characters we know and love, I also thought the new characters that were introduced in Season 2 of Stranger Things were good. I liked Max (Sadie Sink) and her interactions with the group of kids. She added a bit of spunk to that group and to see Mike be really annoyed with having another girl around was interesting because it confirmed that he had still not got over Eleven.

Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin and Dart in Stranger Things Season 2

While the character of Billy was a complete prick, the performance that Dacre Montgomery gave as that character in Season 2 of Stranger Things was excellent. To see why Billy was as horrible as he was made me empathise with his situation but it did not take away from the fact that the way he treated Max and others was awful. I thought I hated Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) in Season 1 but Billy surpassed Steve in the douche-bag category.

Undoubtedly, my favourite new character was Bob, i.e. Bob the Brain. Bob was played by Sean Astin who is most famous for his role as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Clearly, this would always influence my thinking that Bob was a legend. But, the matter of the fact is that he was a legend and his heroism and sacrifice in ‘The Mind Flayer’ was proof of this.

Dustin and Steve

In terms of the recurring characters, Dustin is still the MVP. I love this guy and his whole thing with Dart, the baby demo-dog, in Season 2 of Stranger Things was weird but cute at the same time even if Dart did kill a cat. However, it was his dynamic with Steve that was one of the best parts of Season 2 and it might have been the best relationship that was developed in this season of Stranger Things.

Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin and Joe Keery as Steve in Stranger Things Season 2

They had such a great rapport when they were together and, while I did not like Steve as a person in Season 1 of Stranger Things, he has grown on me because he has redeeming, likeable qualities. These qualities were most evident when he was with Dustin and the other kids. He is still a bit arrogant but he is getting better.

Eleven and Episode 7

While Dustin is probably my favourite character due to his personality and the humorous moments involving him (I mean, seeing Dustin theorise that the Shadow Monster was a Mind Flayer and explaining what that meant was priceless), Eleven is the character with the most depth. Her arc in Season 2 of Stranger Things proved that. We talked about the flashbacks we saw of Eleven surviving on her own in the woods which was cool. Yet, it was really the journey she took to find her mother once she knew of her existence which started this great arc.

I feel as though Eleven went through a lot of soul-searching in this season of Stranger Things and her experience when she met her mother showed this as well as what this meeting led to. Indeed, we find out that there is another girl like Eleven out there in the world and we saw her in the opening scene of this season of Stranger Things. Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) was the name of this girl and, like Eleven, she was a patient at the Hawkins Lab who escaped.

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things Season 2

Obviously, The Duffer Brothers, who are the show-runners of Stranger Things, felt that the stuff with Kali/Eight and Eleven’s journey to find her was very important because an entire episode was devoted to it. Yes, now we get to talk about the highly controversial Episode 7. Indeed, this episode has been very divisive for fans of Stranger Things and it is considered to be the weakest episode of Season 2 and the series in general.

For me, it is the weakest episode but I do not get how some people hate on this episode to the extent that they do. I still think that it is a very good episode. I really liked the punk vibe and I feel that the events of ‘The Lost Sister’ will have a lot of significance in future seasons of Stranger Things. In fact, I do feel as though this episode was establishing stories that we will see next season which is a reason why ‘The Lost Sister’ was the weakest episode of Season 2.

Linnea Berthelsen as Kali/Eight in Stranger Things Season 2

Having one episode which focused on Kali and Eleven killed the momentum that was being built with the main story-line back in Hawkins. I wish that the events of ‘The Lost Sister’ had been spread out across a few episodes of Season 2. It would have been better this way rather than just having one standalone episode. If it was blended into the other story-lines, I feel as though some fans of Stranger Things would have less of an issue with this aspect of Season 2.

Season 2 of Stranger Things Ends Well

Nevertheless, the events of ‘The Lost Sister’ led Eleven to the stage where she knew that she needed to help her friends who were in a desperate situation. We saw this situation in the last two episodes of Season 2 which were fantastic. One could argue that ‘The Mind Flayer’ and ‘The Gate’ are the best ever episodes of Stranger Things. The final two episodes were tense, dramatic (Poor Bob) and they were great pay-off for the story in Season 2.

Moreover, it solidified my belief that Season 2 of Stranger Things is better than Season 1. Even the weakest elements of Season 2 were still very good and this season built upon the greatness of Season 1 while improving on the weakest point of Season 1 which was its over-reliance on 80s nostalgia.

Still, even though the end of Season 2 is a shot of the Mind Flayer looming over our characters, I do wonder how The Duffer Brothers will be able to pull-off a third season of Stranger Things. Perhaps moving away from Hawkins will benefit the show. That is why I believe Episode 7 is important in addition to the story that involved Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer).

Natalia Dyer as Nancy and Charlie Heaton as Jonathan in Stranger Things Season 2

The purpose of the mission they embarked on was to expose the government cover-up of the events of Season 1 (Justice for Barb lives on!). I believe that the success they had in doing this will have ramifications which will be explored more in Season 3. Despite my concerns about how Season 3 will be executed, I am defiant in my belief that Season 2 was a brilliant season of Stranger Things. While I do not expect Season 3 to be better than Season 2, I hope that Stranger Things continues to be great television to watch and an event which we all look forward to.