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The Shadow Monster is a greater monster than the Demogorgon

Though his introduction might not have been as impressive as the Demogorgon’s in the first episode of Stranger Things, the Shadow Monster is a spooky entity who has a plan and is willing to learn everything possible to set that plan into motion. And sure, an army of Demo Dogs might not reach the same heights of horror as season 1, but it is the meaning behind the Shadow Monster (and his long term effects) that are the stuff of nightmares.

Right from the get-go, the Duffer Brothers lay the ground work for audiences as to what the Shadow Monster truly is (in a real world sense.) Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) makes an important point in the first episode that Will is likely experiencing PTSD from his time in the Upside Down. Even Hopper makes a case for this, since he himself suffers from a similar issue due to Rachel’s death. So when we see the effects that the Shadow Monster has on Will, they were more right than they were wrong – the PTSD just took a less traditional form than any of them had anticipated.

This “winning” combination of Will’s personal trauma, and the Shadow Monster’s abilities to see everything from Will’s perspective make for one heck of a baddie. Note the Exorcist-style takeover of Will, coupled with the scenes where he loses complete control over his actions. This is so much more than just a simple, one-track-minded monster. And though Joyce, Jonathan and Nancy were able to force the creature out of Will’s body, this is a pest that isn’t going to go away so easily.

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Billy feels like a genuine threat to Hawkins

Once he rolled up onto the parking lot of Hawkins Middle School, I knew Billy (Dacre Montgomery) was going to be a load of trouble.With his innate and ridiculous hair cut, Billy has got the trappings of a shady individual. He’s everything annoying about Rob Lowe’s character in St. Elmo’s Fire, and comes off like the strange love child of Dunkin and Hardy from Some Kind of Wonderful. But once you push the cartoonish aspects of the character to the side, it is his lack of control with his emotions that are at the center of what makes Billy even a bigger threat than the Upside Down. Socially speaking, at least.

Billy comes from another place (like the monsters come from the Upside Down) and he looms over the cast of this show much like The Shadow Monster. And similar to the way the monster/Upside Down is spreading through Hawkins like a vine, Billy’s actions create a ripple effect not only for Max, but for anyone that comes into contact with him. I feel that this is just the beginning of what Billy will become in future installments of Stranger Things.

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Stranger Things 1 vs. Stranger Things 2

Stranger Things was a strong foundation. It was the key for us to enter the mysterious world of Hawkins and introduced us to characters we’ve grown to love. But with the dice and D&D pieces now all on the table, Stranger Things 2 is able to play with the cast in ways the first season could not, pushing them in directions that enrich the story.

A complaint I keep hearing about season 2 is that it sets up things to come rather than working with what the show already had. But a good follow-up to an already great story needs to sprinkle more breadcrumbs so it has a purpose to continue. Stranger Things 2 shouldn’t be blamed for keeping one eye on the future. Instead, it should be celebrated for planting seeds to ensure longevity.

The new season is not without flaws. Episode 7 easily could have been merged with Episode 8 to keep the progress of the plot going at a better pace and still offer the development that Eleven needed. Plus, a few of the new characters seemed a bit too convenient to the plot (I’m looking at you, Murray Bauman and Max), while new fan favorites got little or nothing to really do (poor Mike.) But these feel like minor quibbles about a season of television that took its world and characters to exciting new places.

tranger Things 2 doesn’t remain complacent in its nostalgic comfort zone. Instead, it offers a season where characters grow into real organic individuals that we connect with on a basic human level, no matter the decade in which we were raised. It gave us new spooky things to dwell on, both in and outside of the Upside Down, and reminded us exactly why we love this story of a small Indiana town and its weird citizens so much. Bring on Stranger Things 3.

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