Everybody loves Stranger Things 2. It’s garnered, apparently, a hillion bajillion views on Netflix, is the most talked about show in the country (no, really), and even people who hated the first season think this one was pretty good.
Which leaves me in the uncomfortable position of looking around at everyone else, wondering why no one else noticed a MASSIVE problem with the series. From my viewing experience, Stranger Things 2 was four exciting hours of television stuffed into a taut nine-hour series. It was slow, is what I’m saying. Meandering. It wasted too damn much time.
See, I’ve made the mistake of watching actual television dramas: 24, House, MD, Supernatural, Castle, Smallville, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When you get used to the number of events you can stuff into a single hour of television—Really, clock it sometime. The number of reverses, plot twists, and occurrences in one single hour of TV is STAGGERING.—a show where nearly nothing happens for the first FIVE EPISODES is aggravating. By the fifth episode of Smallville, Supernatural, and Buffy, the main characters had fought and defeated FIVE different monsters, gotten their asses kicked for half of each episode, if not more, fell in love and out of love, and generally TORE THE PLACE UP.
Those shows have PLOTS. Those shows have MOMENTUM. Those shows are NOT just marking time, waiting for the last three episodes before things really kick into gear.
You know what marking time is? It’s a marching band thing. You’re in your uniform, in the hot damn sun, waiting for the parade to begin so you can strut your stuff before applauding crowds. The drum majors want to get you all going as soon as it’s your turn, so they have you march in place. Your feet go up and down, but you go nowhere. No one moves. Not even an inch. THAT’S marking time.
For five episodes, Stranger Things 2 was basically marking time. Sure, SOME things happened, but you could have stuffed all the happenings into 20 minutes of one single episode. Raising / searching for the mysterious monster. Will’s visions. The punk rock robber crew. Eleven don’t like the place she’s living in. Mad Max’s entire dreary existence. Something happening in the pumpkin patches. Twenty minutes of TV, tops.
I blame the writers. They just threw in too much filler. Scenes that could have lasted a minute—For real, a minute is FOREVER in TV Land. Your favorite sitcom only has about 24 of them. Think of how much happens in one episode of The Drew Carey Show, Friends, or Third Rock from the Sun. 24 minutes each.—instead last for up to ten minutes, or longer.
Stranger Things is a THRILLER. That’s what the material WANTS to be. Kidnapped psychic kids, alternate dimensions, alien invasion, government conspiracies, secret government labs, kids fighting monsters—that’s all THRILLER material. That’s what it’s supposed to be.
Know what the chief and defining characteristic of a thriller is? It’s THRILLING. It moves fast. There’s momentum. Things happen. Rapidly. Sudden revelations, swift plot reversals, taut scenes of drama where everyone has an ulterior motive and are verbally sparring in the hopes of startling their opponent into revealing something he shouldn’t—DRAMA. Stranger Things 2 needed to be a Thriller, but was instead a bloated mess.
I’m not saying the show was BAD. It’s a well done show. I enjoyed watching it. It’s just that, every few minutes I found myself saying “Where is this going? And when’s it gonna start going there?”
Writers are not, by nature, parsimonious beasts. Like a gas, their wordcount always inflates to fill the available space. This is why God invented editors. Stranger Things 2 could have used a damn good editor.