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“Stranger Things” Season 2: Intense, Creative and Charming

Almost overnight, it seems like “Stranger Things” has become the new “must-binge” TV show from Netflix, following in the long line of popular shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” that have influenced the pop culture mainstream. So it shouldn’t perhaps have been a big surprise that Season 2 of “Stranger Things,” when it finally dropped on October 27, was just as intense, creative and charming as Season 1.

The audience viewership numbers for “Stranger Things” Season 2 are off the charts

Netflix has been notoriously secretive about the total viewership numbers for its shows, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Nielsen from finding ways to measure how many people are actually watching shows like “Stranger Things.” And it turns out that the audience viewership numbers for “Stranger Things” Season 2, as measured by Nielsen, are off the charts.

Here’s just one number that really stands out: Nielsen found that 361,000 people watched all 9 episodes of Season 2 within 24 hours of their first release on October 27. That is the true definition of a “binge.” The average viewer watched 2.9 episodes within the first 3 days of release, meaning that they averaged 1 episode per night. You might call this a “light binge” because these viewers were still on pace to watch 9 episodes in 9 nights – very impressive by any standard.

Moreover, on average, Netflix attracted an average of 8.8 million viewers per episode of Season 2, of which 6.2 million were in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic. But that’s just an average – Episode 1 attracted 15.8 million viewers, with 11 million in the 18-to-49 demographic. Even the final episode (Episode 9) attracted more than 4 million viewers – a clear suggestion that close to 4 million viewers did an intense three-day binge of the complete Season 2.

Some of the more intense, creative, and charming elements from “Stranger Things” Season 2

So what exactly was driving all this impressive viewership of “Stranger Things” Season 2? Here are just some of the themes that social media interactions were picking up on with great regularity:

  • Anything involving demons (especially the “demodogs”!)
  • The supernatural elements of the Upside Down
  • Will Byers being held captive by a demon
  • The evildoers at the Hawkins lab

While Season 2 tended to follow the same basic narrative arc of Season 1 – the lab in Hawkins commits errors, Will Byers gets victimized by supernatural elements, monsters escape to wreak havoc, and Eleven finds a way to save everyone – the way the show continues to weave new narrative subplots in and out of this basic narrative arc is very impressive. Some of the scenes can be intense – such as just about any scene of Will being victimized by supernatural elements – but they help the viewer to identify even more strongly with the characters of “Stranger Things.”

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“Stranger Things” 2 includes plenty of references to 1980s nostalgia

One favorite pastime of “Stranger Things” fans is trying to spot all the references to 1980s pop culture contained within the show. Some of the references are obvious even to the casual, first-time viewer, such as the “Ghostbusters” outfits worn by the kids, but some of the other references might be a bit harder to figure out. Keep in mind – this show is set in the year 1984, so it’s easy to see why viewers love to track down all of these 1980s references.

Insider.com, in fact, tracked down 17 of the more creative and charming 80’s pop culture references within the show, finding connections to some of the most beloved films of that decade, including “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “War Games,” “Risky Business,” and “E.T.” Sometimes, these references included something very subtle – like a videocassette for one of those movies appearing in a scene – and sometimes they a subtle homage to those films, such as when Steve and Nancy dress up like Joel and Lana from “Risky Business” for a party.

Here’s just one example of how clever and charming these ‘80s references are: when Will is being held at the lab for tests, he’s asked to give his first choice for candy. He eventually decides on Reese’s Pieces. Well, there’s a good reason for that – Reese’s Pieces were the exact type of candy that the kids in “E.T.” fed E.T. in order to get him to trust them.

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“Stranger Things” 2 is all about creative and charming character development

As more than one movie critic has pointed out, the main reason why viewers insist on binge-watching “Stranger Things” has to do with the creative and charming character development. We really want to learn more about these kids. Thus, it seems like Season 2, much more than Season 1, focused on their growth and emotional struggles. For example, you have the heartbroken Mike after he fails to win the girls of his dreams, and you have the sad, crestfallen Eleven shattering windows and adopting a new “MTV punk” look as a way of dealing with her emotions.

All of these emotional subplots are woven into the larger story, showing us what it means to deal with adolescence. And, in one of the more creative touches of Season 2, it turns out that a mysterious storm bearing down on the town of Hawkins turned out to be (spoiler alert!) a physical manifestation of puberty. The storm was meant to show us what this phenomenon must have felt like for these kids, so unused to experiencing certain feelings and thoughts.

“Stranger Things” 2 is all about the new monsters and demons

Based on the types of social media interactions that fans of “Stranger Things” have been posting on Facebook and Twitter in the period after Season 2 was released, it appears that viewers were intensely interested in all the monsters and demons that have been released by the Hawkins lab. Fans really wanted the return of the Demogorgon in Season 2, but what they got instead was a big, spider-like storm beast. So there was a lot of discussion about the differences between Gothic-style monsters and smoky, shadowy monsters. And fans couldn’t stop talking about the Demodogs!

“Stranger Things” 2 has a chance to become the new Netflix flagship hit

For so long, “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” have been the flagship shows of Netflix, showing us what it means to create an intense, creative and charming show. Well, it now looks like “Stranger Things” – thanks to its amalgam of 1980’s pop nostalgia, strong character development, and creative adaptation of classic science-fiction plot lines – is now on pace to become the new Netflix flagship show.

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