It’s easy to luxuriate in the atmosphere the show conjures, in its knowing references to the pop culture of that moment — from movies to TV to video games to Radio Shack — without fully buying into all of the individual parts.
Although the primary plot is plenty binge-worthy, the series still requires patience with its less-compelling character beats to get there. To its credit, the show steadily builds in intensity, again cleverly uses its cliffhangers to pull viewers from one episode into the next and exhibits an underlying sweetness, especially vis-à-vis the younger kids.
There are also nice additions to the cast, among them Paul Reiser and Sean Astin — offering mid-1980s ties to “Aliens” and “The Goonies,” respectively — while the show continues to borrow (the polite Hollywood term for it) from the best, including a prominent ’70s science-fiction artifact.
With its return timed to Halloween, “Stranger Things 2” provides what amounts to a bookend to a resurgence of nostalgia that spiked during the summer in the form of blockbuster results for Stephen King’s “It,” another one of the sources the series lovingly embraces. (Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike, stars in both, making him, along with the again-terrific Brown, the “it” kid of the moment.)
“I will never, ever let anything bad happen to you ever again,” Joyce tells Will, as he grapples with his latest ordeal.
As long as “Stranger Things” stays this firmly embedded in the cultural zeitgeist, that’s one of those promises that she — and for that matter, all the adults — will be hard-pressed to keep.
“Stranger Things 2” premieres Oct. 27 on Netflix.