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Stranger Things 2 Review: Episode 2, "Trick Or Treat, Freak," Goes Back In Time

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All for nostalgia, and nostalgia for all

Spoilers for Stranger Things 2, up through Episode 2, "Trick or Treat, Freak," below

In its second episode, "Trick or Treat, Freak," Stranger Things 2 showed it has no interest in wasting time, rewinding the clock to bring us up to speed.

The story is chugging along at a decent pace--a good thing, since despite being one more than last season, nine episodes still isn't very many. But more importantly, Stranger Things Season 2, Episode 2 used its few flashbacks to great effect. They showed us not only the beginnings of how Eleven went from dueling with the Demogorgon to habitating with Hopper, but also a succinct look at what happened to the rest of the characters in the immediate aftermath of last season's finale.

It's a bit anticlimactic for Eleven to have simply crawled back out of the upside-down mere moments after disappearing from that classroom, but at least it puts her right back into the story. Hopefully she'll get to leave Hopper's cabin soon. The police chief is trying his best, but as a "dad" he comes with his own baggage, given what happened to his daughter Sarah. His rigid parenting makes sense, but Eleven doesn't necessarily understand that.

One minor mystery from the premiere that's now clear: Eleven has definitely been contacting Mike. More importantly, she's been developing her powers with all that free time. Remember when she needed a whole sensory deprivation thing to enter the black room? Now she does it with a TV and a blindfold.

And a more major one: Given the state Joyce finds him in standing over the toilet, it's apparent that Will has been puking up slugs all year. The kid is still himself, so it's not quite Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but it may be an invasion nonetheless. Just what did Dustin find in that trash can? No doubt we'll find out in episode 3.

So far, Stranger Things Season 2 is doing a decent job weaving together a lot of disparate characters, stories, and conflicts. And even moreso than in Season 1, it elegantly captures the innocence and embarrassment of being that age--whether it's the kids being the only ones in costume at school, Dustin and Lucas sputtering to talk to a girl, Jonathan feeling awkward at a party, or Nancy simply getting too drunk and saying hurtful things to her boyfriend. (Drunk Nancy is so mean!)

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All the kids are great, although Max is hard to read. What's real--her too-cool-for-the-nerds attitude or her good-natured enthusiasm? Is her brother, Billy, really that big a douche? Hopefully we get a better sense of who they are (and more glimpses of Dacre Montgomery's glistening abs) as the season continues.

It's David Harbour and Winona Ryder as Hopper and Joyce who so far have provided Stranger Things Season 2's emotional core. The bond between them has understandably grown, and while the rest of the show bombards us with '80s references and high school parties, it's their quiet scenes reminiscing about high school and happier times that really capture the nostalgia Stranger Things is always chasing.

The theme of PTSD continues as well, and Will isn't the only one suffering. It's great that Stranger Things is able taking the time to show how these characters were affected by their experiences, from Mike's lashing out about Max to Nancy's debilitating guilt over Barb. Hopper even discussed it more in this episode with Joyce, saying he "knows some guys" who have been through it. It sounds more like he's talking from personal experience, and there may be more trauma in his past than just his daughter's death. That kid with the cap gun freaked him out a little more than you'd expect.

All the while, Will's visions/nightmares/trips to the upside-down are only getting worse. No doubt we'll learn more about them--and the giant shadow--soon.

Best reference or easter egg:

That Terminator commercial Eleven sees on TV is incredible. Simpler times, am I right?

Check out our Stranger Things 2 Funko Pop giveaway, and then head back to our Stranger Things 2 hub for more episode reviews, theories, references, easter eggs, and more!

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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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