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Judging from the Season 2 premiere of Stranger Things, you could safely assume that a casual visitor to the Hawkins, Ind., of 1984 would never guess what had transpired there approximately a year earlier, much less what was still going on. But those of us who know better the town and its residents could tell from the start that not all was as it seemed.
Sure, the Fab Four of Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas remained as thick as thieves and as excitable as ever — in particular, when they learned that the mysterious “Madmax” of the episode’s title had stolen from Dustin the top spot at Dig Dug. But Joyce had become so protective of Will — now stuck with the nickname Zombie Boy by schoolyard bullies — that she wouldn’t allow him to bike home from the arcade.
Not that she didn’t have reason to worry. Since her son’s near-fatal stay in the Upside Down, he’d been having “episodes” — like the one at the end of the episode in which he glimpsed a gargantuan monster in the other dimension just outside his front door. As you’d hope, he was seeing someone about such instances. As you wouldn’t hope, that someone was Hawkins Laboratory’s Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), Brenner’s successor, it seemed, in every way — including the ability to lie with a straight face.
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Will wasn’t the only one of our young protagonists who was troubled, either. Mike missed Eleven so badly that, even 352 days after her disappearance, he was still trying to reach out to her via the walkie talkie. At one point, he thought he heard her respond, too. Had he, though? Had he?
Nancy and Steve were still together — sorry, Jonathan; they even went so far as to use the “L” word. But she remained haunted by the fact that their first night together had cost Barb her life. And, as if she didn’t already feel guilty enough, she learned from her late bestie’s parents that they were selling their house to pay a former investigative reporter named Murray to find Barb. Uh, good luck with that.
At least “Chapter One” dished out one inarguably positive development. As the episode drew to a close, Hopper sat down to dinner with a new roommate: Eleven! Not only was she now rocking a full head of curly hair, her speech appeared to have improved quite a bit since Season 1.
IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS | Joyce, we learned, was dating her and Hopper’s old classmate, Bob the Brain (Sean Astin); the boys found out that “Madmax” was new tomboy in school Max, who’d just moved to Hawkins with her sexy, volatile stepbrother Billy; pumpkin purveyor Merrill accused a rival of poisoning his patch as Halloween neared; something was banging around in a garbage can at Dustin’s; and oh yeah, in Pittsburgh, a punk-rock chick named Kali (with an “008” tattoo) made cops see an illusion of a collapsed tunnel so that she and her gang could get away from what seemed to be a heist. So apparently, there was a whole One through Ten before Eleven!
What did you think of “Chapter One”? El’s new look? Dustin’s toothy smile? Brenner’s successor? Grade “Madmax” in the poll below, then hit the comments.