Stranger Things 2 Is A Mistake

We’re not sure we’re ready for more. Image: Netflix via Digital Trends.

Will the story get better, or just get longer?

by Dave Averdick

Netflix and the Duffer brothers struck gold with Stranger Things. The first season was a masterful piece of storytelling. Every moment built to a crescendo and seems to have left Stephen King and J.J. Abrams envious.

Let’s recap how things left off at the end of season one (season 1 spoiler alerts ahead):

Our beloved hero/weirdo Eleven saves the boys, Will Byers is reunited with his now happy family, Steve Harrington becomes a good guy, and the small town of Hawkins, Indiana seems to be back to its nostalgic 80’s self.

We’re still left with a few minor mysteries: Jim Hopper is leaving Eggo waffles out in the woods (presumably for Eleven), we don’t know if the wicked Dr. Owens has survived the monster attack, and of course, Will Byers coughed up some kind of slug from The Upside Down in the final scene.

So yes, the Duffer Brothers did leave the door cracked open for a second season, but if we never got a second season, I’d be totally satisfied with the ending. The main storylines are wrapped, and I’m left with a bit to imagine myself. Perfection.

What I fear will happen with a second season is something we’ve all experienced before. A great first season of a show draws us in, then over the course of five or so seasons, it weaves in pointless storylines, adds in fluff, and meanders — just to delay the inevitable conclusion that leaves us frustrated and wanting hours of our lives back. That’s where I think Stranger Things may be headed. Sure, the new season will be entertaining and make us feel all sorts of nostalgia for our favorite 80’s movies, but to what end? Will the story get better, or will the story just get longer?

Season 2: better, or just longer?

“So what?!” You’re probably shouting at your screen reading this, why WOULDN’T Netflix make a season 2, the show MUST be a cash cow. Well, not so fast. As Todd Lombardo pointed out a few weeks ago in his article “The New TV: Get Me Subscribers!”, Netflix isn’t in the business of ratings to drive ad revenue, they’re in the business of attracting new subscribers, even if Nielsen is attempting to assign ratings to Netflix anyway.

And season 2 isn’t cheap. It’s reportedly costing Netflix $8 million an episode. If someone hasn’t bought into Netflix yet for the first season of Stranger Things, what makes Netflix think they’ll win over new subscribers with a Stranger Things 2? Maybe a second season helps retain some subscribers, but more likely Netflix and the Duffer brothers got caught up in the success and feel they need to make season 2, because…that’s what you do when you have a hit.

A great first season of a show draws us in, then over the course of five or so seasons, it weaves in pointless storylines, adds in fluff, and meanders — just to delay the inevitable conclusion that leaves us frustrated and wanting hours of our lives back.

In today’s Modern Media Culture, Netflix should consider a different course; perhaps the concept of a multi-season TV series is built on an outdated broadcast model meant to drive predictable tune-in.

If we really believe the Duffer brothers are the boy-geniuses they certainly seem to be, why wouldn’t Netflix take that $8 million an episode and commission the Duffer brothers to create two entirely new shows for Netflix, at half the cost per episode? A new hit show for a new audience segment wins new subscribers. When Stranger Things launched in July 2016, subscribers surged, despite a price increase. Chalk that up as a huge win for Netflix.

With the release of Stranger Things 2 just days away, I’m left wondering, has Netflix fallen into the trappings of conventional thinking, feeling they had to make another season? Will the investment in season 2 bring another subscriber surge? And will it extend the story into a new space that satisfies fans? Or will it feel like a diluted version of the first season that is only mildly satisfying, spending most of its time setting up for a third season (also known as the Game of Thrones season 7 problem), ultimately tarnishing the perfect story of season 1? Netflix is clearly betting hard on the first. In fact, they’re all in — they’re raising subscription prices days after Stranger Things 2 is released. A bold move, to be sure.

Call me a mouth-breather, but I’m skeptical.

Dave Averdick is a Lead Developer & Interactive Designer at Mistress.