July 8th, 2019

Duck Row

The Mall of Strange

I've been watching the new season of Stranger Things for two days and so I'm two episodes in. So far I like it, particularly since the story partly revolves around a shopping mall. I always loved malls when I was a kid, especially indoor malls, like the one depicted on the show. I loved the feeling of a world created and contained in this space with its own lighting and atmosphere. It's been kind of depressing hearing about malls dying off due to online shopping so it'd be nice if Stranger Things helps make them trendy again.

Two episodes in, the season's not bad. I like the music though I feel like there's a bit much of it and the Fast Times at Ridgemont High gag at the pool with the gender reversal feels a bit much like a recycled joke from Family Guy. There are few recycled formulae that I think may have been intentional, like the "will they or won't they" romantic subplot between David Harbour and Winona Ryder--the story makes a direct nod to it with a clip from Cheers. This may also be some indirect influence from The Orville and its retro romantic plot between Ed and Kelly. So far, though, there's more that works in the two episodes than doesn't.

I'm still trying to decide if Suzie, Dustin's (Gaten Matarazzo) girlfriend, is real or not. He claims she's hotter than Phoebe Cates which just doesn't seem possible. But the other characters are saying she's made up so much that I figure she might have to be real.

I don't feel much enthusiasm for the Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) subplot. I doubt I'm alone with my attention being completely transferred from Jonathan to Steve (Joe Keery) and Nancy's need to prove herself as a reporter seems nowhere near as exciting as when she was dealing with weird sexual issues. But maybe things will go somewhere I don't expect.

I liked the shopping montage in the second episode with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Max (Sadie Sink), especially for using Madonna on the soundtrack. I generally like all the music on the show but too often they seem to be songs I don't think were particularly popular in small town 80s America.

The subplot about local businesses protesting the mall makes me wonder if the Duffer Brothers drew inspiration from this old, 1982 special report:

You can see the bit about small businesses struggling at 11:55.

I'm so torn. I love malls but I hate seeing the small businesses hurting. Sometimes issues aren't black and white, I guess, which is a good thing to keep in mind with a story like Stranger Things.