Warning! Contains spoilers for Stranger Things 2, because OBVIOUSLY. Did you read the title? C'mon man. Anyways, go finish the season, it's pretty solid and ends in a very satisfying way. Whenever you do that, come back here and argue with me about this.
It's always good to have a more relatable human antagonist in more fantastical sci-fi shows and movies like Stranger Things - reminds you that evil isn't ALWAYS just some far off, supernatural idea, and exists even within the hearts and minds of normal, everyday people. But when the "mean bully" is a 25 year old teenager who constantly has his chest exposed and has the most bizarre perm mullet hairdo I've ever seen, you're already stretching credulity. And then when you make him the most sadistic, evil character on the show - like, literally more evil than an actual hell-monster - you've probably pushed things a little too far.
At least he's gonna bang Mike and Nancy's mom next season.
Dart was pretty disappointing, even by horrible HP Lovecraft monster standards - although a lot of this frustration comes purely from the viewers screaming at Dustin every time he tried to protect the baby demogorgon because "he had a connection with it." Dude, you spent the entirety of last season battling one of these horrible things (WHICH KIDNAPPED ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS AND TRIED TO EAT HIM), so stop making nice with it.
And on the flip side of the issue, DART IS EVEN NICE TO DUSTIN LATER ON? WHY?! Dart, you are a hellbeast monster and part of an unknowable evil hivemind from an alternate dimension, WHY ARE YOU BEING NICE TO SOME RANDOM KID WHO GIVES YOU NOUGAT? Also, nougat isn't even that good. Get some better taste, Dart.
We know the following things about Gross Arcade Guy:
Even on a show filled with tentacled enormous shadow monsters, I find this guy's plans a little unbelievable.
It's not really Kali's fault her character sucks so much - her role in the show is mostly at the center of the show's crummiest episode, a weird semi-spinoff about Kali and her Scooby Doo gang of misfits who run around murdering people associated with Hawkins Lab. It's a genuinely terrible episode that adds almost nothing to the show (except to nudge up Eleven's powers a bit, in a way that could have been dealt with in almost any other way), and is filled with weirdly clunky dialogue and characters. If the characters were at all integrated into the larger storyline in a more organic way, they could have been interesting - but as it stands, they all kinda suck.
Her power is pretty cool though, and her hair (and pretty much all of the gang's hair) is pretty sick.
It's thanks to Brett Gelman, who always infuses his characters with so much weirdness and personality, that Bearded Conspiracy Guy gets a pass - because, let's face it, the plotline he's a part of is not the season's strongest: Nancy and Jonathan's plot to take down Hawkins Lab for covering up Barb's death is relatively pointless, since there's not really much of a reason to show the lab closing down at the end of the season. I mean, the entire staff has been brutally murdered TWICE in the span of about ONE YEAR. I really don't think they would try to re-staff it a THIRD time.
Still, a fun addition to the show, despite being incredibly creepy in the way he encouraged Nancy and Jonathan to hook up and providing two minors with a bunch of alcohol.
Hats off to The Mind Flayer, who was a pretty great villain, at least as far as Lovecraftian monsters from alternate dimensions go. The decision to use Will Byers' body as a host in order to keep an eye on the human element of Hawkins was a very smart one, and one that paid off pretty big in its secret ambush of the soldiers. Less smart was its inability to read the room when tied up and all of Will's loved ones were making emotional pleas to him - instead of immediately reverting back to "LET ME GO!" and screaming incoherently, he could have faked pretending the "real" Will was back just to get untied.
Then again, it IS a giant unknowable tentacle shadow monster from another dimension, so maybe "figuring out human interaction" wasn't high on its list of priorities.
I really like Dr. Paul Reiser (I know that's not the character's name, but I refuse to refer to him as anything else) - it was a fun reversal to have the guy in charge of the government conspiracy presence in Hawkins mostly be a pretty decent guy trying to do right by the people screwed over by Matthew Modine (aka "Papa") last year. He really didn't have any insidious motives or evil plans - he was just a government scientist in WAY over his head, desperately trying to manage a completely unmanageable situation.
Also, I am VERY curious as to what happened to him in that stairwell that left him with just a cut on his leg and then had the demogorgon army just leave him alone. What a lucky guy!
Max seemed like something of a polarizing figure amongst fans - and probably for similar reasons why she was a polarizing figure within the Stranger Things friend group. She seemed to be filling a slot previously occupied by Eleven in the group - but we LIKED ELEVEN, NOT THIS NEW INTERLOPER. Max was cool though - she was angsty and kinda a jerk to the other kids (who honestly deserved it), willing to stand up to her cruel psycho stepbrother (and nearly DESTROY his testicles with Steve's nail-bat), and actually skeptical of all the supernatural nonsense going on (I feel like some characters too readily accept all the weirdness - nice to see someone who thinks she's being lied to).
But generally, it was just nice to see a kid who's basically good at heart but dealing with an incredibly complicated and messed up home life. The rest of the Stranger Things kids come from such intensely supportive homes (except Mike, I guess, whose parents are mostly just increasingly negligent), it's nice to see someone who wasn't so lucky.
Lucas' little sister Erica is awesome - she is CONSTANTLY ripping on her older brother, mouthing off to his friends, and generally being a standard bratty sister. But here's the thing: I really respect how confident she is in her brattiness - ignoring "code red"s from Dustin, endlessly teasing and roasting Lucas, and generally not giving a shit what anyone does.
BOB. GODDAMN. NEWBY.
Bob Newby is a genuine superhero - he's kind, loving, sweet...basically the exact ideal of what you'd hope for in your mom's new boyfriend. I was immediately skeptical of Bob - he seemed too wholesome and kind and perfect. I now admit I was wrong to doubt Bob. What else is there to say? Bob is the best.
...well, except for NEW EDITION OF STEVE. I'll admit, this isn't QUITE a "new character", but it's definitely a new VERSION of a character. Steve's arc on this show has been wonderful to behold - going from the dickish prettyboy boyfriend of Nancy to the unexpected monster-bashing savior to the supportive, protective boyfriend and - his ultimate form - BADASS BABYSITTER. Steve reluctantly joins up with Dustin when no one else is around, and quickly becomes responsible for protecting all of the kids, teaching them lessons, and generally looking out for their well-being (and helping them defeat shadow monsters from alternate dimensions).
I do not care at all if Steve and Nancy get back together - I just want Steve to be the kids' guardian forever.