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Excellent.
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While the jock storyline likely would have felt like fat on the bone no matter what, I think my main issue with it is how cartoonish it was, even for this show. I mean, the introduction was completely believable: Lucas wanting be seen as a cool kid and not a nerd in high school, so he takes up with the athletes, deals with their peer pressure, and eventually re-learns who his friends really are. All very real and relatable. And from Jason's side, his girlfriend is killed, and he wants to do something because he feels like adults aren't doing enough. I mean, that's what our heroes do every single season, so why not him and his friends too? None of that is particularly problematic, and could have been leveraged to exactly the same effect as we got, but less outlandishly. Jason and co. showing up at inopportune times to disrupt our heroes' plans, socially bullying Lucas for information, whatever. Jason could have even ended up at the Creel house just as he did, but without the gun, and seeing Max, he would try to wake her and cause Lucas to attack him so the plan could proceed. There was a way to do it all.

Instead the whole thing became a cartoon. Think about the three things that ended that whole plot: Jason's friend body-tackling an adolescent girl at full speed as she tried to run away from him, Jason himself standing on the football practice field casually blowing the heads off tackling dummies with an enormous gun completely undisturbed, and then Jason threatening (apparently seriously) to murder Lucas with that same gun. It's absurd.
 

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Give 'em Hell, Devils
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11's superpowers are far less cartoonish than the jocks' anti-Satanism antics... ;)
Plus, the whole premise of the show is based on 11's powers, so the fact that they're not realistic is baked into the concept. But the jocks thinking that D&D players were committing ritualistic Satanic sacrifices was portrayed not as a supernatural element of the story, but as the realistic reactions of the townspeople.
 

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...I'm not.
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Plus, the whole premise of the show is based on 11's powers, so the fact that they're not realistic is baked into the concept. But the jocks thinking that D&D players were committing ritualistic Satanic sacrifices was portrayed not as a supernatural element of the story, but as the realistic reactions of the townspeople.
I think this was meant to be another homage to the '80s, when rumors of Satanic cult sacrifices were a fad of sorts. And D&D was regarded with great suspicion (see Mazes and Monsters etc.).
 

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I am Groot!
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I think this was meant to be another homage to the '80s, when rumors of Satanic cult sacrifices were a fad of sorts. And D&D was regarded with great suspicion (see Mazes and Monsters etc.).
Oh, absolutely. But it was, as noted, handled in a very cartoonish manner that was very jarring given the amount of screen time devoted to it, and how minor the payoff was. I'm generally a fan of the show, and a fan of its 80s nostalgia, but AFAIC this particular example was a big swing and a miss.
 

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Happily Vaccinated!
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I was just going to say that. The cliques you see in this show, which are the cliche cliques from Fast Times At Ridgemont High. And we also had "Cowboy" which was where all the red necks (strung together TCF *'s it out btw) hung out, chewed tobacco, and talked monster trucks.
This show really had the Fast Times... vibe to it, with monsters!
 

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Don't know if it will be long. but here are my other thoughts on the final two episodes/four hours/

I hate to lead with a criticism, as though my net opinion is negative. It's not. But's closer to neutral than I would like -- I'm a fan of this show -- because this was just too long. This isn't a complaint about the runtime per se, but what the show did with it. The last episode should have felt propulsive, and parts of it were, but the momentum kept being interrupted by long stretches of other things. As Alan Sepinwall wrote, for example, did we really need a redemption arc for the peanut butter smuggler? The pacing issues and overstuffing of the finale are emblematic of the season as a whole. As much as I appreciate Netflix for spending the money, and the Duffers and cast and crew putting in the work, this season and finale would have been more if it had been less. I found myself tapping the scrubber several times during episode nine and thinking, "I can't believe there are still ninety minutes left!" I should not be thinking about how long a finale is during the finale.

I am also somewhat disappointed that the show hasn't evolved much in the story it is telling. Every season: life is normal, something weird happens, it's the Upside Down!, the kids and Eleven band together to save the world. There was a lot that seemed new here that really wasn't; it was just dressed up in new locations and side quests and other distractions that contributed to the season being high calorie and lower in nutrition. I think the fundamental repetition isn't really an issue, because it's such a pleasure to watch this cast work together, but tighter storytelling would have made the potential problem fade int the background if all the extra stuff hadn't made me really think about the central story being told.

And: was it actually scary? Think back to season one. That season featured a single demogorgon and that one single thing filled the entire season with danger and suspense. Now demogorgons seem kind of like angry dogs. Sure, we and the characters are all now demogorgon veterans and so won't think of them the same way, but how often did this season really seem to feature danger?

OK, enough criticisms. For all that, I did like the season. But now I have to make that the subject of a different post, probably tomorrow.
On your first point, that's typical "critic" talk, where they are paid to find fault, especially of a hugely popular series, because, well critics want to look smart and contrarian, not "jump on the bandwagon". Sepinwall is one of the few critics I generally like to read, but this just sounds like critic speak to me. I completely disagree with your description of the final episode. I started watching the show at 6pm and the FIRST time I looked at the clock was 8pm, only because I had to pause it for a moment, and I said to my son, wow, that first 2 hours FLEW by.

I agree with your second point, the stories seem to be similar every season, but I guess that's what Hawkins is about too. I'm fine with it for the most part, though for a lot of it, you have to suspend belief (the whole Hopper in a Russian prison stuff was just too unbelievable for me), but I still liked the story, and I generally don't delve too deep into how real something is when we are dealing with monsters and such.

Lastly, it's hard for me to talk about how scary it was because I'm NEVER scared by any type of horror movie. I usually laugh at them mostly because they are mostly ridiculous. The only movie I've ever been truly scared enough to jump out of my seat was Jaws, and that's not a true horror movie.

As far as my opinion, I enjoyed the season mostly, and sure, as I said there was some really silly stuff, but it's that type of thing. I too thought they could have approached the bullying different, with the jocks and the mean girls, but I could live with it. When I heard through the grapevine that a MAJOR character was going to die, I thought about it and around E5 or so, I realized that it was going to be Eddie, because A) He's not part of the core cast, he's added in this season and B) his story felt like he could be a martyr, he's the kinda creepy (but underneath good hearted) guy that always winds up becoming the martyr to prove to people who he really was. But, the ONE thing that irked me (and I didn't realize that there was a plan for another season in the works already) is that they spent the WHOLE time trying to kill the big bad monster, ALL those hours, and, in the end, he's still alive and the town is destroyed. It kind of felt that in the end the bad guy won, and EVERYTHING they did all season led to nothing in the end, Eddie, dying, Max dying (and resurrected), lots of death and destruction and we are back where we started. I was hoping, if there was another season, it could be a different storyline, but as you said, that's not what they do with this series.
 

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Plus, the whole premise of the show is based on 11's powers, so the fact that they're not realistic is baked into the concept. But the jocks thinking that D&D players were committing ritualistic Satanic sacrifices was portrayed not as a supernatural element of the story, but as the realistic reactions of the townspeople.
Also if your recall, during the 80s that was a HUGE thing. Lots of rock music demonized as demonic, cultist music, folks playing D&D were thought of similarly. So the story line for a seemingliy strraight laced jock (in his mind) looking at the "freaky looking D&D playing kid" as satanic is straight out of the 80s. I just thought they could have used a different way to get to the ultimate payoff, but the more I think about it, the more I'm OK with it.
 

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I am Groot!
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Also if your recall, during the 80s that was a HUGE thing. Lots of rock music demonized as demonic, cultist music, folks playing D&D were thought of similarly. So the story line for a seemingliy strraight laced jock (in his mind) looking at the "freaky looking D&D playing kid" as satanic is straight out of the 80s. I just thought they could have used a different way to get to the ultimate payoff, but the more I think about it, the more I'm OK with it.
I'm OK with the concept (as you say, Satanic Panic was a big thing in the 80s, and given the show's obsession withe 80s nostalgia it certainly fits). I just think it was very, very badly done. Way too cartoonish for its importance to the plot.
 

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Meh.
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I played D&D in college in the early 80s and nobody I knew or any story I read ever associated it with evil. It was a nerd game that the cool kids made fun of us for playing but probably secretly wished they played.
 

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Also if your recall, during the 80s that was a HUGE thing. Lots of rock music demonized as demonic, cultist music, folks playing D&D were thought of similarly. So the story line for a seemingliy strraight laced jock (in his mind) looking at the "freaky looking D&D playing kid" as satanic is straight out of the 80s. I just thought they could have used a different way to get to the ultimate payoff, but the more I think about it, the more I'm OK with it.
I think people who were unaware of it or didn't think it was a big deal weren't in the midst of it (like being a church youth group member for example). It was HUGE.

I played D&D in college in the early 80s and nobody I knew or any story I read ever associated it with evil. It was a nerd game that the cool kids made fun of us for playing but probably secretly wished they played.
Again, you weren't in the midst of it.

First, let me introduce you to a movie called Mazes & Monsters, based on a book that quite a few years later turned out to be complete fabrication. It was Tom Hanks's first starring role, and also had Chris Makepeace. The movie was anti-AD&D propaganda, designed to stop teens from playing such evil, satanic games.

When I was 16 I moved from one town to another, with a new school, new friends, etc. The only group I fit in with anywhere were misfits, but here I wasn't even part of the nerds, I hung with the metal head D&D players. Not in person at that point, just at school during breaks and lunch.

They asked me to play AD&D, and I was like oh yeah, that sounds great but you know my mom wouldn't like it. They kept pressuring me, pressuring me (yes, I was peer pressured not for drugs, but to play AD&D). Finally I said ok, I'll prove it to these guys, and brought a portable tape recorder with me to have a talk with my mom.

I then proceeded to record an epic tirade for the ages. While she was cooking dinner I asked the simple question: mom, would it be ok if I played AD&D? She went on for probably 10 minutes about how I knew it was evil and how could I even entertain the thought of doing something against the Bible.

My friends laughed at my weirdo mother, but that wasn't the end of it. They brought in a traveling evangelist to give us a 2-hour presentation on how much Satanism was in the world and we have to avoid it, detailing how secular music, movies, games, video games, and even our friends had a single purpose: making us stray from God.

Just simple rock music was considered evil by some, Christian rock was an abomination. I kid you not.

I cannot stress how big a movement the satanic panic was.
 

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I am Groot!
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I played D&D in college in the early 80s and nobody I knew or any story I read ever associated it with evil. It was a nerd game that the cool kids made fun of us for playing but probably secretly wished they played.
Really? You must have been very sheltered. In the mid-80s it was huge.
 

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Meh.
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Warning: The Daily Beast is a left leaning website. This article doesn't mention politics at all but you shouldn't click onto any other links on that page if your personal political view is different.

 

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But, the ONE thing that irked me (and I didn't realize that there was a plan for another season in the works already) is that they spent the WHOLE time trying to kill the big bad monster, ALL those hours, and, in the end, he's still alive and the town is destroyed. It kind of felt that in the end the bad guy won, and EVERYTHING they did all season led to nothing in the end, Eddie, dying, Max dying (and resurrected), lots of death and destruction and we are back where we started. I was hoping, if there was another season, it could be a different storyline, but as you said, that's not what they do with this series.
Yep- I thought the same thing- that LONG, LONG season- but what really happened? All that time fighting the monster/bad guy, and in the end looks like they are still going to be facing the same bad guy, and now the town is destroyed. The only difference I guess is the upside down is now in the "real" world.
 

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Happily Vaccinated!
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Warning: The Daily Beast is a left leaning website. This article doesn't mention politics at all but you shouldn't click onto any other links on that page if your personal political view is different.

Considering that it feels like the writer liked NOTHING about the show, it's just a bunch of complaining.
 

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Yep- I thought the same thing- that LONG, LONG season- but what really happened? All that time fighting the monster/bad guy, and in the end looks like they are still going to be facing the same bad guy, and now the town is destroyed. The only difference I guess is the upside down is now in the "real" world.
Exactly, but, knowing now there will be an S5, then I'm sorta, kinda OK with that, as long as they wrap it up then. I enjoyed the season for the most part, but it felt like a great cross country trip that you took, but in the end you wind up back home to the same old stuff.

One thing I forgot to mention. I watched this in the room that has my Dolby Atmos rig and it really sounded awesome. I thought they did a great job giving you that "theater" feel with sound all around the room, especially the scenes in the upside down. Looked really good too on my Vizio mid range LED (non-OLED).
 

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Exactly, but, knowing now there will be an S5, then I'm sorta, kinda OK with that, as long as they wrap it up then. I enjoyed the season for the most part, but it felt like a great cross country trip that you took, but in the end you wind up back home to the same old stuff.

One thing I forgot to mention. I watched this in the room that has my Dolby Atmos rig and it really sounded awesome. I thought they did a great job giving you that "theater" feel with sound all around the room, especially the scenes in the upside down. Looked really good too on my Vizio mid range LED (non-OLED).
Completely agree on the sound. Recently got a new soundbar and sub (Sonos) and this season of Stranger Things showed off the new equipment better than just about anything we have watched.
 
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