At the motel the previous evening, the two insist on a “double” room and awkwardly talk about their relationship from their respective beds. Comparing the scars they made to lure the demogorgan out of hiding, Nancy makes a “joke” by saying “mine’s bigger” and Jonathan sputters back an inexplicably bemused “congratulations.” Then, the real heat kicks in:
“What do you mean?”
“After everything, we just…disappeared.”
“Will needed me. Steve…”
“For, like, only a month.”
The dialogue itself is… questionable, but the relationship already feels ridiculous. These two are forced together by circumstance, and “Stranger Things” could have some fun with the idea that any hormonal adolescents stuck together will probably fool around, but instead it invests in them as a serious romantic couple. By the time they’re separated in different rooms, walk out at the same time and start smooching, it’s clear the couple’s impassioned pushing and pulling is really just emblematic of the forced pairing.
Meanwhile, Steve (Joe Keery) is proving himself to be quite the draw. Whenever the story cuts back to Nancy’s ex, who’s beating up bullies and lending a 12-year-old Dustin his nail-laden baseball bat, he’s doing something fun. Steve is the best part of the love triangle, but he’s at his best when he’s on his own.
Part of that is because he’s heavily involved in the main plot and constantly surrounding himself with the main kids, while Nancy and Jonathan’s arc is based around #JusticeForBarb. While the fervor over Barb’s death in Season 1 meant the writers pretty much had to address it in Season 2, what they come up with was largely irrelevant, making Nancy and Jonathan’s main purpose unimportant, too.
So, let’s break it down.
- Jonathan and Nancy concoct a plot to get inside the laboratory and get the doctors there to admit that Barb died on their watch.
- They succeed, snagging Dr. Owens’ admitting to her death, and take their tape to Murray, who eventually slow-rolls it to the media and gets the lab shut down.
- Barb’s parents get much-needed closure, and Barb’s funeral is one of the last scenes in Season 2.
Aside from point No. 3, none of this matters. The laboratory had already been taken over by scientists trying to do the right thing. As right as Jonathan and Nancy were to be suspicious of everyone working there, Dr. Owens proved himself to be nothing but a helping hand to everyone in Hawkins, and all his employees were doing was trying to contain the spread of things from the Upside Down.
Technically, it was Eleven who opened the portal to the Upside Down, so she was to blame for most of the problems in Season 2, and only she could close the portal, so the scientists were off the hook there, too. They were doing all they could.
So what’s the value in Jonathan and Nancy doing all that work to close down a lab that wasn’t doing anything wrong? Not much. Honestly, it could’ve just screwed over Dr. Owens, and then he wouldn’t have been able to help Eleven get a valid birth certificate. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but Jonathan and Nancy’s quest still amounted to coupling them up, and that’s hardly a good enough reason for so much screentime.
Let’s Talk About Not-So-Mad Max and Wild Bill
Actually, let’s not. Max is fine, even if she’s mainly used as a substitute for Eleven who rehashes the same dynamic from Season 1: Girl enters group. Boys fight about girl. Girl is eventually accepted.
Bill is a nut who’s given way too much screen-time considering his plot amounts to getting told off by his sister. Both characters are non-starters for the overall story, so let’s just hope Season 3 opens with Bill and Mrs. Wheeler (Cara Buono) in the midst of a torrid affair.
Let’s Talk About the Best New Character of Season 2
Erica is everything. Erica is life. Erica is the external commentary needed to make “Stranger Things” soar. Sitting there, mocking her older brother Lucas by having his dolls make out and repeatedly calling him a nerd, Erica is the scythe cutting through the second season’s self-seriousness. She is Crow T. Robot, grumpy old Waldorf, or RiffTrax of the series, and boy did “Stranger Things 2” need her.
It needed more of her, really. If Netflix needs a “Stranger Things” spinoff, it’s far better off giving Erica her own show than Eight. So, to close out this Season 2 review on a high note, here are Erica’s best .gifs from “Stranger Things 2.” Enjoy and deploy, as we await Season 3.
“Stranger Things 2” is streaming now on Netflix.