Why the Ending of 'Stranger Things 2' Made Me so Depressed
And Why It's Not about the Show's Quality, but About Life
This isn't a review of Stranger Things Season 2. But I will say this: I loved the second season of Netflix's ode to the 80s, monster movies, and Steven Spielberg. I liked it better than Season 1, which I thought was fun but a bit uneven.
But that ending? Those final scenes? They depressed me.
And it wasn't because they were badly written or acted. Those last few scenes were great. They depressed me because they are such clear reminders of how quickly those childhood friendships can wither over the years.
Spoilers (Sort Of) Ahead
If you haven't seen Season 2 yet, don't keep reading. If you have, keep going.
The second season of Stranger Things ends with the four main kids of the series — Dustin, Will, Lucas, and Mike — attending a holiday dance at their middle school. (And I must say, that middle school is decked out way nicer than any middle school dance I've ever seen.)
At the beginning of the dance, the four boys are sitting together, along with their new friend — and only female member of their group — Max. They are all awkward and shy, dreading the prospect of dancing but secretly wishing that someone would ask them onto the floor.
It's a great look at how childhood friends grow up, often by discovering a newfound interest in the opposite sex.
As Cyndi Lauper's Time after Time comes on, Lucas finally — sort of — gets up the nerve to ask Max to dance, though Max does most of the actual asking. The two head to the dance floor. Then another girl asks Will to dance. And the scene ends with 11 entering the dance and asking Mike to dance.
But the really touching part of the scene is Dustin's story. He's gone to great efforts to mousse and style his usually mop-top of a hairdo. He's dressed to the nines. But every girl he asks to dance snickers and walks away. In a truly sad scene, Dustin stands on the edge of the dance floor watching as seemingly all of his classmates, and his friends, are paired up and dancing together, leaving him alone.
Mike's older sister, Nancy, who is chaperoning at the dance, eventually rescues Dustin, asking him to dance. She tells Dustin that when he gets older, the girls are going to love him, and that of all of her brother's friends, he is her favorite. This makes Dustin smile as the two dance. It's an incredibly sweet moment and, in my opinion, far outshines the supposedly more important dance and kiss shared by 11 and Mike.
Why did this scene, then, make me depressed? It's because you can see that these four friends will never be quite as close in the future as they are today. And that's what happens to childhood friendships. They seem unbreakable and intense when they are happening. But the years have a way of gradually weakening them.
I still have friends that I met in high school. But for the most part, those friendships aren't nearly as strong as they were during those high school years. Life gets in the way. Today, I have a family that I cherish, and I'm amazingly fortunate to have them.
So life is good, great even.
But there is that sense of loss, that sense that you might not ever recapture the intensity of those long-ago childhood friendships, when you spent every free hour of your life reading comic books together, watching bad TV and trying to screw up the nerve to ask out that girl in your eighth-grade homeroom class.
So seeing that whole sense of loss played out so beautifully at the end of a science-fiction/fantasy show? It was pretty surprising. And, yes, it did make me more than a bit sad. It's impossible not to miss those old friendships, no matter how terrific your life might be today.