Enlarge / Will! He’s alive and kinda sorta well. (As practically a new character this season, Noah Schnapp has been excellent early on. He wears the anxiety and uncertainty of Will’s past on his face at all times.) (credit: Netflix)

Warning: This story contains some spoilers for episodes 1-3 of Stranger Things’ second season.

For returning fans of Netflix’s surprise hit Stranger Things, it likely only took roughly 54 seconds for the second season to feel like a success. As soon as the familiar intro sequence hits—vintage synths pulsing as a kodalith technique nails the ’80s horror-thriller mood—you’re happy to be in Hawkins, Indiana, again. The first instances of a nervous Joyce Byers doting on her sons or Chief Hopper barging into the office only seal the sentiment.

Thankfully, the first three episodes of the new run reveal that many of Stranger Things’ strengths have returned. The Duffer Bros. and co. again nail the emotions and aesthetic of the “kids-on-bikes-have-an-adventure” genre many know and love. Life in Hawkins still has enough unsettled peculiarities story-wise to propel another round of thrills. And new additions to the cast feel largely organic to this world and not like one-note story fodder.

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