‘Stranger Things’: Even stranger for David Harbour in year 2
NEW YORK — Even the title is enigmatic. “Stranger Things” could mean so many things: the recent extreme weather; Washington politics; fad recipes for kale.
Nearly everyone knows about “Stranger Things.” But who can explain what this enigmatic sci-fi-horror series is really about?
The second season of “Stranger Things” — all nine episodes’ worth — will be released by Netflix on Friday, with much anticipation. And the many ingredients that made the series an instant sensation with its debut in July 2016 remain in evidence: icky monsters and an alternate reality, technology gone wild amid government mischief, childhood innocence and teenage passions, the state of adulthood with its pressures and pitfalls, and all of it viewed through the soft-focus rear-view mirror of nostalgia (the series takes place in a small Indiana town in the 1980s). It’s a masterful creation by the somewhat enigmatically dubbed Duffer Brothers.
“Stranger Things” has been rightly saluted for its youthful sensibility. It “gets” kids like few other series do. And it has gotten extraordinary young actors to play them, both among the preteens, such as lisping Dustin (played by Gaten Matarazzo) and psychokinetically enabled Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), as well as among the teens, who include high school lovebirds Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Steve (Joe Keery).
As for the adults, Winona Ryder is impressive as single mother Joyce whose 12-year-old son, Will (Noah Schnapp), vanished in the series premiere after encountering a monster from the Upside Down other world.
It fell to Jim Hopper, chief of the Hawkins Police Department, to lead the official search for Will — a particularly fraught mission for Hopper after having lost his own daughter to cancer some years earlier, a trauma that plunged him into alcoholic despair.
As played by David Harbour, Hopper in the first season was a testy, emotionally absent father-figure for the whole community who nonetheless rose to the occasion — and, much to viewers’ surprise, became a fan favorite.
“Something we tend to forget in storytelling is that a character doesn’t have to be likable right from the get-go,” says Harbour. “You don’t have to like him, you don’t have to feel affection, but you do have to pay attention to him. Hopper gets your attention, even without automatically getting your affection.
“That makes for such a deeper relationship when you have mixed feelings about him, rather than those relationships you have with simply heroic characters where you’re behind them the whole way.”
Harbour’s credits include the films “Quantum of Solace,” ”Revolutionary Road,” ”State of Play” and the forthcoming remake of “Hellboy.” He says from the first script for “Stranger Things” he detected in Hopper the bygone flawed heroes from films ranging from “The French Connection” and “The Conversation” to the Indiana Jones films and “Jaws,” with its beleaguered police chief played by Roy Scheider.