Strange Days Ahead: No Letting Go of ‘Stranger Things' Obsession

Netflix' kid-driven sci-fi drama returns Friday for another trip to the Upside Down. Start toasting your Eggos...

Here's the strange thing about last month's Emmys: The biggest victor didn't take home a trophy.

Nobody expected Shannon Purser, nominated for her brief turn as the eminently sensible, ill-fated high school student Barb on "Stranger Things," to win. Then again, fewer expected her to be nominated. 

Purser's guest-actress nod marked a fitting triumph of sorts for a show built around oddball underdogs and kids playing kids' roles. It also spoke to the sense of loyalty coursing through a drama that celebrates friendship as the key to slaying monsters.

The sci-fi breakout that turned TV and the Emmys upside-down last year returns to Netflix for a second season Friday in a bid to eek out more unlikely wins.

The 1980s-set Duffer Brothers' sleeper hit landed, at least on the surface, as an ode to Steven Spielberg's "E.T." glory days, with screeching echoes of "The Goonies" and "Gremlins."

But nostalgia alone doesn't explain the generations-wide devotion to the show, whose first season centered on the search for Will Byers – a 12-year-old geek sucked into a netherworld known as the Upside Down.

Will's fellow Dungeons & Dragons-loving buddies, Mike, Lucas and Dustin led the charge, peddling their bikes furiously while battling schoolhouse bullies and a government conspiracy.

Winona Ryder, as Will's unhinged lioness of a mother, and David Harbour, as a haunted small town police chief, turned in career-best performances as the two adult believers who found hope in blinking Christmas lights. 

But Millie Bobby Brown, who played Eleven, the short-haired, Eggo-loving forgotten child with fearsome telekinetic powers, shined brightest. 

Eleven appeared to exit as a martyr who disintegrated while saving her buddies from the dreaded Demogorgon (the kids’ D&D-inspired nickname for the monster). But a hint near end of Season 1 – and Season 2 previews – suggest her number isn't yet up.

It's unclear whether the same could be said for Barb. But fans likely won't give up rooting for her return. Stranger things, after all, have happened. 

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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