Mike Wheeler’s non-story was ‘Stranger Things 2’ at its weakest


In the grand custom of sequels all over the place, Stranger Things 2 had extra of every thing – extra demogorgons, extra Will, extra Steve being man, extra Hopper being Hotper (I am sorry, I am sorry, I knew as quickly as I stated it). 

The one exception? Mike Wheeler.

In Season 1, Mike wasn’t simply a part of the gang – he was the man, round whom a lot of the motion revolved. He was the dungeon grasp and ringleader; he was Eleven’s closest pal and ally; he was brother of Nancy, one other key character. 

This season, although, Mike takes a major step again. He’s nonetheless there, however his place within the story is far much less outstanding. He does not even actually get a plotline to name his personal. He’s a supporting participant in Will’s storyline and a distant motivating power in Eleven’s.

Mike’s loss is his mates’ achieve. The time and power dedicated to him final 12 months will get divvied up amongst his mates in Season 2. Dustin will get a mother and a cat, and his very personal story arc involving a mysterious creature and, finally, Steve; Lucas will get a (pleasant) little sister and a romantic subplot with a brand new character, Max. 

One could say Mike and Will's positions in the show have flipped upside down.

One may say Mike and Will’s positions within the present have flipped the other way up.

No one advantages from the brand new, much less Mike-centric focus greater than Will Byers, who spent most of final season MIA – it is his disappearance, in spite of everything, that serves because the catalyst for the remainder of the story. Though he appeared sporadically all through the season (normally in flashbacks or glimpses of the Upside Down), he was finally extra of a plot level than a personality. 

In the brand new season, Will will get to come back to the forefront whereas Mike retreats into the position of sidekick, and it is instantly clear that actor Noah Schnapp’s sturdy work final season was no fluke. He tears into the meatier materials he is given like a professional.

Will is much less the brand new “everyboy” (a la Mike) than he’s the brand new Eleven, and he strikes an badogous stability between disarming and unsettling. You need to shield this trembling, wide-eyed child in any respect prices, however you additionally need to run screaming within the different path when, for instance, he deadpans that “He likes it cold.” Stranger Things has its flaws, however it works in addition to it does as a result of it is really easy to care about characters like Will.

Will’s storyline additionally provides Mike his strongest materials of Season 2. Mike is at his finest when he is cheering on his finest pal – rebaduring Will that they’re going to “go crazy together,” serving to Will face down the shadow monster, dropping every thing to be at Will’s aspect, telling a possessed Will precisely how a lot he means to him.

The party, sans girl.

The get together, sans woman.

Outside of his friendship with Will, although, Mike leaves a lot to be desired. He spends a lot of the season lacking Eleven, and whereas it is sensible that this younger man could be traumatized by the lack of his pal, it principally manifests onscreen as whining and moping. He snipes at most characters who aren’t Will and is downright hostile to Max, going out of his technique to exclude her as a result of they “don’t need another party member.”

It’s a jarring shift from the boy who welcomed Eleven with open arms final 12 months. Maybe that is the purpose. In context, although, it makes Mike appear petty and small, as if he begrudges his mates the chance to seek out love. Or as if, just like the present itself, he struggles with the idea that a couple of woman character can exist concurrently. 

None of that is the fault of actor Finn Wolfhard, who continues to behave the hell out of any scene he is in. The finest showcase of his talents is the finale: his scene with Will is devastating, his combat with Hopper is uncooked, and his kiss with Eleven is so heart-meltingly lovable that I got here again round on the Eleven/Mike ship after spending the earlier eight episodes rolling my eyes at it.

In different phrases, Wolfhard is hitting all the precise notes. It’s the writing that is letting him down. Ultimately, it feels just like the storytellers merely could not provide you with something higher for that character to do. Even in Season 1, Mike was outlined much less by who he was than by what was occurring to him. That’s nonetheless true in Season 2, however much less is occurring to him, so he is much less attention-grabbing than ever.

It’s an issue that is plagued most of the characters in Stranger Things at one level or one other – however it’s additionally one the present went a good distance towards fixing this 12 months, by fleshing out characters like Lucas and Dustin. Now the problem of Stranger Things three will probably be to point out Mike what he is actually made from, apart from a completely unremarkable boy who simply occurs to be close to some exceptional stuff.

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