The first season of Stranger Things ended on a bit of a downer. Sure, the town of Hawkins was safe, but Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was missing, things between Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) were weird, and Will (Noah Schnapp) was left barfing up slugs. Maybe that's why Stranger Things 2 decided to leave things on a high note, with an utterly adorable middle school dance.
The Snow Ball was unapologetically positive even when things looked bleak for our boys, and it was the perfect way to end such an intense season. Let's run down why.
Nancy was redeemed
Not to be a hater, but Nancy was not living her best life this year. She dumped her boyfriend in a drunken blackout, blamed Jonathan for their less-than-stellar friendship in the aftermath of Season 1 (it's a two-way street, honey), and turned her friend's mysterious death into a national conspiracy. None of this stuff is definitively terrible, especially given what Nancy's been going through, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for her. And then... the dance. Nancy swooped in to save Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) from social humiliation like a pro, bucking up his courage and improving his status with the ladies in one fell swoop. Good job, Nancy. You finished strong!
It was a whole new '80s extravaganza!
Some of the elements of Stranger Things are so obviously '80s that it kind of punches you in the face; all of Episode 7, for example. Most of the time though, the series quietly and effortlessly establishes the time and place without making it hammy. The dance was one of the only times this season the show really let go and allowed these characters to be totally '80s, rocking the hairstyles, fashion and music ("Time After Time" nailed it) we all know and love.
Eleven got her happy ending
I swear, if I'd had to sit through another, "Oh no! What happened to Eleven?!" ambiguous ending this season, I'd trash my living room. After finding out Eleven was trapped in Hopper's (David Harbour) cabin all year desperate to talk to Mike (Finn Wolfhard) but unable to reach out, it would have been a crime to give Eleven anything other than a puppies and rainbows ending this year. The fact that she got to dress up all pretty, go out in public and kiss her dorky boyfriend felt like the perfect way to wrap up her super tragic Season 2 storyline.
Steve followed through with Dustin
We all loved the bromance/mentorship blossoming between Dustin and Steve (Joe Keery) this year, but there was every chance Stranger Things could have ended that dynamic when the crisis was over and let Steve go back to his garbage friends in high school. Instead, the dance proved that Steve was still looking out for Dustin, filling that big brother role perfectly. When you consider that Dustin lives alone with what appears to be a single mother, a strong male role model is something he probably deeply craves, and now he has one!
Hopper and Joyce, sitting in a tree S-M-O-K-I-N-G
Okay, so maybe we didn't quite get the Hopper and Joyce (Winona Ryder) romance I've been angling for since Season 1, but Joyce is grieving here. That little smoking scene outside the dance did two very important things for Joyce and Hopper's relationship. It reminded us that they've got a lot of history together (they went to high school together, remember?), and it gave us a spark of hope that Hopper would help Joyce through the grieving process and be there when she came out the other side.
Stranger Things 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.