Acting: I wasn't too pleased with Winona Ryder's performance until the scene at her workplace, where she was great. David Harbour stayed great and Millie Brown did a lot with a little. I was impressed by how effective Shannon Purser was and am floored that this was her first acting job - she was great. Cara Buono is really growing on me, too.
Natalia Dyer, however.... While she may be going for subtle, she is hitting me as wooden.
Cinematography: Tim Ives is on this one and he was great, again. He doesn't distract from the action, but he has excellent framing and excellent use of camera movements; rewatch the scene where Jonathan enters the woods for the first time and observe how he moves the camera. Great stuff.
Editing: Not as smooth as Ep 1. The cuts back and forth about the pool scene were ham-handed but that may be the fault of the director.
Directing: With the sole exception of the pool scene I mentioned above, the direction was solid. Minimalist and effective is what I love and overall, I got it.
Characters: Joyce had some nice growth and exposition and her hysteria didn't descend into narm, thankfully. Convincing the audience that you are hysterical without it being funny is hard, but they pulled it off. Jonathan got some great development and the writing and directing gave us an insight into how isolated and lonely he is without a hint of pathos.
The three boy protagonists were handled very well, as was El, and they were allowed to be different, emotional, and belligerent in a realistic way.
Story: The second episode can be hard, and the cutaway to High School Drama made this tougher. The dynamic between the three lads and El grew well, and the development of Mike's role in the cast is coming along well.
The High School Drama bit is frankly odd. So far the character of Joe is a bit tough to fit into the story in a meaningful way and the drama between him and Nancy is damn near an afterschool special, and not one of the good ones. My sons and I speculate that either the Drama Club transform themselves into last-minute heroes, are redeemed by giving their lives to stop Demogorgon, or are eaten as a cautionary tale, a la the film Halloween.
Which means we need to talk about the pool.
Barb getting snatched by Demogorgon was a nice but. The bad guy is everywhere, watching, and can get you any minute, giving him a real Boogeyman vibe.
Back to Joyce where lights act up and Demogorgon tries to come through the wall.... Boogeyman, indeed.
Notes: I may need to re-watch, but it appears that the area the kids call Mirkwood is close to the homes of Will and Steve but far from the homes of the other boys. Based on Demogorgon and Eleven, it appears the lab is also in Mirkwood. Is the creature limited to an area? Hmmmm.
References: A ton of them, again.
We see a jaws poster. Later blood drips into water and a monster attacks. That was fun.
The episode title reminds me of The Monsters Come to Maple Street, the classic episode of the Twilight Zone where aliens use fear to destabilize a neighborhood.
I mentioned the movie Halloween, above - the antagonist of that series is name-dropped in the episode.
We also have a shout out to Star Wars and the force.
Guys in hazmat suits? Double shout-out to E.T. and Hell of the Living Dead!
The creature at the walls looked like Videodrome and Day of the Dead.
There were more, too.