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October 23, 2017 at 05:15 PM EDT

The verdict is in on Stranger Things 2.

Thankfully, Netflix’s follow-up to last summer’s breakout hit doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump, according to the first reviews. The new season, all nine episodes of which will be available to stream Friday, is being described by critics as “exciting,” “engaging,” and “satisfying.”

In his positive review, Uproxx‘s Alan Sepinwall wrote, “Not all sequels live up to the original; this one does better than I ever would have imagined. The show itself couldn’t possibly sneak up on me a second time; how entertaining it continues to be absolutely did.”

Read more reviews below.

Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix

Alan Sepinwall (Uproxx)

“The first season’s epilogue left me with no interest in returning to this world, yet I had an enormous smile on my face for a lot of the new episodes, and particularly the last two, which turn out to be a tighter and more exciting climax than we got last time around.”

Daniel Fienberg (Hollywood Reporter)

Stranger Things 2 is quite good and, if your expectations are in check, largely satisfying. The Duffer brothers fall into very few traps of self-importance or self-awareness, and they deliver a second season with an expanded assortment of ’80s influences, an expanded cast of instantly embraceable characters and some expanded Stranger Things mythology without the bloat that inevitably dooms sequels.”

Maureen Ryan (Variety)

“There are missteps in the second season, many of them revolving around thin or unfortunate writing for some of the new characters. But once you get past the clunky first few installments — which largely restate much of what occurred last season and set up plot points that were easily inferred from the trailers — the drama’s momentum picks up noticeably. As fine as the show’s justly lauded young cast is, the adult actors — especially Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton and Joe Keery — anchor every psychological nuance with subtle skill and ease.”

Kelly Lawler (USA Today)

“It’s a more intimate, exciting and character-driven story, but is occasionally hampered by its bloated length and by hewing too closely to the structure of the first chapter.”

Allison Keene (Collider)

Stranger Things is not reinventing television, but it does once again provide a highly entertaining, extremely bingeable, and even surprisingly heartwarming viewing experience.”

Matt Webb Mitovich (TVLine)

“In the parlance of Mike Wheeler and friends, Stranger Things Season 2 is the Empire Strikes Back to the first season’s Star Wars, in that it’s a highly anticipated follow-up where the stakes are higher for a band of unlikely heroes. But also because just as Luke Skywalker spent much of that sequel on his own journey, so does Eleven here — which is perhaps the otherwise engaging sophomore season’s only shortcoming.”

Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone)

The new season is darker – it’s a genuine horror show – but it still has that same emotional power and a mundanely empathetic sense of grief and loss.

Stranger Things 2 starts streaming Friday on Netflix.

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