Title: Stranger Things
Air Date: July 15, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction, Supernatural fiction, Historical period drama, Horror fiction, Mystery
Back in 2013, Netflix premiered House of Cards. I thought it was phenomenal. Fast forward 3 years and Netflix has quite a resume for their original content line-up. For me, I haven’t found anything that made me want to binge so quickly. While Daredevil was great and Narcos almost brought me to the point I felt when House of Cards first season hit, I just haven’t able to find that one show. Stranger Things changed all that. In what can be considered one of the best surprises of 2016, Stranger Things is an amazing show from start to finish.
From the start, you will see that Stranger Things is heavily influenced by Steven Spielberg and science-fiction of the 80s. For one, Dungeon and Dragons as well as E.T. are the more common and noticeable references. While the story for Stranger Things has been done before to some extent, the show still felt original and engaging.
The story revolves around the disappearance of Will Byers, a 10 year old boy. When Will disappears, a mysterious girl shows up. Three friends of Will think this girl, named Eleven, is the key to finding their missing friend. If I say too much else, it will go into spoiler territory. Stranger Things is a show, you want go in not knowing much about. Trust me, it is more satisfying that way.
Speaking of satisfying, each episode feels contained. While it connects to a much larger story, it felt like you are watching 1-hour short films. Even better, is that each episode doesn’t really contain filler. Netflix shows like Daredevil and Orange is the New Black do have some filler. I think what works so well to avoid extra unnecessary content is that Stranger Things is only 8 episodes. The plot quickly moves from one point to the next, with little or no breathers, making it more satisfying to watch.
That isn’t to say, that Stranger Things story doesn’t slow down every now and again. There are moments where things do drag, but these moments are quickly brought up with even better moments with great story-telling. Almost all of the 4th episode is one such moment. It slows down in the middle, but the execution of how it all fits makes you want to smile. Smile and cry. The Duffer Brothers, Matt and Ross, who wrote and directed the show definitely know how to execute an amazing story.
As mentioned earlier, the story is filled with references. As with other TV shows and films that try to sell you on nostalgia, Stranger Things doesn’t do it at the cost of the story and performances by the phenomenal cast. It just isn’t that the show has dialogue or just objects on set as references. For example the opening moments of Stranger Things is similar to Alien 3. One of my favorite references comes at the opening of Episode 7, which I won’t get into, but just know if you are a fan of Spielberg of the 80s, you are definitely in for a treat.
Another great thing about Stranger Things comes in the form of the cast. Mostly young kids, some of the acting is on par of Best Actor/Actress performances in films. I won’t be surprised if some of these kids such as Millie Bobbie Brown (who plays Eleven) go onto bigger things. Millie Bobbie Brown as Eleven is sure to be a fan favorite by the time you finish binge watching Stranger Things. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, will probably come in a close second for fan favorite. He brings most of the comic relief and reasoning between the group of misfits.
It just isn’t the main cast that does so great, but the supporting as well. Winona Ryder as Will’s mother was relatable despite how crazy she seemed. David Harbour (also seen in Suicide Squad), as Chief Jim Hooper, probably played the most cliche’ character in the show, but totally nails it.
Then there is the soundtrack. The soundtrack to Stranger Things is very reminiscent of 80s sci-fi films. There is a lot to love and while there is some modern tracks such as a new version of “Heroes” by Peter Gabriel, they fit to the tone of the overall show.
I just want to make a warning though. While it does aim itself for kids, it might not be for anyone under the age of 10. Expect some scares and disturbing images. Think Poltergeist and you’d get an idea.
With that said, I can’t think of anything negative to say about Stranger Things. Yeah, some of the performances were just OK and there are questions that need answering. These things can easily be improved upon in season 2. Now excuse me, I think I am going to get back to re-watching all of Stranger Things while I wait a year for the next season. It is just that good.