Everyone keeps saying, “You need to watch this show.” I kept hearing stuff on podcasts and articles and videos talking about how great Stranger Things is. I really was not planning on watching it, but then I realized that the last show that everyone told me to watch on Netflix that I blew off was Daredevil, and that has not only become one of my favorite TV shows, but also one of my favorite Marvel things in general.
So I got through the entire season… so now I guess I have to write a review joining the collective voice of “You need to watch this show” because I thought it was spectacular.
Stranger Things really surprised me. It’s a compelling drama with elements found in horror, sci-fi, and indie films. It’s a fantastically accurate ode to the 80’s. There is so much to enjoy about this show.
The story focuses around at least five different characters/groups that all seem to be centered around the disappearance of a young boy named Will Byers. Arguably, the primary characters are his best friends Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. I cannot stress enough how impressive this is, that not only can a successful show focus on child characters but also do so without devaluing the quality of the series. All three of these actors are fantastic in their roles. The chemistry and humorous banter among them is an absolute delight, and good God, do they ever give you the feels. There were two or three times were their story almost had me tearing up.
The vast majority of their performances are spot on. None of them are without their hiccup scenes where they deliver a line awkwardly, but considering this isn’t a two-hour long movie; it’s an eight-hour long series, I feel like these hiccups are forgivable. I mean, even I am not THAT much of stickler
The second person is Will’s mother Joyce played by Winona Ryder (who was honestly the only actor that I heard about before this show), and she plays the role of the grieving mother exceptionally well. I have never personally had someone in my life go missing, let alone a biological child, but her performance made me definitively horrified of having it happen.
As Joyce starts trying to put the pieces together and discovers things about where her son might be, her conclusions (if we weren’t following her story) make her seem absolutely off-the-wall crazy. And if everyone perceives that you are crazy, how in the world could you expect to find any help or support? This element makes her character that much more tragic, and the changing in relationship that she has with her remaining son Jonathan emphasizes this tragedy.
Hopper is the police chief assigned to find the kid, and his talent as a cop is tainted by how much of a screw up he is in life. However, the more that his character develops, the more layers that are revealed as to why finding this kid is so important to him.
Also, he’s pretty a kickass character. I don’t know what else needs to be said.
Though there’s some elements of the Will’s absence in her story (mainly because she’s Mike’s sister), Nancy’s character is more of a diversion to the actual story going on. Her character is more focused on the relationship she has with some guy named Steve. And Steve is a douche? Is he a nice guy? She spends much of the time trying to figure out if she really likes this guy and if he really likes her. Her story is obviously relatable to any high school teen that has fallen for someone.
Considering Nancy’s storyline is quite the diversion away from the main event, I am a bit shocked that her story never felt out of place (now that I’m reflecting on my thoughts about it). Of course, there’s reasons behind that, but if you want to know them, then just watch the freaking show, you goof.
And finally, there’s this weird girl who shows up out of nowhere. Out of all of the characters, this girl has a massive amount of mystery surrounding her. The first time you see her, she’s in a hospital gown stealing fries from a restaurant, but the more that is revealed out about her, the more it’s entirely possible that she is somehow related to the disappearance of Will Byers.
Aside from the characters, the cinematography is excellent and the soundtrack is fitting.
My favorite thing about the cinematography are all of the jarring scene transitions. There are so many times where something suspenseful, alarming, or violent happens, and then it quickly transitions to something like a close-up of a sprinkler chopping water out of its nozzle or a toaster popping up Eggo Waffles (who, by the way, I’m sure are ecstatic that they did so much product placement with Stranger Things now).
Because Stranger Things is an ode to the 80’s, the soundtrack is completely representative of popular songs and odd techno music that is popular in 80’s shows and movies. Not only is the soundtrack pleasant to listen to, but it fits with the overall tone of the movie.
It’s not just the music of the 80’s that are present in Stranger Things, but the ideas of the 80’s: the paranoia of looming war with the Soviets, the bashing and mocking of how the nuclear family is praised, the idea that parents are physically present but emotionally absent for their children, etc.
There was but one scene in Stranger Things that I absolutely hated and it took me out of the scene where it took place. If you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, this part isn’t necessarily a spoiler, but I don’t know how much it’s worth reading until you’ve seen it for yourself, because some people I’ve told this to think I’m making a big deal about nothing (and maybe that’s true). So skip the next paragraph if you haven’t watched the show (or don’t; I don’t care).
So in episode 6, two adults inquire about another missing child and eventually make their way to the supposed parent of said missing child. When the two start questioning the sister of the parent, she starts talking about these crazy depictions of the missing child. As this was happening, based on all the available evidence that this show provided in the previous episodes, I immediately drew the correct conclusions as to what character the sister was talking about; it honestly wasn’t that hard. However, for some reason, the editors/directors felt the need to show flashbacks of said character performing these crazy depictions, as if the audience needed help inferring what the sister was talking about. If these were flashbacks that one of the two adults were having, this might be a somewhat acceptable cliche… but NEITHER of these adult characters were present for ANY of these events that the movie flashed back to. Considering the cinematography complimented the story so well up to this point, the flashbacks seemed excruciatingly counterintuitive. What exactly would you have lost if you got rid of these flashbacks?? I understand that part of these flashbacks matched up with the tone of the show, but it almost seemed condescending for the editors to even put these flashbacks in there. Like you’ve treated your audience with so much respect up to this point that it seems like an insult that you’re spelling it out for us now. I understand that this won’t be a big deal for some people, and if you’re rolling your eyes at me right now, then that’s fine, but it’s something that absolutely ruined the experience of that scene for me.
Aside from that criticism and a few other smaller ones, the only other critique I have is that the show seems to lose its momentum around episode 5-6. Thankfully, the momentum quickly comes back, so this is not that big of a deal.
Alright, now go and watch Stranger Things. Seriously, go and watch Stranger Things. It is absolutely fantastic television. It’s hilarious, heartfelt, sincere, and even scary at some points. I mean, I did not personally find the show to be all that scary, but I do know there are some people who have reported being scared by Stranger Things. Because of this show and Daredevil before it, I’m on board for whatever TV show Netflix has in store for us, and I am DEFINITELY on board for a Stranger Things Season 2, and I’m giving this season an 8 out of 10.