Reviewing: Stranger Things, Season 1

Let it be known that I am inherently suspicious of all things that are instantly popular with the masses, #UnironicHipster. I always think that there must be something lurking beneath its seemingly perfect facade and that the people who love it will soon be drenched with the cold water of reality when they realize the thing they love isn’t all that perfect. Like Justin Bieber.

Add this automatic suspicion to a very, very tiny interest in science-fiction and you have the reason why it has taken me so long to watch the Netflix original Stranger Things. But I guess the bandwagon is unavoidable when what it’s peddling is amazing.

If you’ve only seen the media coverage of the show and don’t know anything about the actual plot (like I did), here’s a brief synopsis: Stranger Things is the story of a typical small American town in the 1980s, Hawkins, where the images of Americana seem to be comfortable playing out in their own cliches. However, when a boy, Will, goes missing one night on his way home from a friend’s house, the town is suddenly turned upside down (pun intended for those of you who have watched.) Soon, strange things start happening, such as unexplained deaths, more disappearances, a lost girl with mind powers who knows more than she’s telling, and a secretive government compound that is somehow connected to it all.

The story progresses following Will’s friends, his mother, brother and the police chief as they all try to find Will while also trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Each group finds a different part of the puzzle until they coordinate at the end with a plan to rescue the still-missing Will.

Stranger Things combines several different styles of storytelling, from the classical horror and suspense (complete with me screaming at the TV, “Don’t go in there, idiot!”), to the government conspiracy theories about laboratory monsters. The show, while it is set in the 80s, has the distinct feel of those favorite cult-classics made in the 80s, which is wonderful because I often find myself yearning for movies like those to be made again. By doing this, the show becomes much more accessible and familiar and just overall enjoyable, which is why I think it wasn’t such a problem for me to get behind the sci-fy style, as it normally is.

Viewers are carried from one group to the next as the characters piece together a full image of what is happening in Hawkins. I always enjoy multiple story lines in a movie or TV show and Stranger Things did a fantastic job of combining them all together. They definitely don’t make it easy for a viewer to guess what will happen or what’s going on. I mean, I was still guessing up until the last episode.

Another thing that I think made this show was the acting. I was a bit skeptical of Winona Ryder being in this type of show (back when I still didn’t know what it was about), but she definitely delivered as the worried and sometimes crazed mother who refuses to believe her son is dead. Although sometimes I wanted to shake her and tell her to calm the fuck down, she was absolutely fantastic.

The kids are extremely talented and definitely my favorites. I can see why everyone’s so obsessed with them. Will’s friends, Dustin, Lucas and Mike, have such a bond with each other in the way of young boys with a mission and a thirst for adventure. And when Eleven comes into the mix, she has the effect one would suspect on kids that age. Eleven is by far my favorite because she is smart and strong and fiercely loyal to the boys as they search for Will. She is such a deep and complicated character and really hope they do more with her in coming seasons.

And yes, I do want justice for Barb.

Really all of the characters are so nuanced that, not only are you watching a show about the strange and sometimes magical, but your watching a show about human nature, grief, interaction and emotion. Granted, many movies and TV shows attempt to combine these, but only a few get it right. Stranger Things gets it right.

What I really loved about this show is their accuracy in the details. They didn’t try to make Winona Ryder look perfectly made-up after she’d spent weeks in the same clothes following lights around her house. They didn’t make Eleven clean after she slept in the woods. I really appreciate this when it seems like in movies nothing is realistic anymore.

I really only have good things to say about this show, but I don’t want to give too much away. I am completely on the bandwagon and I encourage you to go watch the show as soon as you can (I recommend setting aside 7-8 hours for binge-watching) and let me know what you think will happen next, because I really need someone to give me another opinion on what will happen to Eleven, the government agency, Hopper and Will. The finale leaves so many open-ended questions under the guise of normalcy and it’s killing me. However, I must say that I loved the way the show came full circle to Dungeons & Dragons again. Simply wonderful storytelling.

All I can really say is, I want more. Now.

What did you think of season one of Stranger Things? How do you think the incidents will change Hawkins and its residents? What do you think happened to Eleven? Let’s talk.

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