By Ethan Robinson
Everyone who is an avid or even casual user of Netflix should watch Stranger Things, an original series which released this past July.
Why should you watch it? In just a few months, Stranger Things has become one of the most popular digital series, ranking third as the most viewed behind Orange is the New Black, and Fuller House, though ranking ahead of Making a Murderer, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones.
Still not interested? Well here’s the story.
Stranger Things is the first commercial success by creators the Duffer Brothers. With Steven Spielberg and Stephen King as prominent thriller influences, Stranger Things is a nostalgic trip with all of the elements of a classic 80’s flick.
Surely all of us teenagers and up have memories of going through our grandparents’ old VHS collection. Think of The Goonies, Stand by Me, It, The Thing, The X-Files and E.T., all combined into a spectacular, purposeful tribute that shines with horror and coming-of-age. Like the thunderous nights of our childhood, Stranger Things embodies that same feeling of a dark room lit only by the TV screen, and will leave you wanting more and more.
The story takes place in 1983 in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, and begins with the disappearance of a young boy, Will Byers. With the ever-looming presence of a shady federal electrical plant, the series goes on to follow Byers’ mother and brother, the sardonic local police chief, and the boy’s friends as they try to uncover the mystery behind his disappearance. But still, why is this show so great?
Part of what makes this story so exceptional is that it is rich with references and easter eggs, from 80’s movie posters to aptly used music hits of the decade, like The Clash and Joy Division. When such a popular show like this uses nostalgia as one of its main appeals, it drives younger audiences to discover more of the era and genre, and gives them a much broader experience if they take the time to uncover the gems that led to the creation of Stranger Things.
Even better, using a well-used nostalgic style reminds all audiences and creators that you don’t have to constantly redefine sci-fi or fiction to make a great story. Creating a piece of entertainment that is heavily inspired by other things, but still stands out on its own, is just as worthy a creation as the latest Michael Bay or Chris Nolan film.
The series is also very much a versatile story. It’s versatility lies in the fact that the show has three themes: coming-of-age, teen-love-triangle-horror, and Cold War conspiracy. None of these story arcs are scatteredly portrayed however. All three of these perspectives and sub-plots within the story coalesce to make a polished whole and one heck of a season finale. Ample room is made for both plot and much-needed character development and emotion, which further contributes to why the ending works so well.
Neither complex nor too dumbed-down, Stranger Things can be enjoyed by anyone, so the more the merrier when you decide to binge-watch it on the weekend. The series emphasizes the feelings of a grieving parent and brother, awkward teens finding themselves, and a group of kids bound by a camaraderie that transcends adulthood at times. Almost anyone could relate to these sets of characters and so find enjoyment in the show.
Just as we should be surprised such a great series appeared so quietly on Netflix, so should we also be astonished at the outstanding youth cast. Their performance quibbles and quirks lighten up each episode, including an instance where they solve pieces of the mystery using Dungeons & Dragons and their middle-school science teacher.
Front-toothless Gaten Matarazzo, skeptical Caleb McLaughlin and Finn Wolfhard make up the group of neo-Goonies. Millie Bobby Brown in another main role has proven herself as a talented actress for such a young age.
On another front, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton and Joe Keery make the teenage side of the story much more interesting than it could have been with engaging drama. The plot is also led by more accomplished actors such as Winona Ryder and David Harbour, who further delve into what secrets the government may hide from them.
Perhaps most essentially, Stranger Things dares all other productions to take more risks in being unique. Not necessarily by redefining a genre, as said before, but by introducing something which has its own charm. And that’s exactly what Stranger Things possesses: charm.
This trait has evidently taken the show a long way, as Stranger Things has been confirmed for a new season to release next year. In an interview with the creators, the Duffer Brothers said that they would make sure the sequel was structurally different and wouldn’t “follow the same beats,” in order to make it enjoyable and not repetitive.
One issue however, that the Duffer Brothers professed, is having nightmares of any of the kid cast having any growth spurts in the half year’s time before shooting.
Until then, the upcoming Fall and Halloween season will be the perfect time to rewatch or be introduced to the thriller magic of Stranger Things!