After all of the hype on Twitter, my social media platform of choice, I couldn’t help my curiosity. I started watching Stranger Things, and after completing the 8-episode first season about half a week later, these are my thoughts.
If you haven’t seen the show, I won’t tell you anything about it, because I feel it’s the best way to enter into the viewing experience. I try to keep things relatively general and spoiler-free with my reviews, so hopefully, by the end of this review, you will be thoroughly convinced that Stranger Things should be the next show on your (if you’re like me) seemingly endless Netflix queue.
Without further ado, I give you 5 reasons why I love the show Stranger Things, and why you, hopefully, will as well.
#5: Intrigue and timing
Stranger Things has a way of revealing just enough to keep you interested, but not enough to make you feel like you have any clue what the heck is going on (until you’re supposed to). It’s reminiscent of Wayward Pines or Persons Unknown for me, in that sense, which I love.
I do have to admit, however, that it took two episodes for me to agree with this assessment. Unfortunately, after episode one, I wasn’t entirely “on board.” Due to all of the great reviews I’ve seen from credible sources, I was willing to give the show more of a chance than one episode, but had I stumbled upon the show myself, with no outside encouragement, I’m not sure if episode one would have been enough to spark my interest. I didn’t come away from the first episode with that “omg I have to know what’s going to happen next!” feeling. Episode two, however, won me over completely in that department.
So, long story short, I do think the show has accomplished this great balance of intrigue and timing, but I wish it would have met that standard for me a tad bit sooner. But of course that’s being a bit nitpicky.
#4: Connected character arcs that don’t feel forced
The convenient thing about this show is its small setting. Being set in a small town in the ‘80s, nobody bats an eye at the “everyone knows everyone” atmosphere. This allows character arcs to intertwine and connect seamlessly, without feeling forced (such as films like He’s Just Not That Into You or Valentines Day), which is something I appreciate. I feel I have a pretty good handle on, and feel invested in, all of the characters that have been introduced. Their stories all matter and I’m interested in every one of the side plots of the show. There hasn’t been any moment, so far, in which I have felt like “okay, this is fine, but can we get back to ______ now?”
#3: Winona Ryder
It might just go without saying that Winona Ryder is amazing, but in case it needs to be stated, I’ll go ahead and state it. Winona Ryder is amazing.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the whole “mother grieving over a lost child” shtick a billion and a half times, so it’s hard to really work any kind of new angle to that storyline, but somehow she does. I’ve seen this story a million times, but I’ve never seen this mother before. The way Ryder plays this role – the antics and stress and reactions and flashes of emotion across her face – is something entirely fresh, real, raw, and powerfully relatable. There’s a lot of credit to be given to the incredible writers of the show here as well, but good casting and acting can make all the difference. Winona Ryder plays this role incredibly well.
There’s something really interesting and lovely about the nostalgic feel Stranger Things elicits. It’s something new and something old at the same time, though it’s really not old at all. Cuddling up to watch Stranger Things with my husband reminds me of being a kid, sitting around the T.V. with my parents and sister to watch old episodes of “Nancy Drew.” Some might argue that this feeling simply comes from the timeline in which the story is set, but there has to be something more than that. I’ve seen plenty of shows and movies set in older times that don’t evoke the same sense of nostalgia. There’s something different here; something comfortable and familiar.
Perhaps the difference lies in the age range of the main characters. Perhaps because the story primarily follows children, it touches more closely on the emotions and experiences this generation would have felt back in 1983. Just a theory.
And this leads me to my final point, my favorite thing about Stranger Things:
#1: Outstanding child actors
The acting in this show is incredible. I’ve already touched on one of my favorite leading ladies, but the kids in this show deserve special honors. These kids make this show, and they’re incredibly talented.
I was telling my husband that the interesting thing about this story is that someone could write the exact same storyline, following adults instead of children, and it would be entirely believable… and entirely bland. But a cast of talented young actors makes all the difference. It’s incredible, to me, that these kids can so believably pull off the maturity needed to carry this storyline so strongly. The things these characters are experiencing are, clearly, far outside of what they’re expected to be able to handle, but they carry themselves with so much dignity. I love seeing kids handle themselves better than your average adult. It’s a good reminder to all of us of what kids are capable of and what kinds of standards and expectations we should have of them. No more “boys will be boys” or “oh, whatever, she’s just a kid.” Kids are capable of so much more, and we need to stop making excuses for them.
The friendship between this group of misfit boys (+ El) is so reminiscent of The Goonies (which I hated) or The Sandlot (which I loved). Within the first episode, you already know and feel and believe their chemistry and their history as friends. You’re already rooting for them, within the first Dungeons and Dragons scene. You just know these friendships can endure anything, and you know you’ll get to see that unfold, get to see the forces that try, and inevitably fail, to tear them apart. That’s exciting!
It’ll be interesting, however, to see how the age range of the actors will effect the future progression of the show. The problem with using young actors as leads on a television show is that young actors grow up, and they grow up quickly. Obviously these actors can’t simply be replaced with little or no notice from the audience, as is sometimes the custom with less prominent characters, so if this story has a future, the timeline will have to grow and evolve with the children. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that.
So, there you have it. I have high hopes for the future of Stranger Things, and I think everyone should give it a shot. The first season is available on Netflix, and it’s only 8 episodes long, so what do you really have to lose? Less than 8 hours of your life. And I can pretty much guarantee you they won’t be lost hours, and you’ll find something new to look forward to and enjoy with your family.
Check out the show, and if you do, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter! I have a feeling this is one of those shows that will continue to prompt captivating commentary, discussion, and theories from viewers now and in the future. I’m excited to see what comes next, and I hope you will all be there to join the party.