So unless you don’t have Netflix (you have no idea what you’re missing) or even social media, you’ve probably heard of the new attention-grabbing eight part mini-series known as Stranger Things, the new Netflix Original starring Winona Ryder. With a 9.2/10 on IMBD and a 94% on rotten tomatoes, you would be surprised to know that it has its flaws. However, in my opinion, it made me like it even more. (P.S. At points it may come across as if I didn’t like the show just with the critiques I have about it, but in the end I liked it much more than I disliked it, but what fun would a review be if all I could say was, “I liked it, the end”.)
IF YOU HAVENT WATCHED THIS SHOW, THIS POST IS LITERALLY ALL SPOILERS. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT ME SPOILING IT FROM HERE ON OUT BECAUSE I WARNED YOU. Thanks.
The story takes place in a small town in Indiana in 1983, when a young boy by the name of Will, goes missing. His friends and mother (Winona Ryder) get the whole town involved in the finding of her son, but as they uncover the mysterious clues left to as what happened, they realize that it isn’t just your everyday kidnapping. Around the same time Will disappears, a young girl, known only by the tattooed number on her arm, accidentally stumbles into town after escaping from a lab where she was tested for her mental capabilities. Taken in by one of Will’s friends, Mike, the girl, who they call El (short for her number, eleven), proves to be helpful in not only finding where Will has disappeared to, but also to protect the boys from the torment they receive from their classmates. While they all look for Will, the older siblings of the boys’ band together to take down whatever it is that took Will in the first place. The further in you get to the show, the more is uncovered, and the stranger things get.
I’ll start with the characters first. From the first episode, and maybe the second episode as well, I really was annoyed by the majority of the characters in this show. Joyce, the mother, while obviously distressed over the loss of her child, pushes the boundaries of being annoying. It’s a terrible thing to say I know, but the way she treats other characters and herself as she copes with the unfortunate reality is frustrating and it makes you want to warn her that she’s pushing everyone away and only digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole. Hopper, in the beginning, was frustrating as well. He seems to show little to no interest in his job, in anyone he talks to, and in his life in general. He seems to just mosey through the first couple episodes while everyone else is in a flustered panic looking for his help. Finally, the teenagers were aggravating at the beginning as well. Not even just their characters, but the way that their plot line was started made me want to fast forward through their scenes. It just felt so irrelevant from the problem EVERYONE ELSE IN THE SERIES WAS DEALING WITH. Also, the reoccurring theme of teenage peer pressure at the beginning just made everyone a bit uncomfortable, especially when someone dies (indirectly) from it. However, as the series went on everyone but Joyce (even though I love Winona Ryder) redeemed themselves in my eyes, getting it together enough to actually be a moving force in solving the problem presented in the plot, and developing character wise from otherwise boring characters.
The kids of the show, on the other hand, I liked from the very beginning. It was refreshing to see actual middle schoolers cast as middle schoolers, it made it feel a lot more real than it may have otherwise. Secondly, I loved their innocence. If you’ve seen the show you obviously know I don’t mean language-wise, but I mean in the way that they aren’t dependent on technology, they ride their bikes everywhere, and any relationships between them and El is purely innocent. At first, I was a little surprised by their casting, as they hadn’t cast stereotypical looking kids, like the ones you see on Disney Channel, in movies etc. They all had their flaws, which made them diverse, but they also all looked just like normal kids, not the dolled up kids you see in the media nowadays. Again it brought a great realistic element to the show.
Now onto the relationship portion of the show. It’s rare to watch a show nowadays that doesn’t have some kind of romantic plot or subplot. So naturally this one had some romance in it. However, I wasn’t disappointed with it. In the beginning, like I mentioned earlier, the stereotypical teen romance frustrated me, mostly because I found it unnecessary and shallow. Except as the relationship between Nancy and Steve developed, and Johnathan was thrown in, making it a love triangle, things started to get interesting. Usually, I’m the first person to roll my eyes at a cliche love triangle, but this one didn’t. Personally, I think it was because the two boys she had to choose between at the end were actually very different from each other. Unlike in the Hunger Games, where she just has to choose between two hot guys who love her, Nancy has to choose, in simpler terms, between the school loser, and the popular boy. Except in both cases, Nancy makes them into a better person, and they are truly in unshakeable love with her. This triangle brought me to a conclusion I had never really reached before. Usually when it comes to triangles, no matter how dramatic, I always pick a side. At least a little. Except, in this case, I was actually completely fine with who she picked and how it ended. The character development between the two boys made it so that if she ended up with either one, she could still be close friends with the other, something I thought was really interesting. The popular boy turned over a new leaf to be with her, and the school loser became a little more accepting of the people around him in order to be more optimistic.
Now for the relationship between Mike and El. Honestly, I would’ve watched all eight episodes just to watch them interact with each other. They were easily my favorite characters on the show. They had that type of relationship where they don’t know they love each other, but everyone else does. Mike sticks by her and clues her into real life, something she had been having trouble with, seeing as she lived in a laboratory. He rarely gets frustrated with her and is always quick to jump to her defenses. El is always ready to defend Mike as well, she helps him channel his confidence, and will do whatever she can to keep him and the people he cares about safe. Like I said earlier, the innocence of their relationship was what really made it perfect. Both being nontypical looking actors in the show, it wasn’t all about them looking pretty or hot. They literally just both liked each other for them. And by the end, Mike works up the courage to kiss her, after asking her to his school dance to describe how he felt about her. Honestly, I watched that scene like four times because I literally couldn’t stop smiling.
This all takes place in the 1980s a time of big hair, bad special effects, and countless pop culture icons. Stranger Things makes an effort to create a loving tribute to that time period and its creations but somehow manages to make it feel a little forced after eight episodes. Personally, I really enjoy movies from the 80s and the 90s, so when I first entered the nostalgia of those films in this show, I found it really cool and unique. However, as the show went on and they didn’t let up on the references, it just became a little overdone. If you were wondering how 80s I felt it was, it reminded me of a mash-up between the X-Files, a John Hughes movie, and a Stephen King novel. It did its job of making it feel like it was set in that iconic time period, but could’ve resorted to a more neutral setting after establishing the tone and place in the first couple episodes (but keep the soundtrack because it was amazing!).
As for the suspense the show created, I would say that the less you show, the better it is. The first half of the season had you guessing a lot as to what was making that noise, or moving in the dark, or hiding in that corner. You were left guessing what these terrifying things and places looked like. And we all know the scariest thing we could be left with is our own imagination. Except towards the end, specifically the last two episodes I thought that they made a mistake in fully showing the monster, and the upside down. Similar to the end of Insidious, you are kept in spine-chilling suspense all the way to the end, and then they reveal the monster… and it just is a bit of a letdown. Maybe it isn’t that scary, or it isn’t what you imagined, or both. Either way, it just brings the shows suspense level way down from where it once was. Similarly, the place they call the Upside-Down could’ve been really cool and neat if left more to the imagination. But as they walked into it and through it, it was eerie, but not as scary as I had hoped. It was actually kind of dessert. My only advice is maybe next time keep the surprises a little more open-ended so that even if what we imagine isn’t what is necessarily there, we can keep imagining it how we find it most suspenseful.
Finally, onto my thoughts about the finale. (I’m just putting another spoiler warning in here because I feel like it’s necessary in case you ignored my previous one.) I’m pretty sure my first words after watching it were, “I can’t believe my eyes were forced to watch so many cliffhangers”. Not only is the finale where Mike and El express their feelings to one another, but it’s also the episode where El dies saving Mike and his friends. It was rough to watch, especially with my love for them being so strong just a couple scenes earlier. It’s also the episode where Nancy not only picks a boy, but fights a monster with both of them by her side. She ends up with the popular boy, except I am not all that angered by it. Not as much as I thought I would be at least. I think there may still be some hope for Nancy and Johnathan though, seeing as before she sits down with Steve, Nancy gifts Johnathan with a brand new camera. Weird right? Then, Hopper, now back into his rut routine, is shown walking in the forest with a container of food, which he then kneels down and puts into a wooden box. This may have been less suspicious if he didn’t also include El’s favorite food (Eggo Waffles) before closing it up. It makes the possibility of El still being alive seem a little more possible. (At least that’s how I’m trying to cope with it.)
Anyway, now onto the biggest cliffhanger of all. At the end of the episode, newly found Will goes into the bathroom and not only coughs up a slug, similar to the ones found in the Upside-Down, but also has a flash where the whole room is like he is back there. That should be something that would trigger like a PTSD type response right? Not in Will’s case. He looks a little disturbed, but nothing problematic seeing as he then exits the bathroom and proceeds to enjoy dinner with his family like normal. It makes you wonder what’s going on, and if what they brought back is really Will. If you look up theories as to this scene in regards to what it means/what it implies, you will not be disappointed, and you may even find one that makes you believe something weird may be going on again after all.
While the show hasn’t been renewed for a second season (yet), I’m hoping there will be some more episodes or even just a statement by the creator to let us know what really happens. Except I’m almost positive there will be another season, seeing how popular it’s been and how open ended it was left off.
What were your thoughts on Stranger Things? Let me know in the comments below!