‘Stranger Things’ Proves its Worth—and Then Some
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I wouldn’t normally consider myself a crowd follower. It’s not a protest against modernization; I simply find little interest in passing fads. However, when it comes to Netflix’s summer hit “Stranger Things,” I’m glad I decided to try it this one out for myself.
Just weeks after its debut, I had already been exposed to the numerous Instagram posts and Snapchat stories praising what I thought would be another boring, badly-written drama, this time involving a couple of kids and a forest. Let’s face it: Netflix’s track record for producing good (or even decent) TV shows isn’t stellar. I simply scrolled on through, barely giving it a second glance.
I’ll never quite know what finally drew me in. Perhaps its rapidly-rising popularity really was what caught hold of my curiosity, prompting me to sit down in front of the TV and give in to the latest and greatest. All I know is that what I was met with on that fateful summer day was anything but what I had expected. (Minor spoilers to follow.)
The eight-episode first season follows residents of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. Chief of Police Jim Hawkins (David Harbour) investigates the sudden and mysterious disappearance of a young boy named Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). As the show advances, new characters are introduced left and right, elevating the plot from a nostalgic trip through a small midwestern town to a complicated scientific exploration through a world beyond our own, complete with its very own monster to keep the viewer on their toes and up at night.
Now, I wasn’t born in the 80s, but the countless homages to classic movies such as “E.T.” and “The Goonies” were enough to make me yearn for the simpler days of legwarmers and big hair. Those were the movies I’m sure a lot of us grew up watching, and re-creating certain timeless scenes were a key component in what led to the success of the show. In this respect, Matt and Ross Duffer (the creators of “Stranger Things”) build a world that both young and old can enjoy. Making that connection is no simple task in 2016, but one that the Duffer brothers achieve with flying colors.
With every homage, though, there comes a cliché. Take the story of Nancy Wheeler, for example. For the first couple of episodes, we watch her blossoming romance with the ultra-popular Steve Harrington. It’s a match made in cliche heaven: the straight-As, “goody-goody” girl falling for the bad boy on campus. What makes it stand out from stories like “16 Candles” is the incredible depth of character. Nancy questions her decisions in a mature and logical way, while her secret-keeping reminds viewers of her youth and ignorance. Steve is cocky and rude, but watching him learn from their relationship and being held accountable for his mistakes gives him a depth that makes the show unique.
Of course, just as the fruits of love begin to ripen, enter the monster. In that simple transition, we find the beauty of “Stranger Things”: there may be cliches galore, but they are masterfully crafted with just enough plot twists to keep the viewer surprised.
Some may claim that an actor is only as good as the material given to them. Yet the child actors of “Stranger Things” take great writing and make it extraordinary, breathing life into complex characters. Their story is the driving force behind the plot, as four young friends come together to tackle a mystery much bigger than themselves. Millie Bobby Brown’s performance alone is enough to make anyone over the age of 12 feel incredibly under-accomplished, in more ways than one.
The Duffer brothers have set the bar very high for other creators in the entertainment industry. In only eight episodes, they were able to establish a story that takes its viewers by storm and leaves us waiting eagerly for the next season. I can now say honestly that those countless Instagram posts and tags were well-deserved, and I will admit to posting a few myself. As someone who doesn’t normally follow the crowd, follow my example and watch the show—it’s absolutely worth it.