TV Show Review: Stranger Things

Eggos, E.T., and the 1980s. Intrigued?

This combination sets the stage for the odd and captivating Stranger Things. Wrapped up in one suspense-filled season, the eight eerily iconic episodes of the show have boosted Netflix’s reputation with original series significantly. It’s the Stephen King thriller of television. The creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, have melded together a dark, chilling, and thoughtfully crafted tale, packed with complex and captivating characters and plenty of eighties staples.

The storyline is set in 1983 within the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. Central to the story are four typically-suburban middle school boys—Will, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. Dungeons and Dragons is their recreational pride and glory, consuming hours of their time afterschool and on weekends. They plan, strategize, and always attempt to outwit the evil, monstrous demon-lord Demogorgon. When playing one evening, Will chooses to sacrifice himself for the sake of the group, exposing himself to the perils of the game. Soon after this, Will embarks on a suspenseful bike ride home, amongst flashes of darkness and light, low growls, and the appearance of bulging walls and fibrous, tacky hollows.

graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Nicole/" title="View all of this person's work">"Nicole</a></span>

graphic by Nicole Ng

The plot revolves around Will’s disappearance. Determined to find him, his three fiercely loyal friends set out on their bicycles. They encounter an abandoned girl named El with supernatural abilities, and together these four awkward and humorous kids uncover startling revelations about the peculiar activity in Hawkins (and where El actually comes from, including El’s obsession for Eggos). Parallel subplots, all of which eventually tie into Will’s disappearance, involve Mike’s intelligent and fearless sister, Nancy, Will’s desperate mother and brother, and the gritty and gutsy sheriff whose frequent drunken stupor masks the tragedies of his past. And, of course, there is the mysterious and ominous government building—the source of constant agitation and growing suspicion from the the local town members.

Despite the fact that the series could have been released in the 80s without question, the storyline is unlike any other sci-fi/horror creation out there. There are many aha-moments in which the plot makes more sense, but still leave you with a sense of wary intrigue. It’s virtually impossible to predict what will happen next, because the show isn’t like your typical horror story. The parents are not conveniently absent during crucial scenes and the kids don’t approach danger without weapons. It’s a refreshingly new fictional world for the younger generations and nostalgically familiar to those who grew up fantasizing over the existence of aliens like E.T.

Aside from the original and enticing story, there is more than one reason Stranger Things was on everyone’s Netflix-to-binge list this summer. The show doesn’t just pay its respects to classic eighties film culture, it practically is a product of the eighties. From poltergeist-inspired aliens and little-shop-of-horrors special effects to bike-riding adventures of Goonies-reminiscent middle schoolers, every aspect of the show brings back what many believed to has been left behind in a previous decade. And anyone who appreciates the alternative rock era of music will surely appreciate the show’s soundtrack. Classic mainstream tune “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash is a fitting song, highlighting the disappearance and fleeting reappearances of a young 13-year-old boy.  

Stranger Things still leaves room open for contemplation and unanswered questions to be dealt with in season two. Speaking of season two, you better begin season one quickly, because spoilers, just like strange and mysterious creatures, will always find a way out of hiding.

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