If you want to know what Stranger Things feels like, imagine the love child of Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 done right combined with the 1985 movie Explorers, with a little Goonies thrown in for good measure. If that sounds good to you, then get thee to Netflix and grab this 8-episode summer series that really does just about everything right.
So let’s take a look at this summer series and see where we end up.
When 12-year old Will Byers disappears on his way home from a D&D game, a small Indiana town goes crazy. His three best friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas, go searching for him, especially once Mike finds a mysterious young girl they call Eleven who says he’s still alive. But there’s more than meets the eye as Eleven, the girl with amazing psychic powers, and a dark government agency, become the focus of what may be an extradimensional alien incursion.
Overall, the series is fantastic. Set in the mid-80s, it does a really good job making you feel like you’re in that era. The music, the props, the mannerisms of the kids are all spot on for the most part. The kids actually talk about D&D like they know what D&D is. Of the kids, the best actors are Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven and Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin. None of the others are cringe worthy very often, but there are a few times that their acting isn’t up to snuff.
Of course, the series isn’t exactly packed full of original ideas, in fact, I’d argue that it’s packed too full of unoriginal ones for such a short season. I mean, you have the disappearance, the whole crazy mother subplot, the psychic girl story, the evil government plot and the extradimensional alien, none of which are adequately fleshed out. You could have told an entire story about any one of those storylines, you really didn’t need all five. It leaves you with a lot of questions and that, of course, leads to more seasons. The creators said they still have 30 pages of ideas about the upside down that they never got to explore, so next year will give us more information. I’d rather be left wanting more than feeling that there wasn’t much meat on the bone.
There are a couple of problems though. First off, the season finale is really, really weak. Will goes into the bathroom, coughs up an alien slug and the bathroom transitions into the alternate reality for a moment. It would have been much better had one of the walkie talkies crackled and we heard Eleven’s voice or something. Secondly, while we know that Nancy’s friend Barbara died in the “upside down”, it is never brought up at all at the end of the season. It’s like they forgot she was ever in the show. Hopper and Joyce never come across her body when they’re on the other side and the police just play it off like she ran away and that’s that. Very unfulfilling. And frankly, the relationships in this thing don’t feel very fulfilling either. I’m usually not a fan of ‘shipping, but the series gave us Nancy and Steve, teenage lovers, but Steve turned out to be a complete douchebag and then Nancy started working with Jonathan, the older brother of missing Will. They had a much better chemistry than she and Steve ever did, but at the end of the season, she’s right back with Steve, even though I don’t think he ever won any worthwhile restitution. And then you had sheriff Hopper, who was the only one who believed Will’s crazy mother Joyce, who was the only one who could sympathize with her plight and who I thought would end up together in the end, but that plot line was just dropped with no resolution whatsoever. Maybe that’s something they will revisit in the future.
Overall, I think this was a great series. It isn’t the most original thing in the world, but it relies heavily on 80s nostalgia so what do you expect? There is a lot in the universe that we can explore for years on end, maybe next year will be a longer season and we can see more of the universe.