When Netflix released Stranger Things, we could say it was almost under the radar. No one knew it and no one seemed to care. Until the word spread and soon enough, the series gained quite a lot of popularity for something that was relatively low profile in its release.
Set in 1983 with enough references to the popular culture of that period, the story follows the strange disappearance of a child in a small town full of strange happenings.
Though Netflix doesn’t release ratings numbers, it’s hard to deny that Stranger Things is one of the biggest hits of the summer, as evidenced by the fact that no one will stop talking about it. A big part of the show’s appeal, of course, is the way it invokes, pays homage and sometimes overtly cops from all sorts of Reagan-era pop culture: Even Stranger’s title font feels like it jumped off a dog-eared Stephen King paperback.
Brought to life by 80s stars like Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine alongside a cast of young but very talented unknowns, the narrative begins on November 6, 1983 in a small Indiana town called Hawkins, where what normally counts as serious crime is the theft of garden gnomes. When a 12-year old boy disappears while out cycling in the woods near a secret government research facility, the community suffers visitations, including an apparent monster and an unworldly young girl called Eleven, who may be the result of either scientific or supernatural interventions.
There are many movies, books, TV series and more that gets under our skin with creepy monsters. Stranger Things is of a completely different genre where it sticks with viewers as it paints pictures of people and relationships in the middle of very real crisis by using both horror and sci-fi conventions.
The characters are ordinary personalities who go through the day-to-day experiences all of us go through, worrying about fraying relationships or emotional breakthroughs that are sometimes difficult and sometimes joyful.
These characters are not just relatable but expertly and compassionately explored. When the characters were sad or angry, it was impossible not to understand why, and feel their pain or their excitement.
A lot has been written about the constant pop-culture homage in Stranger Things but the reason the show didn’t feel too derivative is because it had learned the most important lesson of all: It tried to create a mood of accessible empathy in almost every scene.
The characters weren’t just curious about the mysteries in their town, they were curious about each other and the process of discovery in both realms intertwined nicely.
In the wrap-up to Stranger Things, people who’d feared they were growing apart — parents and children, siblings, friends — learned that their bonds had actually been reinforced by their tribulations. Even the teen-movie villain with the hilariously puffy hair got to have a somewhat redemptive arc.
Although Stranger Things had only eight episodes, one of the main reasons it was so successful is because the young cast was simple amazing in their acting.
Millie Bobby Brown who plays the role of Eleven was so good that she has been signed up for several other projects as well. The ways she subtly yet movingly conveyed fear, sadness, doubt, love and a yearning for connection will stay with the viewers for quite a long time, yearning for more.
The strangest thing about Stranger Things, though, might be its final episode in which the monster is finally killed by Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), the on-the-run ex-lab-rat who seemingly dies during her act of self-sacrifice. Thanks to Eleven—and her pals Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin)—the abducted Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) returns home safely only to later cough up a nasty-looking worm-thing that indicates a Stranger Things sequel might be in the offing. As of this writing, Netflix still hasn’t officially commissioned a second season.
The finale, with its surprising turns and revelations, raised all sorts of questions: Is Eleven alive? Is the monster really dead? And, most importantly: Just where the hell is Stranger Things going, and how satisfying has the journey been so far? We don’t have all the answers, but because this is the Internet we do have lots of opinions and speculation. Read on to find out what senior editor Peter Rubin and senior writer Brian Raftery think is going on with Stranger Things.
If a season Two does pop up, and hopefully it does, you ‘noobs’ who never watched the first season might want to catch up. Because it is without a doubt spine-tingling and awesome!