Set in the 80s, Stranger Things takes us back to a simpler time – when Dungeons and Dragons, walkie-talkies, and classic rock tunes dominated pop culture. With some allusions to iconic scenes from 80s movies, it is clear to see that the Duffer Brothers, the creators of the show, are total geeks and their passion radiates through their very endearing, yet equally thrilling horror series. It may not be a perfect show, but this simple tale of science fiction is a breath of fresh air from an industry dominated by convoluted plots, excessive violence, shoehorned plot twists, and a multitude of characters. Oh, and did I mention that the amazing Winona Ryder is in this one? Yup.
Winona plays Joyce Byers, a single mother of two, whose youngest son, Will (Noah Schnapp), disappears one night after an encounter with a monstrous entity. This prompts a local sensation within the small town setting wherein ruling sheriff, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), despite his initial indifference and detachment, finds himself invested in a case that seems to get stranger with every clue he unravels. Will’s friends (and my squad goals) comprised of Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and everyone’s favorite, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) conduct their own search for their missing comrade. Along the way, they encounter a mysterious girl who they refer to as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) after discovering that she might help them find Will through her connection with the strange occurrences and her particularly useful “gifts”.
The plot is a simple one and manages to create emotional and memorable moments through its stellar cast. Winona effortlessly captures the emotional turmoil of losing a child and the struggle of maintaining sanity as the plot traverses into science fiction territory. Although her performance could feel repetitive at times after a few episodes of the same range of emotions, Winona still shines as the story unfolds further, giving her character more depth.
The main revelation in the show is Millie Bobby Brown. Eleven, an enigmatic, but incredibly sweet child with supernatural abilities is made even more interesting by Millie’s incredible performance. Given the character’s rich backstory, Millie is able to portray the multifaceted persona of Eleven and she does so with talent beyond her years. If you need one compelling reason to watch Stranger Things, it’s this young lady. Mark my words: Millie Bobby Brown will be a huge star one day.
Despite the acting prowess of both Winona and Millie, even more impressive in this series is its giant-sized heart in the form of Mike, Dustin, Will, and Lucas’ friendship. The story rides on the pulse of their relationship and immediately captures the viewers’ emotional investment. Having a core group of children can run the risk of having cheesy moments, but the show somehow creates powerful and meaningful interactions between the characters. One is immediately drawn to each of them, rooting for them to overcome the looming dangers in their adventure. It’s difficult not to have a favorite, but I’m willing to bet that Dustin, the toothless and charming cherubim of the group is everyone’s top pick.
Perhaps the reason why this show is such a surprise hit is that everything about it is so damn lovable. From its characters to its lore, Stranger Things stands out not only from the science fiction genre, but from the current slate of television shows as well. Even with the looming presence of a frightening antagonist and the suspense of its science fiction backdrop, the show still focuses on the relationships of the characters with one another, which adds to the already engaging plot.
I suggest you get on the hype train a binge-watch this show and start geeking out as soon as possible! Stranger Things is now streaming on Netflix and has already been renewed for a 2nd season.