Netflix has been hitting it out of the park recently, with shows like Bojack Horseman, Orange is the New Black, their collaborations with Marvel Studios and Narcos. Does their newest series, Stranger Things, hold up similarly?
Stranger Things is Netflix’s latest dabble in making their own shows. The video streaming company has had quite the track record when it comes to their shows’ ratings, and creating series that are never just one genre, ranging from superheroes with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and most recently, Luke Cage, to fugitives and the likes with Orange is the New Black and Narcos, to political shows like House of Cards, even mature animated comedy dramas like Bojack Horseman. The new kid on the block stands among these greats, with some of the best acting, cinematography, concepts and characters in a long time, and we’re going to discuss all of them today.
Stranger Things is centered around the disappearance of Will Byers, and the mystery that his friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas as well as his mother, Joyce, and the rest of his town uncover in their journey to find him. And when I say mystery, this is very much a mystery. In the beginning of the show, you’ll see a lot of plot points that don’t seem to make sense, but as you start to unravel the mystery of what’s going on with the characters, you start to understand where, how and why all the pieces in this puzzle fit into place. When monsters of the physical and symbolical sense appear, it’s a race against time to save Will, solve the mystery and stop these monsters before it destroys their entire lives.
The characters shown here are amazing, and a large part of it is due to the actors that portray them. Winona Ryder does an amazing job as Joyce Byers, who’s driven to near madness due to her son’s disappearance. Natalie Dyer plays Nancy, Mike’s sister who starts out as a girl who’s just trying to fit in and grows to be so much more. Charlie Heaton plays Jonathan, Will’s older brother who’s considered the man of the house with his father leaving years ago after a divorce, and after watching him multiple times over, I can’t see anyone better for the role. Chief Hopper, played by David Harbour, much like Nancy, has an amazing growth over the course of the season.
Continuing on with the acting, the children here are surprisingly stellar. Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, and one character in particular who steals the show to the point where this character is so good, is almost makes everyone completely forget about everything else going on. That character, played by Millie Bobby Brown, is Eleven. She is a complete and total mystery, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She pretty much appears out of nowhere and wanders until she finds our leads, Mike, Lucas and Dustin, and the rest unfolds from there.
Now while all this is great, it’s just things that many other shows have. What makes this show special? It’s mainly in the inspiration that directors Matt and Ross Duffer took from many famous sources. Once you get later in the season, you’ll notice that the main inspirations are E.T., Alien, Predator, and the Silent Hill video games. What’s great is that in many other scenarios, the amount of how they use ideas from these would be thought of as a rip-off, when here, that isn’t so. The way that concepts and mechanics from other films and games are implemented from this series is done in a way that ends up being more of a love letter to those films, as well as it’s own identity. The inspiration goes so far to the point where even when the show needs to show something “out of this world” it’s mostly done with practical effects and live sets.
In the end, Stranger Things is an amazing series that I can’t wait to see continue in 2017. If you have plans on binge-watching Netflix shows on a dark night, watch Stranger Things.