As with the release of any of Netflix’s “bing it all at once” television seasons, this weekend my social feed went from a stray mention of Stranger Things on Friday to a steady stream on Saturday as more and more people began to sample the eight-episode thriller.
I didn’t want to be a late adopter this time around (or: be spoiled!), so I jumped onto the bandwagon on Saturday night – and wound up finishing the entire show within 48hrs!
That’s not just because I love to binge on TV. In many ways, Stranger Things is Neflix’s most cohesive and successful original work yet. While the performances might not be of the raw caliber of acting as those in House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black, they all work perfecting in the unflinching service of this period 1980s thriller.
Stranger Things, Season 1
There are very light, “this is the concept, these are the characters, this happens in the beginning of Ep1” spoilers in the first section; a more spoiler-filled take for those who’ve already seen the show follows, below.
CK Says: Watch it!
Stranger Things is a Netflix original that’s obsessed with the 80s work of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and Amblin Entertainment. It’s about a hidden horror, a terrifying secret, and how a group of kids bear the burden of both on the behalf of an entire sleepy town.
While Stranger Things is reverent of those influences, the show rarely feels derivative as it unfurls a sci-fi plot that is as human as it is creepy. The focus is always on the characters and rarely on the fantasy, even though the fantastical element are a seamlessly-executed success.
The opening frames introduce us to Hawkins, Indiana in November of 1983. We briefly glimpse a terrified scientist fleeing through the abandoned, flickering halls of a research facility on the outskirts of town before he is captured by an unseen creature.
The rest of Hawkins seems none the wiser to these events – it could not be more average. The geeky kids play Dungeons & Dragons and are obsessed with Star Wars. The teens are shot-gunning beers and talking about sex without consequence. The parents are stringing together jobs and cooking dinner without worrying too much about where their kids are hanging out and with whom. A surly sheriff hasn’t had to deal with any major crime – the last notable one was in the 20s!
Anything past idle teenage vandalism would be notable in this tiny ville. Yet, it’s also idyllic enough that a missing child can be chalked up to a wrong turn on a hike or deciding to take a Greyhound for an adventure to the city. That disappearance is accompanied by the appearance of a seemingly-mute young girl with a shaved head. She’s desperate to escape an anonymous group of men and women in black who want to haul her back to that same mysterious lab. When she encounters a trio of nerdy kids searching for their missing friend, it acts as a flashpoint that begins to unveil the horror that’s been unleashed on the small town.