The new Netflix original series Stranger Things has probably come up on your queue once or twice, but if you're like me, you always skip past it to get to your go-to Netflix shows or movies. Even when I considered watching it, the description was so vague, that it didn't really spark my interest. Over the past few days though, it seems that I have been getting my social media feed bombarded with praises for this show. So, I took the plunge yesterday, and didn't return to the surface until I had binged watched the entire season within the same day.
Stranger Things could be Netflix's best bit of original programming ever, and here are 10 reasons why you should dive in, and join the rest of us who have already taken the plunge.
10: The 80's
A lot of times films or shows set in the 80's only tread into the shallow end of references to the era. It's typically used to strike the nostalgia bone of audience members, but that's as far as it typically goes. While Stranger Things points to and references pop culture from the era, the fashion, music, film, and technology play a huge part in setting the tone, and also become major plot devices.
9: The References
I know. I just used shallow references to films from the era as a knock against other era films or shows, so how does Stranger Things use them differently. Often times the references to a particular film, book, or song reveal a lot of the underlying story or overarching theme of that particular episode or scene. The cheesy pop hits become quite funny and oddly appropriate when used in the context of being hunted by a monster.
8: The Music
Speaking of cheesy pop hits, all of the music is actually quite brilliant. The synth-heavy score helps add tension and dread, but at the same time feels really cool. If you're a fan of the soundtracks for Drive and The Guest, you will be in for a treat.
7: The Tropes
There's always a bad-boy looking to steal the innocence of the smart girl. There's always well intentioned, but completely oblivious parents. There's always a bully. There's always someone for the bully to bully. There's always the "fat" kid.
Yeah, Stranger Things has all of these classic 80's movie tropes, and doesn't shy away from them. At the same time, it does manage to dig a little deeper to prevent these characters from being one dimensional. Well, at least for your primary characters. The show really succeeds at making you unsure of how you are supposed to feel about certain characters. The particular standouts are the bad-boy boyfriend, and the loose cannon policeman.
6: It feels like a modern E.T. / The Goonies
The coolest thing about Stranger Things and movies like Super 8 and The Guest, is that these were all created by people who grew up loving Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. The inspirations are clear, and while some would call these stolen elements derivative, I'm sort of happy that they exist. In a world that is constantly trying to follow the current Marvel model and establishing franchises, it's nice to see some artists creating pieces that honor what got them interested in film and television in the first place. What does that mean for us, the audience? With Stranger Things, we are getting genre bending entertainment that could really be a genre of its own. The Goonies and E.T. did an excellent job of blending horror, drama, comedy, and coming of age tales together. In Stranger Things, we get all of that, but the horror and drama can go even darker. I really enjoyed Super 8 back in 2011, but Stranger Things might be an even more successful love letter to a particular era of film.
5: The Science Fiction
It's a great time to be a nerd. You have your high fantasy fix in Game of Thrones. You can get your zombie fix with The Walking Dead. Star Wars and Star Trek are back in a big way, and superheroes rule the box office and television ratings. With all of these science-fiction elements infused with all of our favorite films and television shows, you think that we would be all sci-fi'd out by now. While Stranger Things might not do anything completely original, it does those things extremely well. It doesn't share a lot in common with Doctor Who in terms of content, but Stranger Things does share a tone of playfulness in the face of dire circumstances. It should also appeal to you conspiracy theorists and fans of Lost.
4: The Mystery
I started watching Stranger Things yesterday at 12:00 p.m. and had finished the entire season before 10 p.m. the same day. I needed to know what was going to happen next. The show rolls out information at a very satisfying pace. While some of the twists and turns can be a bit predictable or unoriginal, the way in which the shows achieve those reveals kept me hooked. The season doesn't quite have cliffhangers at the end, but it leaves a lot open for the future. With that being said, the season's mysteries all payoff pretty well, and have some sort of way to close this chapter of the story effectively. I desperately want season 2, but would also be satisfied if this was a standalone story.
3: The Feels
I cried a lot during my watching of Stranger Things. Though, pretty much everything makes me cry. There are some incredibly moving moments in the show. While I didn't have a crying fit at any point in the season, there were multiple moments where the show unloads tear jerking line or event, and then builds off of that for an extended teary-eyed experience. Some of the conflict feels out of place or forced, but for the most part the cast does an excellent job of forcing you to empathize for the characters. There are even a few times that you will be crying from a sad moment, but before you even get to dry your tears, a moment so uplifting will happen that may cause tears of joy.
2: Winona Ryder's Tears
Speaking of feels, we have to give a lot of credit to Winona Ryder. Her charters "descent into madness" is portrayed wonderfully. As an audience, we probably know that she isn't completely crazy, but we understand why other characters might think so. I doubt that there is an episode in this first season where Winona Ryder isn't crying through the majority of it. Her stellar performance will surely surprise everyone; from the generation that knows her as the sweetheart from the 80's, to those who know her from Mr. Deeds, to those who know her from her shoplifting incident, and those who have never heard of her or seen her before. I'm not sure if the performance is Emmy worthy, but she should at least be part of the conversation.
1: The Kids
I don't take this lightly, and for those who know me, this is a big deal: Stranger Things has the best ensemble of kids on a television show since the kids from season 4 of The Wire. While their stories may not be as dark or as deep, we find ourselves falling in love with these kids and just hope for the best for them. They're an excellent reminder that there isn't an age minimum for being courageous and loyal. It's not hard to see yourself as one of these kids, and the ultimate sense of nostalgia isn't remembering pop culture from the 80's, but remembering that innocence and sense of wonder. Each kid plays their roll incredibly, but Millie Bobby Brown, who plays a character named Eleven, has the potential to be a huge star.
Well, there you have it. My 10 reasons for why you should check out Stranger Things. After you check it out, let me know what you think. Comment or tweet me @NicoSaysThings!