I both love and hate the way Netflix’s fashion of bringing out excellent TV series to the world. That is, in bulk, binge-ready, complete series in one go. I love it because you can watch all of it in one sitting. But then, I hate it because you can watch all of it in one sitting! As much as I love that I didn’t have to wait another week for the next episode, it feels a little bit awkward when you finish it in one go and realize that there’s none of it left anymore. That was the case for me with Netflix’s newest Sci-Fi hit – Stranger Things. I’ve come to know about the series four days after its US release via a Netflix ad on my Facebook feed. Having been a fan of a couple of Netflix’s TV series, I jumped to it and initially planned to watch just a couple of episodes. After watching the first two, I told myself “one more”, and then “geez, just another one”, and before I knew it, I’m done with all eight! That was the fastest I’ve ever seen an entire TV series! In fact, I’ve never sat on a whole season in just one go (not even with Daredevil). If that isn’t enough testament to how I love Stranger Things, then I don’t know what is. It is just that fantastic!
Those who have seen it may very well understand what I mean, but for those who haven’t yet, let me tell you one thing: This is this year’s should-not-be-missed-TV-Series! When you finally see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those who have seen it, let me talk about what made Stranger Things an exceptional series that everyone should go see. Be mindful though, there be mild spoilers here and there so you might want to bookmark this article and come back to it later if you are just planning to see it, or if you are still midway through the series. And with that warning, you may proceed as you wish at your own risk.
#1: THE STORY
I believe that the most important episode of a TV series is the pilot episode, and as far as Stranger Things is concerned, it actually seems to be a foretelling of what the whole series is going to be. Now I will attempt to talk about something I have only known via The Big Bang Theory – Dungeons and Dragons. I have never played the game, but as far as I know, it actually takes a very imaginative and creative game-master to lead the game, creating scenarios and simply adding a little bit more adventure to just “rolling the dice”. In the first episode of Stranger Things, we get introduced to our protagonists – a set of young kids, who seem to be friends for a long time, playing what appears to be D&D. The funny thing is, if you are seeing the series for a second time, you’ll realize that the whole story of the series is being told in the first 5 minutes of the first episode. In fact, when I re-watched the pilot, the D&D scene sent chills down my spine as Will Byers, one of the kids, says to Mike Wheeler, the game-master, “The Demigorgon, it got me”. To me, that D&D scene from the first episode might as well be Stranger Things’ interrogation scene from The Dark Knight movie, in that it serves as the focal point of the whole thing.
I read a review that said that #StrangerThings gave a nod to #DungeonsandDragons. Dude, that was more of a head banging metal show than nod.
— David Sarachman (@davidsarachman) July 18, 2016
If you’re here right now, there’s a good chance that you’ve already seen the show, and as you know, the whole series revolves around the disappearance of Will Byers, and the efforts of his friends, family, and the police chief to recover him. Just a day after his disappearance, a telekinetic girl appears and eventually helps Will’s friends to locate him with the use of her strange abilities. Is there anything else you need to know apart from that? None if you wish to avoid spoilers.
If there’s anything else I can add to this, I should say that with the abundance of R-rated TV Series currently occupying premium timeslots, Stanger Things can very well be enjoyed by the young and old alike. What with its themes and young protagonists, it is a perfect TV series to see with the whole family to enjoy. Finally, the kids wouldn’t have to complain about being sent to bed early.
#2: THE CHARACTERS
So with the producers having nailed the story down, and as with any TV series or movie for that matter, it is important that the audience cares about the characters enough to join them in their journey. Suffice it to say, I believe that the cast for Stranger Things have done an excellent job in portraying their characters, well enough to engage viewers from start to finish.
If I were Will Byers, I could not have wished for a better circle of friends than this bunch of geeks. As you can tell, one of my favorite scenes is the D&D scene that played out in the first episode. The introduction to these kids was pitch-perfect, and it pretty much laid out the chemistry among these four friends. It is as if they actually knew each other, and have been real friends from the start. So when Will got missing and they all decided they need to look for him, you’ll pretty much agree with them even if there’s just much danger to confront. You sort of believe their friendship, even if you’ve only seen them together in one scene and for what, 3 minutes? And when Will disappeared, and these friends got to meet El (Eleven), you kind of have a sense that these kids will have far to go, despite the fact that some of them were skeptical of her initially (and for a good reason). I just wish that if they are planning to continue on to a next season, that they do it as soon as possible as this kids are just adorable at their age right now. Plus I’m worried that Dustin’s permanent teeth might just start showing up. I’m not ready for that yet.
There’s not much to say about Will Byers, except for the fact that this whole thing revolves around his disappearance. However, if there’s just but a few to say about him, I’ll have to say that he’s one hell of an expert in Hide and Seek. Imagine being stuck in the Upside Down (more on that later) for such a long time, and being able to hide from the Demogorgon (more on this later too) all the while? I can recall about two characters who didn’t even last a minute or so in the Upside Down, but this Will was just brilliant in one-upping the monster. Also, in some of the scenes we see Will, there’s just an uncanny resemblance to his mom, Winona Ryder. Must be the big black round eyes.
I’ve never been a parent, but I know for a fact that there could never be anything more terrifying than missing a child. I’ve been around many parents who’d instantly switch to a crazy person if their kid went out of sight for just a second in a mall, so I do get it if Joyce Byers freaks the hell out when she finds out her kid is missing. However, I couldn’t decide whether that is more terrifying than knowing that your kid is missing on the other side that you couldn’t get to, and that you know that he’s not safe, and that the only means of communicating to him is via Christmas lights, and that every person you talk to about it thinks of you as crazy person. I couldn’t feel any more sorry for her! But you know, if you don’t actually see it, what other assumptions could you make out of a person who claims that there’s a monster in the wall, and that their kid talks to them using light bulbs? I say, Winona’s been given some tough material to work on, and she just slays pretty convincingly, so much that you call everyone else who doesn’t believe her an idiot.
One of the things that can make it frustrating for our protagonists is the presence of unreliable, skeptical, and dumb police force. I’m from the Philippines! I know dumb, and these guys would do well in Philippine cinema. Thank heavens, Jim Hopper, the chief-of-police, isn’t one of them. Well at least towards the end. Having lost a child, and having had a past with Joyce Byers probably helped refocus Jim as a police chief. It was even funny that he was worried about being cursed, having in his town a disappearance and a murder within just two days– something that hasn’t happened in a long time, and probably the reason why his crew were just lame slackers.
I love how the producers are able to cater to the different age demographics by involving characters for almost every generation. We have the kids, then the adults, and then we have the teens. We know for a fact that obviously Will’s brother, Jonathan, will need to act out on his disappearance, so why would Nancy care at all, when she could just get busy with her boyfriend Steve? Well, there’s some sort of heartbreaking sub-story that involves Nancy’s friend Barb (and fans reaction to this was just well-merited). I also love how they play out the triangle between the three, and that Steve is not so much a douche as we often see in this kind of scenarios. It seemed to be predictable at first how these characters would end up, but then you’ll see how wrong you can be once you reach the end.
3#: THE MONSTER
What I love about how Stranger Things presented the monster is that they don’t always show it. It makes it all the more mysterious and more terrifying in a sense that the it allows for the audience to feel the same as the characters not knowing much about it. There was a chilling scene when El had told Will’s friends that they’d need to fight off the Demogorgon in order for them to save their friend, and the horror of it all was so evident for them. When we finally saw the monster, it did look like a miniature version of the one in Cloverfield. You can now imagine the sense of danger Will has been up against since he got to the Upside Down, and it all makes for a much more terrifying predicament for all our heroes.
#4: THE UPSIDE DOWN
Long have we imagined that there’s always another world than our own, but it is seldom thought that we’re just living right next to it. Stranger Things have explicitly referenced The Vale of Shadows, which is basically the same world, but darker and more dangerous, and home to the unknown. In game terms, it is the world when you flip the game-board, and you know nothing about that side. I think at this point, we haven’t seen much of the Upside Down as of yet, but it would be cool to explore this on later seasons.
#5: THE FAN REACTION
Having been out for just a couple of weeks, Stranger Things have quickly amassed quite a good number of fans, and just rightly so. I, myself, was so surprised how actually good it is, and I do plan to watch it again, probably along with my nieces and nephews. Apart from that, my Facebook feed has also been inundated with Stranger Things posts, and I am just furious that some of my friends are late to the party! I would have loved to have an engaging chat about the series. Below, however, are a couple of fan responses and reactions dedicated to the brilliance of Stranger Things. They might be a little spoiler-ish so be wary.
Just for fun and for you. I loved Stranger Things. pic.twitter.com/DCHYox7tY8
— Matt Ferguson (@Cakes_Comics) July 20, 2016
Have you seen Stranger Things? Sound off in the comments section and let me know what you think about it.