This is my first TV series review on this book blog. I read far more than I watch TV, this is true. In fact, I don’t watch television at all, unless it’s late night political satire (think Colbert, Bill Maher, John Oliver), and I watch those via YouTube, so my TV is mainly for films. (I’ll admit to being a film junkie – I’ve watched waaay more movies than I could ever review here.) When several friends and relatives of mine began recommending Netflix’s Stranger Things series to me, I decided to go for a free trial of Netflix and give the first 2 seasons a shot.
I have since watched both seasons twice and, in the last few weeks, have become an all-out obsessed fangirl. My friends say I need an intervention. So, what makes Stranger Things, in my opinion, so flippin’ amazing?
Once upon a time, the Duffer Brothers apparently had the brilliant idea to mash elements of a Steven Spielberg eighties film with child actors, the X-Men, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Alien, Dungeons & Dragons, quantum mechanics, and a frightening government conspiracy all together to create an original series that is every bit as creepy, fascinating, funny, suspenseful, disturbing, and endearing as it is entertaining. The story follows a band of lovably geeky eleven-year-old boys in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. When one of their party, the sweet Will Byers, suddenly goes missing on the same night we, as the audience, see some kind of mysterious emergency breaking out at a nearby lab, Will’s friends and closest family will stop at nothing to find him. Will’s struggling but devoted mom, Joyce – portrayed by Winona Ryder, who completely embodies the role – solicits the help of the gruff and grieving but (IMO) smokin’ hot sheriff Chief Hopper (played by David Harbour…drool…) to find Will. Meanwhile, his friends sneak out of their homes to search the woods for him at night.
At the same time Will goes missing, a strange girl of the same age with a shaved head appears in the woods, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. Eventually, Will’s friends – Mike, the leader-type; Lucas, the skeptic and voice of reason; and Dustin, the hilariously adorable comic relief – intercept the girl, who barely speaks and whose only identifying factor is a tattoo on her wrist that says “011”. Mike decides to hide Eleven, or “El” for short, in his basement to take care of her. They soon learn El possesses incredible psychic powers. El’s appearance and Will’s disappearance are linked…the kids just have to find out how.
The characters branch out from the kids’ siblings and parents and their relationships and connections to the case, to the villainous government scientists and spies. Don’t let the ages fool you; this show definitely features some R-rated gore, violence, and horror – or at the very least, PG-13. I think it would’ve been way too scary/intense for me at age eleven; then again, every kid is different. Also, there is just as much focus, if not more at times, on the older cast members, making this a fantastic watch for older teens and adults alike.
Both seasons are equally haunting and addictive, featuring terrifying monsters, major eighties nostalgia, characters you really become attached to, super powers, a wickedly epic eighties soundtrack, a somewhat dysfunctional yet charming small Midwestern town, a creepy Twin Peaks vibe, and the perfect blend of humor, drama, horror, romance, adventure, mystery, and sci-fi to keep me utterly invested in every scene. It’s even better the second time around, because I could really appreciate and savor the writing and foreshadowing even more. The only thing that depresses me is that it’ll likely be an entire year before Season 3. Season 2 has a happy pseudo-ending, but the very last shot is a major cliffhanger, so I can’t wait to see what the Duffer Brothers have in store for us next year. Until then, I guess I’m stuck waiting in the Upside Down… Five stars from an alternate dimension to Stranger Things!