Christopher M. Enis
In 1983, in the small town of Hawkins Indiana, 12-year old Will Byers disappeared. With no suspect, no evidence, and no answers… the only hope of finding him might lie with his rag-tag group of friends, and their unquestionable faith in the supernatural.
So sets the stage for what might be one of the best binge-watching opportunities on Netflix. Stranger Things pays perfect homage to 80’s Pop Culture with references that transcend generations. For those of us older than the average Millennial, there are obvious parallels between iconic 80’s stories from Stephen King, Steven Speilberg and John Carpenter. The show even stars 80’s darlings Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, who – in this story – are all grown up and basically getting in the way of progress, much like their adult counterparts back in the day.
There may be no pair better suited to bring us this nostalgic mashup than the twin Duffer brothers. 80’s babies Matt and Ross said hello to the world in 1984, and have managed to create a time capsule with a story that transcends space and time. That may be even more appropriate, considering the multi-dimensional story-line in this series. There are Dungeons & Dragons (duh! 80’s), big bad government conspiracies, and frantic adults who do more harm than good in the search for a 12 year old boy who has disappeared without nearly a trace.
The Duffer Brothers are not just good at capturing the feel and the look of the era, they also take the best parts of the stories from that time and meld them into a cohesive plot that really works. It’s not even a stretch to say that Stranger Things surpasses 2011’s Super 8, a similar homage sci-fi film produced by Steven Spielberg.
Now that should tell you something.
The script is excellent and the story is compelling, but – much like 80’s movies – it’s the kids that really make this show work. The young actors are perfectly cast to bring this story to life, and stand out as the driving force. All of the children are excellent, but the real stars are Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven). Matarazzo’s character is missing his front teeth, because of a condition called Cranial Displasia. The actor himself actually has the condition, and he nailed the performance so well in auditions that the writers decided to include it in the script. And Brown is such a standout as Eleven, that I’d be surprised if she’s not considered for an Emmy for this performance. Equal parts mysterious and bursting with childlike innocence, Eleven is the key to solving the mystery of little Will Byers and exposing a world that only the kids and the shadiest adults know exist.
This show is so good that it has already been greenlit for Season 2, and it will continue along the same story-line. There are some well-deserved criticisms about parts of the show that feel rushed or are neatly resolved, particularly towards the end of the season. But overall Stranger Things is well done and well deserving of cult status, and many more seasons to come.