Can I do this? I think I’m allowed to review shows too. Stranger Things is a TV show about a boy, Will Byers, who goes missing after being taken by some supernatural force. As the show progresses, the viewer begins to understand the complex connections between the missing boy, the government laboratory, a monster, and a mysterious bald girl with telekinetic powers. This was such a complex and amazing show, I don’t have room to fit all my thoughts into this review, but I will leave you with a few.
This show did a great job of bringing us 80s nostalgia while still having an original plotline. Recently, Hollywood has often been accused of having a lack of originality, however in this case Stranger Things can be comparable to an effective use of sampling in music. We often see ineffective uses of sampling where the sample is used to ride on the success of the original (Flo Rida, Pitbull, etc.), while an effective use of a sample (DJ Shadow, Daft Punk, Kanye, etc.) can enhance the song and give new meaning to the original.
In this case, there were many references to 80s movies, from John Hughes to Spielberg movies, and they were all used to play with expectations. Taking Nancy’s character in particular, she starts in what entirely seems like a John Hughes movie where the popular guy in school has a crush with her and is sneaking around to be with her, however her clash with the supernatural begins in episode 3, where Barb (poor Barb) is taken. This clash begins when Jonathan begins spying on Nancy’s pool party, and eventually witnesses Barb being taken by the monster. In the beginning of the next episode, we see Barb being attacked, simultaneously showing Nancy and Steve making out. Just as Spielberg played with the soundtrack when the sharks appeared in Jaws, the Duffer brothers are playing with our expectations.
Bringing back character and plot styles from the 80s allowed the Duffer brothers to fill a forgotten hole in the world of science fiction, as well as bring back some of the more effective techniques. Somehow child actors seem to have mostly disappeared from film in the 21st Century. Aside from the early Harry Potter movies, the hole has been mostly filled by actors in their 20’s playing in movies marketed to a younger crowd (Twilight, Hunger Games, etc.). This has left a perspective completely untapped in recent years, which the Duffer brothers exposed in this show. The use of child actors can be comparable to Moonrise Kingdom in that it is not specifically a show for children, however the characters and their issues are relatable to all ages. Just as Moonrise Kingdom wrote one of my favorite love stories about two kids, this show managed to make the younger characters just as engaging by not trivializing their problems.
The ending (credits to my girlfriend Paige for pointing this out) left just enough settled and unsettled. I find that many times, shows leave a season entirely on a cliffhanger (talking to you, Game of Thrones Season 5!) or resolve everything, leaving the next season to start from scratch and feel unnecessary (Broadchurch, you hear me?). But Stranger Things wrapped up this season in the most appropriate way possible, where everything appears normal on the surface, however there are many unanswered questions that make us excited for the next season.
This show effectively used nostalgia to create a seemingly original television experience. I can’t wait to see where the Duffer brothers take the next season and where their careers go in the future.