REVIEW: “Stranger Things”

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Jonathan Montague, Contributing Writer

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“Stranger Things” had been hyped up by many of my close friends following the second season’s recent premiere on Netflix, so I figured there was no better time to binge both seasons. I have discovered that the first season of the show is well worth all the praise it gets.

To summarize the plot – in 1983, in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, a young boy named Will Byers disappears on his way home after being kidnapped by a monstrous creature. Tensions are heightened, provoking Will’s best friends, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin go out looking for him. Instead of him, they find a mysterious, young girl with psychic abilities, who has recently escaped from government scientists at Hawkins Lab, who desperately want her back. And just when things couldn’t get stranger, scientists at Hawkins Lab had accidently opened a rift to a hellish dimension known as the Upside Down, home of the creature that kidnapped Will. It’s a race against time to save Will, Eleven, and keep Hawkins from becoming the Demogorgon’s new buffet.

While this may seem like a lot of plot points to juggle, “Stranger Things” manages to do so and much more. This show has a plot that intertwines three different stories, all while creating one cohesive story arc, with each story complementing and supporting the other. The tone is consistently ominous, making it feel as if the Demogorgon could strike at any time. The best part is none of the plot threads or characters are underdeveloped. They all serve the purpose of advancing the story towards a truly climactic end. The standout characters include our main preteen hero Mike Wheeler, Will’s mother Joy, and superhuman sweetheart Eleven.

The casting in this series could not be anymore perfect. I would say better acted, but I have watched Season 2. Its best to discuss the characters in groups, as they as they are portrayed this way in the show itself. The three main boys are all incredibly likeable and bursting with chemistry, with Finn Wolfhard and Caleb McLaughlin getting the best moments out of the three to show their talents, despite being relative unknowns. That being said, their performances are pale in comparison to newcomer Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. Watching her learn about the world she was so long denied is touching. The next group are the teenagers, with Natalia Dyer as Mike’s sister, Nancy, and Charlie Heaton as Will’s brother Jonathan – whose friendship is touchingly developed over the course of the series. The final group consists of David Harbour as Hopper and Winona Ryder as Joy. Ryder is successfully able to embody the despair that grows within everyone the longer Will is missing.

This series takes place in the 80’s and is about as perfect a recreation as one can get. From the colors, to the music, to the language, it’s very clear that the Duffer Brothers have great love for this era and want to make it look as beautiful as possible. The town of Hawkins looks perfectly small and unimportant, creating a perfect, familiar backdrop for this type of story for almost any viewer. The Upside Down, both in comparison and contrast, is a perfectly creepy copy of our world, a desolate wasteland devoid of life – except for the Demogorgon. The effects are spectacular and practical, only enhanced by CG when necessary.

With its suspenseful story, endearing characters and beautiful atmosphere, Stranger Things has easily become one of my new favorite shows. Season 2 has only served to cement that, either matching or elevating the quality of nearly everything in Season 1. I highly recommend a trip to the Upside Down for one Netflix’s most entertaining shows, and will happily wait for the inevitable Season 3.