Stranger Things, created by the Duffer Brothers, is a Netflix produced sci-fi TV series set predominantly in the quaint town of Hawkins, Indiana. The show opens with the unexplained disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). Will has a trusted cohort of friends; Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) & Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), who investigate his disappearance, along with Hawkins police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbor), Will’s mother (Wynonna Ryder) and his brother (Charlie Heaton). While this is all happening, we are introduced to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown); a mysterious child with a dark past and supernatural powers.
This show has completed three seasons so far, with a fourth currently being written. It is, without a doubt, one of the most ambitious and successful Netflix series ever made. It was evident from the first episode of the first season that this show was going to have an excellent production value. Each of the 25 episodes felt like a well-rounded movie; analogous to episodes in the Sherlock series. The majority of episodes also ended in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. This led to me binging the entire series in under a week!
Stranger Things is the most viewed Netflix show, and, unsurprisingly, has a myriad of fan art. This one is a “Simpsonsized” version of the show
Speaking of excellent production value, I really appreciated the well thought out design of the upside down world (a place we often visit in the show) and the terrifying look of monsters such as the Demogorgin. The glorious visual effects and set design of this show was complemented by a “techno-punk” inspired soundtrack. The score perfectly captures the strangeness and mystery of events we see unfold on screen, yet it is something you can vibe to in your spare time. We are also recurrently treated to nostalgic and catchy tunes of the 80s, which reinforce the time period this show is set in.
Stranger Things also heavily draws upon other pop-culture elements of the 80s. We are treated to games of Dungeons & Dragons, Ghostbuster uniforms, Woody the Woodpecker carnival toys and even the New Coke to help us relive this time period. All this was juxtaposed with real life historical events that were incorporated diligently into the plot. For instance, the rift between the US and the USSR is important historical context, that is explored in season 3.
The characters of this show were also well-developed. Millie Bobby Brown was the standout for me. What was so brilliant about her character is that she doesn’t actually say much, yet conveys bucketloads of emotions through her facial expressions. In my opinion, Brown delivered one of the most memorable on-screen child performances ever. The scope of her characters’ powers were also a mystery, and developed over the episodes. However, in no way did I ever think she was overpowered. Eleven relied on the kindness of strangers to deal with her past and defeat the antagonists at large.
One of these “strangers” included Jim Hopper (David Harbor). His character had a traumatic past that ultimately aided him to become a father-figure to Eleven. His transformation from an alcoholic, seemingly incompetent small time chief of police to a literal hero was another highlight of the series. The camaraderie between some of the other teenagers (Will, Lucas, Dustin, Mike etc.) also felt genuine and added a lighter touch to the show.
Eleven has many really cool superpowers, one of which includes the ability to instantly crush objects without actually touching them
There are literally dozens of more positive things I can say, but in the interest of keeping this review short, I will refrain from mentioning them all. One thing I will say though is that there was no shortage of action. The first two seasons ended thrilling and well choreographed action sequences that took place in a school and a research facility, respectively. The third season kicked it up by multiple notches by having even better action sequences taking place in locations such as a shopping mall, carnival, hospital and even a sauna.
On to some of the more negative aspects of Stranger Things. There were too many jumpscares for my liking. Their effectiveness sort of diluted after the first few because they became too predictable. I was also astonished by the number of American houses in this show that had creepy, untouched basements. Surely this isn’t a thing nationwide? These are petty complaints I must admit. But by far, the biggest setback of this show was some aspects of its third season.
Starcourt Mall is the latest addition to Hawkins and is a very important setting for the whole season
Season 3 of Stranger Things had a few low-points. There was a lot more goofiness in this season, led by the awkward chemistry between Hopper Joyce Byers (Wynonna Ryder). The comedic timings of these two actors didn’t cut it for me. There were also two big story arks that were unnecessarily shoved into the plot for the season. The first involved Hopper and Byers kidnapping a Russian scientist and taking him on a “road-trip” to Illinois so that they could interrogate him with the help of a friend. The second ark involved the character of Steve Harrington and his co-worker (whose name I don’t even remember) developing a weird sort of friendship after being dosed up on drugs.
There were also some characters in this season that seemed like cheap knock-offs of real life personalities or characters from other movies. For instance, there was a Russian antagonist that was the spitting image of the T1000 in Terminator 2. Priah Ferguson’s character also felt like a knockoff of a young Tiffany Haddish.
Russian Tough Guy in Stranger Things S3 (left), T1000 (right). Did anybody else see the physical resemblance between these two characters?
In conclusion though, Stranger Things is my second most favorite Netflix show (after House of Cards). To put it simply, this show is like a cinematic adaptation of a Goosebumps novel – but on steroids. It had some great characters brought to life by very talented child actors, a timeless score, heaps of 80s nostalgia, and a well-paced and entertaining storyline. Each season of the show had ~8 episodes, though I craved for many more. I am beyond elated to see where season 4 takes us!