TV Series Review: Stranger Things – Season 1

Stranger Things caught my attention for a variety of reasons. Not only did it appear to be a major throwback/love letter to classic 80s horror but it had one hell of a soundtrack to go along with it. Trailers can of course be misleading but on the surface alone this show seemed to have just about every element required to be something that I would love.

On 6 November 1983 in Hawkins, Indiana, 12-year-old Will Byers vanishes mysteriously. Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), becomes frantic and tries to find Will while Police Chief Jim Hopper begins investigating, and so do Will’s friends: Dustin, Mike, and Lucas. The very next day a psychokinetic girl is found by the group, knowing the whereabouts of Will. As they uncover the truth, a sinister government agency tries to cover it up, but a more insidious force is lurking as well.

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The first season of Stranger Things comes in at a relatively short 8 episodes but don’t be fooled, that’s barely enough time to fit in everything that happens. To explain it all would be long and difficult as well as being completely unnecessary, go watch this show.

I’ll just get right into my thoughts on Stranger Things and while I do hate to be predictable, I have to say that this show is definitely one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory.

Other than the soundtrack, my favourite thing about Stranger Things is how effortlessly it manages to pay homage to so many things while still managing to stand on its own. From E.T. to Silent Hill, nothing feels forced or like it’s simply paying homage to ride on the coat tails of what’s been done before. Quite remarkably, everything somehow fits and what you’re left with is a nostalgic classic.

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Matt & Ross Duffer have managed to capture the essence of what it is like to watch all the ’80s movies it pays tribute to, for the very first time.

The story is really as basic as you can get and even without too many twists and turns throughout, it just works. A show like this depends on strong characters, without them it would likely all fall apart. This is another department in which Stranger Things succeeds; the vast majority of the characters are nicely developed. I cared about each of these characters, most of them had depth and the ways in which they acted felt natural.

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The jock character Steve (Joe Keery) is involved in a love triangle with Nancy (Natalia Dyer) & Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), pretty cliché right? At first it feels like something you’ve seen many times before but I actually think Steve’s development may be my favourite overall. Immediately you think this guy is an idiot and that’s how you’re meant to feel but as things go on you come to realise that he’s actually a better person than you might think, he makes mistakes and owns up to them. Of the entire cast he’s a fairly minor character but still, time was taken to ensure he wasn’t simply one dimensional.

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The camaraderie between the boys & Eleven is where the show truly shines though. Child actors can be hit and miss but these guys really knocked it out of the park. Their interactions are so well acted; it feels exceptionally natural and believable.

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The budding romance between Mike & Eleven could easily have felt forced but it’s paced well so ends up adding real emotional impact to the events that take place.

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My only complaint regarding performances would probably be Winona Ryder. I’ve always found her to be quite a one dimensional actress and while she does do a decent job, it sometimes gets a little too much. She’s playing an unhinged mother whose son just went missing so you can forgive her for acting a little bit over the top I guess.

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Anyway, the monster used for the show is a little bit generic if I’m honest. The effects used are amazing for a TV show but they could have been better. It serves its purpose but I never really felt much fear, I feel the lack of impactful deaths at the hands of the beast didn’t really help that cause.

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Still, I’m seriously nit picking at what is otherwise an almost flawless show.

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Stranger Things truly is the love letter to classic 80s horror that it claims to be. For me, it manages to combine just about everything that I look for in a piece of entertainment, it has the perfect blend of fear, mystery & suspense. I look forward to seeing where it takes us next as there are certainly plenty of unresolved plot points. Well, that’s the end of the review so do yourself a favour and get on Netflix to watch the best show that they’ve produced to date.

 

 

Stranger Things - Season 1
  • 9.5/10
    The Final Score - 9.5/10
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