Let’s not bury the lede here: if you haven’t already inhaled the 8 episodes of Stranger Things that Netflix made available a month or so ago, you owe it to yourself to do it right now. I’ve watched enough Netflix original series to confidently state it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s worth paying for Netflix all by itself. Sign yourself up for a month and consider the $8 or whatever they charge a rental fee for this one show. It’s well worth it. This goes double if you are just past or nearing 40 years of age and you associate the 1980s with your childhood in any way.
I don’t even know where to start, guys. Stranger Things is roughly what would happen if Stephen King and Steven Spielberg had a TV-show baby together and then Wes Craven and Robert Englund raised that baby together, but only after having a custody battle with Gary Gygax and deciding that he could have the kid every third weekend of the month. I have nearly nothing bad to say about it other than that there is a little romance subplot that might maybe be a tiny bit unnecessary. Maybe. I dunno. And I occasionally felt like the kid on the left in the picture below had some unclear motivations for some of the things he did. That’s it.
Let’s start with the cast:
I don’t know who any of these actors are. In fact, other than Winona Ryder, who plays the mother of the missing boy that kicks off the mystery of the entire series, I can’t name a single actor in the series. They’re all unknowns, at least to me, and in all honesty it had been enough time since I’d seen Winona Ryder in anything (and she disappears completely enough into her character) that if her name hadn’t been in the opening credits I wouldn’t have recognized her either.
The kids– all four of them, but most particularly the young lady who plays Eleven (on the right) and the tubby kid in the hat in the middle– are magnificent. The adults are great. The older teenagers are great. And Ryder turns in the performance of her career.
I won’t get too far into the plot. A young boy goes missing, and a young girl with mysterious powers escapes from a Gubmint Facility in a small town in Indiana. She ends up taking refuge with the friends of the missing kid, and hilarious and/or horrifying hijinks ensue. The show has mysteries wrapped in mysteries, and they don’t bother to solve all of them by the end of the series (in fact, they introduce two more prominent ones in the show’s last few minutes) but the resolutions they do provide are satisfying as hell. By the halfway point it was clear that there were a number of ways for this show to End Wrong; I’m happy to say it didn’t. I don’t know for sure that there’s a second season coming, but I sure as hell hope there is. And, weirdly, even if they never answer a few of the show’s questions and it’s a one-shot season? That’s okay. They earned the right to end the show on a bit of a cliffhanger (sort of) if they wanted to. Ending with some things for the fanbase to keep talking about after the season is a good thing.
Another thing: at eight episodes, this thing is perfectly paced. I feel like even a thirteen-episode season would have felt padded out, and at eight they’ve trimmed all the fat they might need to out of their narrative and it feels like every episode contributes meaningfully to the overall arc of the show. The show’s a masterclass in direction and pacing, folks.
I can’t wait to see what everyone involved in this show does next, honestly. Do what you need to do to see it.