After a hiccup start, I finally got around to watching the full first season of hit TV show Stranger Things. For those not in the know, Stranger Things is a heavily 80s-inspired Netflix Original TV show which tells of a missing boy, a psychic girl with a mysterious past, and governmental research into other dimensions, and the effects these three things have on a lazy small town in America.
I need to address a few things first. The first thing is this is not a review, but more just a casual thoughts on the show, though I will give a score of what I thought of it at the end just to reflect my overall opinion of it.
The second thing is I have to admit there is a reason why its taken me so long to watch this series: I watched episodes 1 and 2 when they first came out and honestly, they didn’t grab me in the slightest. I had been told by all and sundry that this show would definitely appeal to me as it was like a love letter to all my favourite 80s films… which, let’s face it, are everyone’s favourite 80s film.
I would even go so far as to say I was an active detractor of it.
Due to the fact a whole bunch of my friends are huge fans of it, I decided to give it another go. The one thing that annoyed me through my detracting comments of it, most people’s response was the same: wait til the third episode where it ramps up and becomes really interesting.
I hate this comment with a passion, and I hear it from people about Game of Thrones too, another show which I’d apparently love if I gave it a proper go. The thing is though, I’m a movie watcher, and if someone said to me that a film gets good in the last hour, I may not have the drive to sit through two hours of boredom for an exciting third act.
This time though I gave it the opportunity to get better, and it did! Do I think it was good TV? Yes! Do I think it was innovative? No.
To clarify this comment, I’ll compare the series to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Rowling is a genius not so much in the story she told, but with her capacity for taking traditional European fantasy and mythological tropes and compressing them into a story that creates a universe that is not only new, but just familiar enough for our current need for stagnant nostalgia to be satiated.
Stranger Things’ makers have done a similar thing, but with the languages and tropes of eighties cinema, and by setting it in the 80s really nailing the filmic amalgamation home. As I watched I received so many flavours of the 80s like Flight of the Navigator, Invaders From Mars, almost everything from Spielberg and Stand By Me… actually, heaps of visuals and thematic similarities were similar to SBM.
I’m not saying the distilling of these things is a bad thing, I just think one can’t necessarily always detach themselves from the obvious influences… especially when one of the young female leads is a pretty good looky-likey for Mia Kirshner from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!
On the subject of the cast, I was impressed with the kids playing the leads. They were great in their roles and at no point entered the realm of ‘annoying kids on TV’ syndrome. Particularly great was Millie Bobby Brown, who portrayal the pain of her characters abilities with a spectacular subtlety that even a more mature performer might struggle with. The other performance highlight was that of Sherriff Hopper by David Harbour: at first it appeared his character was going to be a cookie cutter small town cop character but he became endearing and an amazing character.
Then there’s Winona Ryder playing what could be Winona Ryder, but I love her and her insanity all the same.
One thing I did unabashedly love about this TV show was the synth soundtrack by Kyle Dixon, with a few pop songs here and there from the era. I love synth anyway, so this played straight into my affections… actually I grabbed the vinyl as soon as I could after my initial watch as it was the only thing I really liked about the show.
So a second season has been announced, but am I excited by it? Not really, but I’ll definitely give it a chance as I enjoyed this enough to give it a proper go. Will I actively pursue it if it is difficult to see? No. I’m not going to cry if I don’t see it.