Every once in a while, we are lucky to come across a gem in the form of a series that forms such a special connection that doesn’t seem to let go even after we’ve seen its entirety. I’ve followed several series over the years but only a few have managed to make it to this list — Fringe, Supernatural, Breaking Bad, are only some of them. Yesterday, I added a name to the list — Netflix’s Stranger Things, which made me feel like a child watching old school sci fi all over again.
When their friend Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears mysteriously, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) conduct their own investigation into the phenomenon and launch their own mission to find him. In the course of their search, they discover Eleven/ Elle, a psychokinetic girl who is being hunted down by “bad men” who are out to kill her. As Elle helps her newfound friends save Will, they uncover a sinister figure that lurks in a parrallel universe that threatens the safety of their town.
From the moment I started binge watching this Netflix series, I was hooked. I was immediately connected to the story, and charmed by the characters. There is a certain magic about children who topbill any movie or series and this was no exception. From the first sequence, Stranger Things was able to clearly establish the personalities of each character and even before Will disappears, viewers already have a clear grasp of who he is and what he will be like in the Upside Down.
I loved the chemistry and the rapport of these kids — their banter, their arguments and their sense of adventure. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven was phenomenal, there is a certain depth in her approach to her character, her wonder, her uncertainty, her anguish that really breaks your heart. But my favorite among the kiddie crew was toothless Dustin, who is goofy for the most part but is certainly the glue that holds their little gang together.
Another phenomenal star in this Netflix series is Winona Ryder. Her panic, her anguish, her resolve at finding her son despite no one believing he is alive was so convincing. In this series, she was the very definition of a distraught mother, and its great that even after many years of being off the radar, Winona still kept those acting chops intact.
I loved that this series had a lot of factors going for it. The homage to 8os sci fi like ET, Stand By Me, the references to Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons — were stylistically on point (even the scoring and the posters were inspired by 80s pop culture) but only brought the series closer to the viewers, especially for audiences like me, who grew up in the 80s. The use of an 80s soundtrack was also pretty cool.
More than the style, my favorite part of the series was that it was focused on telling a story in the best way possible. Show creators Ross and Matt Duffer managed to do so in chapters that felt like a Stephen King novel with the underlying danger that lurks in the darkness and a whimsy and hope that is familiar like in a Steven Spielberg film. The mystery kept viewers on their toes and the discoveries that each “team” made (Chief Hopper played by David Harbour and Joyce), (Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Elle), (Jonathan and Nancy) each held a piece of the puzzle that they had to combine to discover their real enemy. The race against time was so tense.
At the heart of all this is a story of families, a mother who loses a child (Joyce), a mother who worries about her children (Mike’s mom), a father who mourns the death of his own offspring (Hop) — puppy love (Mike and Elle), a John Hughes inspired high school theme (Jonathan, Steve and Nancy). I loved that the series allotted an equal focus on the development of these characters and their relationships to the amount of time it used to unravel the main mystery.
All in all, other than Barb’s mom seemingly not to concerned after the loss of her daughter, when everyone is agog trying to find Will, the series was one for the books because it had a lot of heart and transported viewers back to the time when they believed that nothing is impossible. The ending could well serve as a series finale but it was brilliant how the Duffer brothers were able to set up enough questions to keep viewers interested in a second season. Whether it expands to future seasons or not, no question about this. This series was and is something special.