When my sister suggested I watch the show never did I perceive that the next 8 hours of my life would have me glued to the screen. Never since the Fringe was aired have I been hooked so badly to a TV show.
Stranger Things takes the cake, a spot I believed Orphan Black was going to grab for 2016. Listen – If you live in 2016 and live on this planet Earth and have not seen this show yet then I suggest you head on over to Netflix before you are to take the next breath of your life. EVERYTHING about this show is excellent. This does not happen in this decade when the primary concern has shifted from giving viewers a good story to giving the network a quick amount of views to get them advertisers rolling in. TV this good only happens once or twice in a few years.
The story packs the action punch almost immediately. Not losing out to any small and slow buildup with the opening scene the monster that is the main antagonist in the story immediately takes lead when it kills a scientist attempting to run away from it. The main strength of the show is the story which is about the experience of a single mother played by Winona Ryder who lives in a small town where the biggest crime happened back in the 1800s. She is a struggling mother always trying to keep up with the challenges of parenting two sons when occupied with a full time job. Such kids always tend to be much more mature than their age and tend to to mostly take care of themselves. The show is set in the 80s when cycling from your friends home to your own through the woods was considered alright. The character played by Winona is Joyce Byers and in the process of attempting to fulfill her financial responsibilities as a single mother she loses her son. The one she loses is the younger one, called Will and she sets off on an expedition to bring back him back which involves bringing down walls and in the case of the show going into an entirely different dimension. Aiding her in her quest is the deadbeat chief of police Hopper played by David Harbour – Hopper has his own story – having lost his own daughter to cancer realizes the pain Joyce is going through and steps out of his depression to prove why he is the Chief of Police. Standing up to the many antagonists in the show, Hopper proves to be beyond simply a hero showing wisdom in every step that he takes throughout the well carved narrative. The story takes the reference footing of classic Steven Spielberg and gives the much loved aura that was produced by the show Taken. Even though many elements of the story may come off as generic, the simple manner in which they are wrapped and presented, gives the feel that the attempt was not to copy archetypes but rather to get inspired from them. The show’s writers the Duffer brothers have obviously put in a great deal of effort and thinking into getting things right. There are many different story arcs in the show and the manner in which all of them seamlessly converge into a single focal point is not only the effort of great direction but also of excellent writing skills.
Winona wins. This show is definitely her come back. Other than the obvious greatness that she is, every single one of the actors from Natalie Dyer (who plays Nancy), Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard and especially David Harbor give a stellar performance, not letting their interest in the character go lose at any single point. Ryder’s performance as a single mother afflicted with the confusion that results from her son being in a different dimension coincides perfectly with the maternal love taking charge over all logic in her character. The character of Joyce was very challenging especially when you have to walk a thin line in which you question your own mind and heart. Only an expert actor could have the audience convinced. Ryder has given this role all her heart. If nothing at all appeals to you in the show, then her performance will surely have you hooked throughout. Then comes the acting done by Millie Bobby Brown who plays 11. Playing a girl subjected to mind control experiments and only having interaction with a few human beings all her life immediately being exposed to a society that she doesnt understand was by far the hardest role in the whole show. Millie’s performance will enable you to develop a concrete emotional bond with the character and this only happens when an actor give their heart and soul to a role. Her recent interviews indicate this where she stated that she’d rather live in the 80s. Moments throughout the show will have you crying when shes hurt even before you get to know her and feel a kick of adrenaline when she takes on baddies with her famous stare! Finally, although the other actors deserve their own sections unfortunately the review has to stay within certain word limits (damn you editors) this section won’t be complete without mentioning the finesse with which David Harbour carried out the role of Hopper without seeming like a nut. Hopper is the hero of the movie and regardless of the challenge that he forsees in front of him is ready to give an arm and a leg in order to get the job done.
The Ambiance and Cinematography
Whether it is the Star Wars styled poster, the touch of Spielberg style 80s theme or the magical Synthwave opening soundtrack everything about the show is perfectly reminiscent of what we loved without the 80s. In my particular case, I loved and still love Synthwave and although I watched all the episodes back to back, I would still listen through the whole opening sequence to have the melody pour down my ears. The manner in which the cinematography is done speaks of perfect editing skills. Not a single shot is overdone and not one single scene can be isolated and witnessed to have lighting or for that matter any other element out of place. The scenes in which the Eleven takes on a group of bullies while protecting her friends is so classic 80s style rad that only a director that had absorbed the love for such scenes could have executed with such perfection.
The Special Effects
Building an entire dimension and a kid that has freak mental powers was no easy task and although the special effects may not be very big budget they are quite impressive as far as the requirement of the show would go. This is not a show that you would watch for special effects nor one that you should watch for effects. The effects are not amazing, not as good as what Spielberg had accomplished with taken but good enough to be considered a pass. If you have a very keen observation then you may notice a few things but the team has ensured a very large amount of effort to wrap up what budget may have restricted in adding to special effects.
The Direction and Writing
The Duffer Brothers have done an excellent job. These guys deserve an award. Seriously, there is nothing more that I can say about the work they have put forth to judge the quality of their writing and direction. Few people pull it off this smoothly and may the great legends of Hollywood forgive me if I blaspheme but this talent has only been seen in the likes of Tarantino with Dog Day Afternoon. I will never forget the names of the Duffer Brothers for as long as I am alive. This is how good they are. Remember the feeling you would get when Rocky would get back up and take on his nemesis after getting his eye split open? That amazing feeling that electrifies your spine is what the Duffer Brothers are able to recreate. No mere mortal can do that, expect these guys to be set with Nolan and the likes in the near future in the Directorial Hall of Fame. No Jokes.
All in all, this show is an essential. If not for the story then for the theme. If not for the theme then for the acting. If not for the acting well then for every other thing mentioned. Your life, I can easily claim would not be complete without having watched this show. Only a season has come out, so you won’t lose out much if you would run on over to Netflix to order.
- Winona Ryder
- The Story
- The 80s ambience
- The heroic kids
- The Symbolism
- Some gaping plot holes