Last month we—by which I mean the nerds of this world, although an argument for a more general audience could be made—were gifted the new Netflix original series Stranger Things.
If I may, I’d like go on a tangent before I dive into my thoughts on this show. The lateness of this review is due to two reasons. One, I was late to seeing the show. Two, I discovered something I have never really come across while reviewing TV for this great site: the show does not have have enough flaws to really fill an article.You see, my dear readers, a television review comes to me pretty easily if the show sucks—I can just explain to all of you why it sucks. (See: Fuller House.) Similarly, if it is a show I like but has flaws, I explain what those flaws are (See: Arrow.). Stranger Things proved more difficult in that at first, I didn’t think I’d even watch the show; in fact, I avoided it for probably a week or more. Then the buzz began, and I knew I had to at least watch the first episode. Then I liked it. Then, once finished, what do I write that hasn’t been written already several times?
Never to back down (not really—I back down often because I’m a thinker, not a bruiser), I have decided to write about the show in a way that both shows where this show shined and where it . . . let’s say could’ve done better. And before anyone thinks this is one of my “Let me tell you what’s wrong with this show” articles, mind you the good greatly outweighs the bad regarding Stranger Things.
The 1980s. This show takes place in 1983, which opens it up for a million things that nerds can appreciate, from the events taking place at the height of the original Star Wars trilogy to references to the X-Men comics. I need to point out one thing in particular: the attire. The ’80s are well known for the clothing of the time, but I applaud this show for not being over the top about it. I spoke to my father about it once he started the show (he likes it too), since he was a young man in the ’80s, and he confirmed that it was really accurate. I bring this up because just about every modern movie or TV show set in this era tends to go to the extreme on the wardrobe—just watch Hot Tub Time Machine sometime if you don’t believe me.
Eleven. I could say that I like El because of her awesome powers, but I like her for much simpler reasons. Despite not having much in the way of lines, she reminds me of what a preteen Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be like—which is badass! Plus, with Eleven’s shaved head and her escape from a secret government lab, I was reminded of the opening scene to my favorite show, Dark Angel, and that just makes me happy.
The kids. I once reviewed Jurassic World on my personal blog, and I made a point that I don’t think anyone can argue: why are there always annoying kids in the way? Now, as I have mentioned, I avoided this show at first, and one reason is that I found out that its main characters were kids. Not 20-year-olds playing 16-year-olds, but literally kids. Every now and then a movie like Goonies comes along and everyone loves it, but once you become an adult, you sort of outgrow most of the movies that have kids as the lead characters. This show was an exception for me. What it did right was that even though the young boys are pivotal to the plot, the adults are just as important.
The writers clearly like nerds. By this I don’t mean the references or anything of that sort. Rather, the writers make distinct choices in Stranger Things that show they want the nerds to be the heroes of this tale, from the fact that the boys help save their town to their beloved science teacher, though a dork, shown romancing a totally hot woman! That’s storytelling done well.
It’s new. I am not implying that this idea is completely new, because I’m sure there are similar things out there, but Stranger Things is quite different from everything else. As much as I love Marvel and DC, it’s nice to watch a show that is not related to comic books every now and then. Just sayin’.
Winona Ryder’s character. I’ll probably lose some of you on this one, but as much as I personally like Winona Ryder, I do not think she is right for the role of Joyce. I wish I had a reason that pinpointed my reasoning exactly, but I just don’t. However, Ryder’s character does something that bothered me so much that I feel that I would fail you guys if I did not mention it. There is a scene in which Joyce is clearly distraught and in mourning over the disappearance of her son, Will, and this is displayed by her “discovering” that Will can communicate to her through lights. What bothers me about this is it essentially insults the audience’s intelligence even if it is technically science fiction. Under what circumstances would any woman turn to talking to Christmas lights? Now, I get that she’s somewhat “crazy” and it’s not real life, but . . . come on! I have an emotional mother who would absolutely crumble if my sister or I disappeared or died, but I don’t see that happening. To make things worse, they never explain how Will was able to do such a thing in the first place.
The ending. I am all for a season finale that leaves you wanting more or asking questions, but the ending could’ve been better. I mean, it is Eleven that Chief Hopper is feeding, right? What’s the deal with Will? Why let him live if that’s the deal? What probably bothered me most was who Nancy ended up with—the jock. Now, this is pretty basic in the sense of how movies and television work in regard to plots, but the writers contradict themselves by doing this. Not only is it clear the writers favor nerds, but they make a specific plot point for Nancy and Jonathan to bond and clearly find one another attractive. But no, she has to end up with the jock “just because.”
As I said, though, I liked this show. The good outweighs the bad by far, both for the reasons here and many others that I did not write about. Stranger Things has been renewed for a second season, and if my sources are correct, there are plans for a third and fourth season as well. Personally, I feel the logical step is to go the American Horror Story route and do a different story every season, but hey, we shall see how it pans out.