Under Review: Stranger Things

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Illustration by Emma Shea

“Stranger Things” has taken audiences by storm.

Emma Shea, Social Media Editor

80’s music. Small-town Indiana. A telekinetic twelve-year-old. Strangely enough, these are the makings of the best new show on Netflix. “Stranger Things” is the perfect mix of thriller, comedy, and John Hughes. The show premiered quietly over the summer, with a relatively small first season of only eight episodes. However, within weeks the Netflix original series had exploded across the Internet, inspiring in-depth discussions of character development and mountains of fan art.

The show’s unique premise makes it an automatic hit with both adults and teens: A telekinetic girl and a terrible monster escape from a top secret government facility, and a young boy disappears as a result. The suspense and horrifying monsters are enough to keep anyone hooked on the show, but the true stars are the middle school-age actors that make up the central cast. Twelve-year-old Millie Bobby Brown plays Eleven, the telekinetic. She is a remarkable young actress, along with her male castmates who play Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will. Of course, the adult characters are played brilliantly as well, the most notable being Winona Ryder, herself a child star of the ’80s (“Heathers,” “Beetlejuice”).

The not-so-subtle ’80s nostalgia permeates the show, prominent enough to make those who didn’t even exist in the ’80s (like myself) miss the era of big hair and turtlenecks. The series is full of ’80s references; the middle-schoolers are obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars. Even the characters themselves are allusions to famous movies from the era of John Hughes and Steven Spielberg. Police Chief Hopper is Indiana Jones, complete with wide-brimmed hat and scruffy beard. Eleven is ET, an impossible anomaly who essentially drops from the sky and rides around on a bike with the neighborhood kids.

The Netflix original "Stranger Things" features government conspiracies and gratuitous '80s references.
Illustration by Emma Shea
The telekinetic Eleven is one of the breakout characters on Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.

The most artful ’80s implementation is the integration of classic music during equally-classic ’80s trope scenes. Jonathan and Will Byers jam out in Jonathan’s bedroom to the Clash; Nancy and Steve kiss to Toto’s “Africa.” Anytime a scene draws on nostalgia, there’s music for that nostalgic ’80s feel.

Although the series can feel a bit slow at times, with perhaps too-long scenes of school and boy drama, overall it’s a fast-paced thrill ride through 1980’s Indiana. The sketchy government agency working on top-secret experiments gives the series a distinct paranoid vibe; the Cold War is still happening, and you can’t trust anyone, not even your government or your police force. Even when a car chase or monster hunt isn’t happening on screen, paranoia seeps into the scenes. Can you trust the middle school science teacher? Will’s parents? Even Eleven herself? This suspicion keeps you on your toes, even during a lull in the action.

All in all, “Stranger Things” is an exceptional show. The ’80s aesthetic, the talented band of child actors, and the science fiction monster make it one of the best Netflix originals to come out in a while. I highly recommend the series and I cannot wait for season two.