A spoiler-free rundown of why Stranger Things has got to be your next binge watch.
We live in a golden age of TV, with a seemingly endless list of amazing shows available to gorge ourselves on at the push of a button.
But this leaves us with a conundrum, what should our next show be?
With so many incredible series on offer, committing to your next addiction is a big decision. Today we’re going to make it easy for you. After getting hooked on Netflix’s new smash hit, Stranger Things, our honest opinion is that it has to be your next TV love affair.
It’s More 80s Than the 80s
If you remember the 80s, then Stranger Things is going to hit you with so much nostalgia you’ll be growing a mullet by episode two.
If you don’t remember/weren’t alive in the 80s — present company included — this retro themed thriller is going to pack a spunky, corduroy covered punch. A punch that makes you feel as if you lived through the decade.
The 80s setting of Stranger Things is subtly worked into the story in a brilliant way.
The score has techno tones mimicking the style of music popularised in the 80s, the outfits worn by characters are so authentic they were probably bought at a garage sale in ‘89 and stored for safekeeping and the references to pop-culture classics like Jaws and the Clash are unavoidable.
They even use the term nuclear family, for crying out loud.
It’s never too much though, it just adds an extra layer to the story and makes it stand out from other period pieces and modern-day dramas.
I would even go as far as to say the 80s theme is the reason this show is so fantastic. The limitations of technology back in the 80s help drive the plot, while its relatively recent historical setting allows it to be relatable.
I think if this series was set further back in time, it would start to feel more fantastical and less real, but it isn’t.
It’s dirty, it’s gritty, it feels real. It’s the 80s.
The Child Actors Aren’t Terrible
Much of the Stranger Things plot line revolves around the story of four young kids, and that should be enough to worry anybody.
Kid actors can be seriously annoying, completely destroying the immersive experience which makes shows like this so addictive. They either do stupid shit that nobody ever would, or they say stupid shit nobody ever would. Whatever they do, they can bloody ruin a franchise.
Lookin’ at you, Hayden.
He’s a child in my eyes…
But, by some miracle, the lead child actors in Stranger Things aren’t terrible, they are actually really good. They are compelling, believable and not once does their behaviour draw you away from the story.
Its Unique Theme Makes It Disturbingly Gripping
Here’s a little spoiler you learn about pretty quickly. Stranger Things is bound together by monsters and sci-fi.
Inspired by the 80s setting that encapsulates it, Stranger Things takes elements from the popular monster/horror genre of the decade and intertwines it with more modern ideas of mystery and drama.
Despite its obvious
Stephen King & Alien 80s influences, it doesn’t feel outdated. It flows like a modern show should, but retains that nostalgia.
The result is a gripping, enigmatic story that toes the line between thriller and horror. It’s wonderfully disturbing in its execution, keeping the creeping threat just out of sight for much of the series. You constantly feel a presence of danger; it’s always in the back of your mind gnawing away as the story plays out – kind of like another 80s classic.
Okay, Jaws was from ’75, but its legacy and impact lived on well into the 80s.
I’m not familiar with 80s thrillers, so perhaps somebody could enlighten me in the comments, but for me this is a unique style — something I haven’t seen before. The Cold War era in which the film is set also adds enough layer to an already complex tone. In a time of conspiracy, espionage and government mistrust, the events that unfold during Stranger Things seem like exactly the sort of coverup stories that were prevalent in the decade.
The result of the show’s unique theme is a lot of pulse-pounding uncertainty, a hefty helping of tension and just a scattering of spine-tingling, terrifying scenes.
As with all the most addictive TV shows, the characters are the driving force behind Stranger Things.
My personal favourite is the rough, no-nonsense detective, Chief Hopper. A character who is initially portrayed as your run of the mill, half-arsing it cop but quickly displays an incredible depth of personality.
Winona Ryder also plays her part beautifully. To go into detail about her character would be a bit of a spoiler but let’s just say we get an intense emotional range out of her, which helps you feel a real sympathetic connection to the character.
The antagonist, played by Matthew Modine, is also an incredibly intimidating, mysterious figure. He continually casts a shadow over the unravelling events, making the twists feel even more dangerous than the characters understand.
As we’ve mentioned, the child actors are also top notch. Gaten Matarazzo’s character Dustin, in particular, is really worth mentioning.
One character I didn’t expect to enjoy was Nancy. Her role in the initial episodes seems a bit superfluous, but as the series progresses, her character growth and involvement in the show makes her one of the strongest members of the cast.
Just started the show? Don’t give up on her yet.
There is so much to love about each character that picking a personal favourite can be tough. Let us know who yours is.
It Makes You Think
Modern television watchers have evolved, I talked about this a bit in my South Park blog.
We don’t enjoy linear, narrow-minded plots anyone. We like big, complicated stories packed with twists and turns that constantly keep us on our toes and, more importantly, make us think.
The mysterious elements Stranger Things offers give us exactly that.
It’s not some cut and dry ‘who done it’ mystery thriller, it’s full of unusual elements, complex plot devices and cryptic narrative turns that leaves your mind working overtime, trying to figure out what you just saw and what will happen next.
That’s not to say Stranger Things is confusing, the story is told through a very clear structure, occasionally to its detriment — there are a couple of instances where whacky plot points are just given bluntly, without question, and you have to suspend belief immediately and accept them as fact.
You always know what is going on, but there is plenty of room to speculate. To have fun coming up with your own ideas and seeing if they’re right.
Insane TV and movie theories are incredibly popular these, simply because they are so much fun to think about and so satisfying if they pay off. Stranger Things is one of those shows where you are constantly crafting theories.
It gives you more entertainment than the standard switch on, switch off show.
Looking for more TV blogs? We’ve got some for you, with more whenever we find the time.
James is THG’s technophobic TV nut, movie addict and theorist crackpot. He’ll be bringing you features, insights and incoherent ramblings on all your favourite and least favourite shows and movies.