Stranger Things has taken over the Internet since it appeared on Netflix on July 15th. Receiving mostly positive reviews, it has already become the most talked about Netflix original TV show to date, beating the likes of Daredevil and OITNB. So what makes the Sci-Fi thriller so great? Here’s 5 reasons.
1. Children Lead Narrative
Unusually, the majority of the show follows three 13 year old kids, Mike, Dustin & Lucas, and their newly acquired super-human friend Eleven (“El”), as they investigate the disappearance of best friend Will Byers. Having a show that makes me watch children figuring out the crime would usually have me switching off before the second episode begins. Children are often whiny, naive and annoying in TV shows however, the Duffer Brothers have created truly interesting people in these lead characters. They are intelligent and inquisitive, funny with a cheeky twinkle in their eye, innocent but never fearful of what they’re faced with, and even if they are they absolutely never back down. Their friendships are tested more often than not but loyalty and love always brings them together again. There is so much more to them than being children.
2. Strong Female Characters
The female characters in Stranger Things are so different, complex and multi-dimensional it feels refreshing. They are not the typical “strong female” that comes with Wonder Woman for instance, but encompass what being a female is actually like, you know, for actual women in the world.
Barbara (“Barb”) Holland
She meets a horribly grisly end unfortunately, but she quickly became a favourite amongst viewers because she was very relatable. She was smart and the realistic, voice of reason when Nancy was being reckless. She was also unapologetic for who she was as a person, especially when Tommy and Carol were making fun of her. You get the sense that if she was a teenager in 2016 she would be happy spending most of her time making friends on the Internet, which is maybe why everyone loves her.
Nancy is equally strong in the face of Steve when he’s being a jerk, realising Barb is missing (and eventually dead) and the monster that’s haunting her. She is ‘feminine’ in most ways (her clothing, hairstyle, composure, relationship) and this doesn’t change by the end of the series in order to become a “stronger” female. Her strength and fighting spirit comes from her emotions and grief of losing a best friend, of a relationship that’s failing and makes her feel vulnerable and stupid and a growing friendship with Jonathan that makes her feel confused but happy (additionally, it’s great to see a female and male relationship that’s close and intimate without becoming a romance). These emotions enable her to fight in Barb’s memory and for her family and friends, instead of being her weakness.
The most powerful character in the entire series, even defeating the monster in the end, Eleven fights for her independence as soon as she starts to realise that she deserves it in the US Department of Energy. She struggles with understanding basic human, social interaction and doesn’t understand a lot of things when she escapes into the real world; this could have meant making the character naive but instead she’s a fast learner of what friendship and loyalty means, and that’s all she needs to know to be strong. She’s a very likeable girl despite some terrifying evil glares at her enemies and I can’t imagine a second season without her in it.
She is a highly emotional women throughout the series, but this doesn’t get annoying or unbelievable in any way. She’s a single, working-class mother of two teenagers who seems to become unstable (to the people around her) when she believes her dead son is still alive. She is strongly independent and fights passed the men in her life who tell her she’s going mad and don’t believe what she says she has seen. She’s not perfect; she initially neglects her remaining son Jonathan in her grief over Will, she is reckless with the little money she has to her name and sometimes makes dangerous decisions to try and make contact with Will but that’s what makes her a well rounded character.
3. 80’s Soundtrack
Possibly my favourite thing about this show is the nostalgia of 80’s music that accompanies the scenes. It has an other-worldly sense to it that 80’s synths have. It’s funky like Toto’s Africa and chillingly dark like Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, uplifting like Bowie’s Heroes and obviously there’s the recurring rocky sound of The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, it has something that everyone loves and recognises.
4. Attention to detail
Much like the music, the 80’s props are brilliant. Dungeons and Dragons plays a huge role in the series and kids in the 80’s will love seeing the old board game and figurines that came with the game. I also loved the tinier attention to details, the Coca Cola TV advert and old cans of drink, the children’s bike and the costume being one of the biggest hints to that decade; Dustin’s sports cap, Barb’s blue puffy coat, Eleven’s embroidered pink dress. And of course the pop culture references, the more obvious being E.T, The Goonies and Alien but my personal favourite being Dustin borrowing an X-Men comic from Will at the end of episode 1 (which is actually a very specific comic involving Jean Grey, a telekinetic mutant, who is kidnapped by a man working for a secret organisation, who taps into her powers to find her potential and create a weapon out of her. Sound familiar?).
The most unexpected was Will. When we all thought he was safe and sound, he starts throwing up slugs in the bathroom sink but puts on a brave face when he returns to his family Christmas dinner. What this means for Will and his family in the future no one knows; will he have to return to the Upside Down world (which is still left open, presumably), will the Monster come looking for him?
Dustin, Mike and Lucas are better friends now than ever before, especially with the return of their best friend Will. But they’d become such great friends with Eleven I’m sure they’re missing her greatly. We see Mike, who had become the closest to El, looking longingly at the makeshift den Eleven slept in in his basement, where he’d placed a walki-talkie in the hope that she will communicate with him. Will they remain separated forever?
Nancy and Steve’s relationship was rocky from the beginning and seemed to get stronger by the end. Once Steve had left his bully friends and realised how much he cared about Nancy, he ultimately became a good person, even brave when fighting the Monster with her and Jonathan. But will this last? In a sweet scene in the final episode, Steve brought Jonathan a new camera to replace the one he broke. I’ve not completely warmed up to him and I’m not sure he will stay as this good person for much longer.
Chief Jim Hopper is a fantastic character who became more likeable the more his backstory was revealed to us. The flashback scenes of his daughter dying of cancer were heartbreaking. He ends the series still alone but having spent a considerable amount of time with Joyce helping her save her son, hopefully he’s now got a friend in her. In a strange twist, we last see him going into the woods with a packed lunch and leaving it in a box with some waffles (the same waffles Eleven loved to eat), so does he know something the audience doesn’t? Is he looking after Eleven who’s actually alive?
This is a show with twists and turns without it being confusing, with characters who shine throughout and monsters and other worlds we still don’t know anything about and needs exploring in much more depth. I want to see Nancy and Joyce being more badass, Jim have some happiness in his life, Jonathan grow to his full potential, Will’s story (which feels as though it’s only just begun) continue and Mike, Dustin and Lucas going on adventures discovering and investigating the supernatural.
Netflix hasn’t officially announced a second season but I doubt they would pass up the opportunity when everyone is still raving about the show a month after it first aired.