***The following discussion is spoiler-free****
You may feel overwhelmed in recent months by the influx of original Netlifx content, such as the latest seasons of ‘House of Cards’, ‘Orange Is The New Black’ and ‘Bojack Horseman’, but don’t despair.
Frankly, these can wait, because there’s a newcomer that demands your attention right now: it’s called‘Stranger Things’.
Essentially, it’s a nostalgic injection of Spielbergian movie adventures from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Anyone who grew up watching the likes of ‘E.T.’ or ‘Stand By Me’ or even ‘The Iron Giant’ will instantly pick up on that sweet, intoxicating vibe of our youths, but then a younger generation can still relate if you’re familiar with films like ‘Super 8′.
A small town slice of Americana complete with a disgruntled but well-intentioned sheriff sets up ‘Stranger Things’nicely, as it kicks off with a mysterious alien-like abduction of schoolboy Will from him home. With his disappearance baffling everyone, including his three friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, here we began a journey into these unexplained events that become the focal point of the town.
Satisfyingly, the show unravels at a steady pace while retaining a sense of innocence and huge likeability - despite its inclusion of moments of horror, huge tension, and a few jump scares, it possesses a pleasant and oddly calming demeanour with the late 20th Century era it’s attempting to tap into.
Stories that focus on young people seriously rely on a talented young cast, in fact it’s essential for success or failure. While Winona Ryder plays neurotic, paranoid mother to estranged Will, its the brilliant relationship between the three boys and a shaven-headed girl they nickname ‘El’ due to her 011 tattoo on her arm, whose past we learn of as the drama unfolds. It’s Mike and ‘El’ that drive the tenderness of the story forward, with flawed characteristics and believable emotions at play; it certainly does its job of convincing us that these kids are real, living in a real town, struggling with real (as well as paranormal) issues.
And at only eight episodes in total, a binge shouldn’t be too strenuous to see out this retro-centric sci-fier that’s genuinely well made and a joy to watch.
Regardless of it losing steam in small bursts it maintains a solid focus - its expansive, intriguing story and the personas that inhabit this world are engaging on a different level we’ve seen with other Netflix originals. This isn’t a slow-burning political drama or an adult depiction of life in a woman’s prison; ‘Stranger Things’ is something tonally refreshing to a lot of content on the streaming service, especially where its original stuff is concerned.
With a thrilling, scary, and generally engrossing series, ‘Stranger Things’ does enough to entice you back for more - not least because its intro sequence and title sound is frankly superb - because we’re encouraged to care about what the vulnerable characters are going through and where it could lead in a second season…
Have you seen season one of ‘Stranger Things’ yet? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments…
Mike P Williams is a freelance TV, film and entertainment writer, with an obsession for all things Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park and Pixar. Over the years he’s written for the likes of MTV, Total Film, BuzzFeed, and Yahoo Movies UK.