I came back from my vacation in London on Saturday, slept, ate, slept again, and then on Sunday I binge watched Stranger Things. We didn’t have WiFi in our AirBNB in London, so watching something, anything at all, was going to be good, but Stranger Things was great. Now Stranger Things has a solid place in my list of “Amazing Netflix Shows” along with Master of None, Gilmore Girls, and BoJack Horseman.
There are many reasons I loved the show and one of the most important ones (to me) is that it’s not like other Netflix shows. It’s planned, executed, and presented really well.
First of all, it doesn’t have terrible pacing problems (looking at you, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, OITNB post season 2, Love, Flaked, etc.). The aforementioned shows seem like they take an idea, and then try to explore that idea in 25/45-minute episodes. Sometimes that makes for exciting episodes, and sometimes that makes for episodes that meander for a while and then throw in a plot twist to make you move on to the next episode. The pacing, therefore, is all over the place.
Stranger Things is very much the opposite of that. It feels like the creators of the show (Matt and Ross Duffer) had a fully formed structure for the show well before the screenplay was developed. Each episode is a self-contained chapter with a clear beginning, middle, and end—a fully developed and well-written story. The same applies to the show/season as a whole. The dialog is slow when it needs to be, fast when it needs to be, and always serves a purpose.
This brings me to the next thing I loved about the show—every scene has a purpose. In most Netflix shows I can always find at least 2–3 scenes per episode that I feel could have been completely removed without any detriment to the story, but not in Stranger Things. The show handles exposition really well. They create intricate interpersonal relationships between characters, reveal just the right amount of information about heroes and antiheroes at a time, and makes sure all of this contributes to the overall interest in the story. There are plenty of story elements that create dramatic irony, and knowing something the characters in the show don’t helps create just the right amount of anxiety for the audience. And where other shows abuse this and keep it going for too long, this show manages to reveal/release the tension right when you can’t bear it anymore and right before it would start to get annoying. It’s really good writing.
And finally, the world created in Stranger Things is just amazing. The characters, the setting, the actors, the costumes—it all contributes to creating a believable (as far as a sci-fi/horror show can be believable) and engaging world.
It’s difficult to talk about the “world” in Stranger Things without using JJ Abrams’s Super 8 as a benchmark because this show takes everything from the movie and executes/uses it better. The kid actors are better, the relationships between them are more developed (having this be a show instead of a movie certainly helps), the way their unique methods of saving a friend are compared to the adults’ is shown in more depth, and the way they can stand up to the challenge as well as (if not better than) their own parents is shown clearly. The 80’s nostalgia isn’t just a visual element of the movie, it’s a core element of the setting and plot used to create comedic scenes that relieve the tension. And the way these kids act. That toothless dude is the cutest character since Alfalfa.
I could go on and on about how great this show is, but I couldn’t do it without spoilers. I just strongly suggest that you sign up for Netflix and watch the show because it is definitely worth your time and your money.
*Stranger Things*: 9/10