Chapter One: The Vanishing Of Will Byers
Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street
Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly
Chapter Four: The Body
Chapter Five: The Flea and The Acrobat
Chapter Six: The Monster
Chapter Seven: The Bathtub
Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
The first season of Stranger Things is quite simply brilliant; its unique blend of intricate character development and smart writing make it one of the stand out shows from 2016. The show manages to balance several groups of main characters and flesh them out with enough detail to make them realistic and more importantly, help us care about them through the 8 episodes.
When young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing under mysterious circumstances, strange occurrences begin happening around the town whilst the ongoing investigation into Will’s disappearance takes place. There’s obvious inspiration taken from X-Files, the Goonies, Stephen King and the charm of Steven Spielberg which is evident throughout, blended together and delivered in such a way that makes Stranger Things stand alone as a solid show on its own merit.
With only 8 episodes, there’s a definite sense of urgency throughout; a desire to move the plot along and focus on the character dynamics at play. There’s some really good work in this department with some excellent acting and performances all round. The four child actors, not including Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), are incredibly well written with a realistic dynamic between them – you really feel like these kids are best friends. Its helped too by a script thats well written, with realistic dialogue and featuring some good pacing throughout. The little quips, the dramatic spikes in tension and the ensuing stresses that build up between the boys makes for an engrossing watch.
One of the best parts of Stranger Things is its faithful reconstruction of the 80s. Its subtlety helps with the immersion and whether it be showing a background character banging the TV for a better reception, the kids playing dungeons and dragons in the basement or the 1980s soundtrack infused throughout, Stranger Things does a great job of depicting a realistic world. Its helped too by the horror and suspense elements that are shown for just enough time to shock, bringing a sense of dread and horror to the scenes. The age old saying of “show, don’t tell” is put to good use here, with the mystery kept well hidden and the monster that stalks the characters not shown until the last episode.
Its hard to find faults with the first season of Stranger Things. The combination of well written characters, focused writing and distinct 80s nostalgia make it a great watch from start to finish. The CGI effects used to bring the monster to life is perhaps a little disappointing – with such an emphasis on the 80s throughout, it would have been a nice tribute to have this done with practical effects but its a minor point and one that doesn’t really detract too much from the show. Stranger Things is one of the best shows from 2016 and its clever combination of 80s nostalgia and sharp storytelling put it above many shows out at the moment. Its hard not to recommend Stranger Things and with a second season penned for release later this year, its worth checking out.
Verdict - 9/10