Now that the kids are back in school, I’ve been making nearly daily trips to my bulk store to stock up on bon-bons and catching up on books and television.
Late in the summer, Stranger Things got a LOT of hype online and elsewhere, so much so that I was afraid when I watched it I would be really disappointed. To the contrary, I loved everything about it, mainly because I loved everything that inspired the show.
If it were a mathematical formula:
(Stand By Me)(E.T.) /Goonies + (X-Files)(Freaks and Geeks)/IT = Stranger Things
In a nutshell: Some social outcasts band together against an all-powerful government agency to rescue a friend and destroy an alternate dimension.
Someone was literally reading Cujo at one point, a nod to the horror of Stephen King’s early work, but the good-versus-evil/kids-against-adults themes are also present in his stories, from The Body (on which Stand By Me was based) and IT to The Stand. The kids all rode bikes around, an homage to Elliott and his friends in ET. The kids look like real kids, kids I would see in my neighborhood, like those cast in Freaks and Geeks. There is an epic quest to conquer a monster, like IT.
Whoever did set design and wardrobe should get an award. The show was set in the 1980s and I swear I saw my old living room furniture from my childhood home. The hat that Dustin is wearing above was the same hat my dad wore from 1984 to 1988 (it came from McDonalds and had the Olympic logo on it, from when the Games were in LA) until he wore a softball cap. (My parents would have noticed IMMEDIATELY if we were pilfering waffles to feed a homeless kid in the basement, though.)
The character development was exceptional. Jim Hopper’s eventual transition from loser cop to paranoid hero–Fox Mulder would have taken him out for drinks at the very least–was a satisfying slow-moving avalanche. Eleven blossomed from a shell-shocked experiment subject into a fierce and dedicated friend. Nancy shed her self-involved world after unsung hero Barb’s death to align with Will’s older brother Jonathan and make a significant contribution to the discovery of the Demogorgon. The show even side-stepped cliched relationships that could have sprung up as a result of all the drama: Nancy doesn’t hook up with Jonathan; Hopper and Joyce remain friends and nothing more. All the kids were phenomenal, but I’m partial to Dustin (it’s the hat) and Eleven (it’s the Eggos). My only quibble with the actors is Winona Ryder, who had the same expression on her face in every episode, all episode long.
I don’t know what Season Two is going to bring; I thought the show ended on a satisfactory note and I’m worried about too much of a good thing.