A couple of months ago, you had probably never heard of Stranger Things. But over the last few weeks, the Netflix Original series has erupted, and everyone from Nerdist to Forbes are talking about it. And this time, I can say the hype is not unwarranted.
Stranger Things merges cult classics like Alien, The X-Files, The Goonies and E.T to bring a truly fantastic sci-fi drama series to our screens for the first time in what feels like forever. The story is set in the 80s, in a small town and centres around the mysterious disappearance of a young boy called Will. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary disappearance, and that some pretty strange things (see what I did there?) are afoot. Naturally, Will’s Dungeons and Dragons-playing friends aren’t just going to sit back and let this mystery unravel itself. And neither are his older brother, or his mother, played by Winona Ryder.
Here are the reasons you need to start watching Stranger Things.
1. It has something for all ages
At first glance, you might see the four children, bicycles and baby teeth, and decide that this is a kids’ show. But you’d be wrong. Screentime is shared between the three main age ranges in the show, and at no point did I ever feel like this was made for an audience that wasn’t me. We have the kids, Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas, who, whatever your age, have arguably some of the best moments and are often wise beyond their years. Then we have the teenagers: Mike’s sister, Nancy, the boy she likes, Steve, her “geeky” friend, Barbara, and Jonathan, Will’s older brother, a quiet loner-type and photographer. Representing the adults, we have Will’s mother, Joyce, who is equally as determined as Will’s friends to find her son, and the alcoholic police chief, Jim.
With all of these characters, you’re bound to find one that you relate to. Whether it’s the misunderstood outsider, Jonathan, the D&D-playing kids that get pushed around in the playground, or Joyce, the “crazy” mother who actually isn’t crazy at all.
2. The soundtrack
The show’s soundtrack features a brilliant mix of familiar 80s hits (‘Should I stay or should I go?’ becomes a key song), and an incredible, eerie and nostalgic original score. Just check out the theme above if you don’t believe me.
3. It proves that Dungeons and Dragons gives you legitimate life skills
If you play Dungeons and Dragons, then you’ve probably known for a while that it’s painfully underrated as a tool for personal development and character building – it can make you a master of problem-solving, negotiation and teamwork, to name only a couple of its benefits. Spurred on by their knowledge and successes in Dungeons and Dragons, Will’s three friends reckon they have what it takes to find Will, and to save him from whatever or whoever it is that has taken him. Plus, how can you not love a series that opens with four kids having the time of their lives playing Dungeons and Dragons in the basement?
After Will’s disappearance, a mysterious character, a young girl called “Eleven” shows up. With close-cropped hair, an intense stare, and the number 011 stamped on her arm, this is obviously no coincidence. Eleven is a wonderful, strong and intriguing character, played by the talented twelve-year-old Millie Bobby Brown
5. Outstanding performances
Following on from the previous point, all the actors put on a stellar performance. Sometimes child actors can seem a little clunky or hard to believe, but that’s not the case here. Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin, who play Will’s friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas, respectively, are also pivotal in injecting refreshing moments of humour between creepy scenes and mystery-solving.
6. The 80s aesthetic
Admit it, everyone loves the 80s aesthetic. Stranger Things has all the 80s you need: great costumes, painful haircuts, and a retro soundtrack. Oh, and walkie talkies.
7. Winona Ryder and her character are fantastic
Hands up if you’re sick of the old “crazy lady” and “grief-stricken mother” stereotypes? Well, what about when the “crazy”, grief-stricken single-mother isn’t crazy? The rest of the world can label Will’s mother, Joyce, as “hysterical” all they want, but maybe she’s actually onto something with those fairy lights. Also, this is Winona Ryder we’re talking about here, and she is back, and as brilliant as ever.
8. The pop culture references
The references are endless. We’ve got references to Star Wars, Alien, E.T., Stephen King’s It, Carrie, The Goonies, and many, many more.
9. The mystery and suspense
Stranger Things is one of those shows that you might just have to marathon, because you’ll be so eager to find out just what happens next. Each episode brings you closer to solving the mystery of exactly what happened to Will, but never gives you the full story. The mystery is masterfully woven into the storyline, making it very hard to piece together the broken clues until the very end.
10. The hype’s going to be sticking around
Remember when you heard about this cool new show called Game of Thrones and you shrugged and said “it’s probably not even that great”? Then a few years later the whole world was talking about it, and you had three seasons to catch up on and realised you were late to the party? Don’t let that happen again. Stranger Things is almost definitely getting a second season, and if it’s anything like the first, then this show is bound to get even bigger.