Netflix is the new showground for original content with series like House of Cards and Marvel’s Daredevil. Now with Stranger Things, they have stepped into my favorite genre, science fiction, in a big way.
I binge watched this show and here is why.
Set in Hawkins Indiana in the ’80s, Stranger Things instantly hooked me with the first episode: The Vanishing of Will Byers. As the name of the episode suggests, Will Byers, a 12-year-old boy mysteriously vanishes while riding his bicycle home from playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends: Mike, Dustin and Lucas. Even at this early stage, the homage to ’80s Spielberg films was clear. The nostalgia of watching E.T. and Close Encounter of the Third Kind came rushing back. Not to mention, just prior to its July 15th release, I devoured “Ready Player One“, a book that thrived on ’80s pop culture references.
At this point, I was hooked, but I wasn’t ready to put down the remote. Great binge watching material needs to have more than nostalgic factors. What ultimately made me toss away the remote was the mystery and government conspiracy that was woven into the eight episode series – X-Files style. The creators, the Duffer Brothers hinted early on that a sinister creature (the Demogorgon) was lurking in the shadows and was responsible for Will’s disappearance. In Jaws-like fashion, the Demogorgon was seldom seen, and it was the primeval fear of the unknown that kept me on the edge of my seat.
By the end of the first episode, Will’s trio of friends was joined by “Eleven”, a peculiar girl with psychic abilities. Relentlessly pursued by a rogue government organisation, Eleven’s origin was yet another mystery waiting to be untangled. By episode four, I had already formulated a dozen theories linking Will’s disappearance with Eleven’s origin. The ending turned out to be an amalgamation of those theories, but that is the sign of expert story telling. It kept me guessing.
The cast of Stranger Things did an outstanding job for the most part. For me, Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal of Eleven, a powerful yet emotionally vulnerable psychic, was by far the most compelling. Her friendship with Mike was well fleshed out, and provided justification for her decision in the finale (no spoilers here!). Winona Ryder was fitting as Will’s distraught mother, although her overacting took me out of the show on a few occasions. As a minor gripe, there is one character in the series I dreaded – Steve the Travolta wannabe. Joe Keery did a decent job as Steve, but his relationship with Nancy, Mike’s sister did little to bolster the story. For a series that did so many things right, this was something I could easily overlook.
Like all good things, before I realized, episode eight ended and alas the season was over. Although the finale had a satisfying conclusion, many questions were left unanswered (Interview with the Duffer Brothers).
Luckily for us, Season 2 has been green-lit by Netflix!
To wrap up, Netflix’s Stranger Things was an unexpected delight for a sci-fi fan like myself. It was a trip down memory lane, with elements from some of my favorite films. Coupled with compelling story lines and characters, the Duffer Brothers may have concocted the perfect recipe for a sci-fi show on Netflix.
Rating: Time to jump on the Netflix bandwagon and start binge watching!