I’m going to say it… I’ll say the big one… the one that sounds so bold that I feel I almost have to confirm I wasn’t paid to do this. Stranger Things is probably the best Netflix original show I’ve seen.
It didn’t have the sharp sense of darkness in the conquest of power that House of Cards holds. It’s not a deeply damaged family hiding in perfection such as Bloodline. It’s not an in depth drama hiding in the cloaks of a stupid comedy such as the genius of Bojack Horseman. It’s not the use of the every girl Piper Chapman to show the real girls of Orange is the New Black. It’s not the darkness and gritty action of the perfection that is Daredevil. It’s just a perfect blend of sci-fi, action, and story, a masterful piece of pure entertainment, a rarity in modern times.
Going into this, I’m going to just say I’ve liked every Netflix original series that I’ve seen besides the failure of Hemlock Grove. The three season teen fantasy series which was essentially Twilight with nipples and a less attractive cast that managed to have pretty poor reviews from audiences in all episodes: this is Netflix apologizing for that show. It’s basically taking the same vibe of a fantasy/sci-fi/horror set in a small town and holding a teen vibe to it with, but doing it vastly better. Where Hemlock Grove relied on unneeded nudity and vulgar content, Stranger Things succeeds at being a show for everyone. Where Hemlock Grove had these unrealistic and unlikable teen characters and an extremely bizarre reaction to a local disappearing, Stranger Things had more fleshed out characters who handled things naturally. And the list can go on and on to where the shows are similar, but just Stranger Things actually doing it well, really well.
Diving into what made this show great, let’s just get what it knocked out of the park.
Easily the best score and soundtrack of any show I’ve ever seen; it possessed the perfect 80’s sci-fi tone and was utilized well enough to mesh fear, excitement, wonder and curiosity. It captures every scene and every character so perfectly that it’s just amazing. If the score doesn’t win some awards in the near future, the critics just aren’t smart enough to enjoy.
The Eighties Vibe
From the names of the characters to the costumes to the cars to the basic vocabulary, the show succeeded in making a cast and writing style that perfectly embodied the 80’s; combine that with science fiction and it’s just perfect.
This show had me so strangely invested in it that I was sort of amazed how into it I got. I found myself going episode by episode shocked at some of the choices they took story-wise and honestly questioning what’s going to happen next on away no show really has done for me recently. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that a bigger and more complex mythology is unfurling before our eyes, but this is only a dressing to a simple tale.
One charm of the show is how it does have sort of three groups in the series that are each very different story lines affected by what’s happening differently and coming to the same conclusion in different channels; also how each of the three groups represents a different age demographic also helps due to them all having their own personal dramas that come with it.
Picking which of the three groups was the best is kind of tough. The main group led by the kids is very strong and enjoyable to watch. The issue being that they consume about half the story where the other two groups get perhaps 25% of the screen time each. That holds the problem where those other two groups might have actually been the better characters and more fun story to watch. Watching this, I did sort of want more screen time with the teenagers and felt a few more minutes with them each episode could have been good. It’s a real nitpick, but the complaint on the main group was just a bit too much time with them. They are great, but the other groups are just so good that they might have outperformed the primary characters.
Where most Netflix series get a solid thirteen episodes a season, this show was given a start running only eight. Maybe that worked for the show’s benefit, but in the age of binge watching, it does get depressing to hit episode six and realize it’s almost over.
If season two has them believing they can do thirteen episodes and maintaining the quality, I’d beg them do it. If they are afraid they’d fall into making unneeded plots or characters that are pointless, I’d beg them not to do it. It’s their choice, but if they feel there’s a route to get more episodes with the same quality, I hope it happens.
The entire season feels like one very long Twilight Zone episode in the sense of great acting and sound work. You also get that ET/Goonies/Amblin type vibe for children, while also possessing the adult drama edge, the clear feeling of Stephen King, due to Winona Ryder and David Harbour’s characters. It also had teen elements of it done very realistically and well while dressing them perfectly for the 1980’s.
Examining all of the things it embodies, it shows the greatest achievement Stranger Things achieved. It is a show really for everybody. Someone could watch this with an eight year old or an eighty year old and have them equally amused and holding it just as interesting to both groups. Combine that with the excellent camera work and it’s just something which is amazing to watch.
Overall, I’m writing this not even aware yet if Netflix granted this show a second season. I’d beg them to grant it a second season, and as many seasons needed for this show to flesh out and tell the perfect story. It was a surprise hit, that of which I walked into not expecting much if anything. Instead, I came out of the gate with a new favorite sci-fi show and new winner for Netflix.