Even if you are busy catching up with some of the best TV shows, leave everything and watch this Netflix’s best original yet. It’s fun, riveting and unpredictable.
The reason I decided to name my collection of TV reviews as Odyssey is because I am very new to the plethora of world TV. Someone who is still catching up with shows like FRIENDS and Breaking Bad. But there is this one show which made me stop all of it and complete its first season within a week. And midway between the viewing, I am already writing a piece for it. Yes. I loved it SO much.
Stranger Things created by the (wrongly named) Duffer Brothers Matt and Ross, is set in a small town Hawkins in the 1980s. Local lad Will Rynes goes missing and the typically normal, crimeless town of Hawkins turns into chaos. The series then follows the journey of his mother Joyce, the local sheriff Hopper, his three best friends – Dustin, Michael (Mike) and Lucas along with their mysterious new friend Eleven, among many others, in their quest for Will. The story swiftly keeps on shifting between horror, sci-fi, drama, romance, mystery and comedy, making sure you are never bored in its entire runtime. Apart from the stellar writing by the Duffer brothers along with 5 others, it is the exceptional performances that keeps us invested. Unsurprisingly the child actors take the cake and the cherry. Millie Bobby Brown playing Eleven will make you seriously doubt her age (she is 12. Really). Gaten Matarazzo playing Dustin is clearly having the best time. I also liked the intensity with which Winona Ryder plays Joyce. She convinces us that a mother would believe in all kinds of “strange things” to bring her son back.
Brilliant writing, brilliant acting, unique concept and compulsive viewing. You hear of all this for so many shows. So why should you really watch Stranger Things above anything else? It is because the makers pack all of it so beautifully that it’s hard not to be interested in it. I haven’t come across any show that ticks of so many genre boxes, and that too so beautifully. The basic storyline is simple enough to non-regulars and teenagers. And though it deals with some sci-fi elements, the show thankfully doesn’t give a lot of technical information.It keeps its unpredictably as high as Game Of Thrones, and like that show, it gives each character equal importance. Even for someone like Will who goes missing just minutes after the story starts.
It is said to pay homage to many films and filmmakers of the 80s. I have little knowledge about it, but I did manage to catch some references. A Jaws poster in Will’s room, the Lord Of the Rings (novel) parallels and plot point that immediately reminded me of Koi Mil Gaya (which is said to be borrowed from Spielberg’s 1982 movie E.T). So anyone who is well versed about these films will certainly enjoy and appreciate Stranger Things more.
The thing that works for Stranger Things, I think, is its limited number of episodes. With just eight of them, the makers aren’t forced to add a lot of sub plots to the main one. The ones that do exist (like Nancy’s love story) aren’t the best part of the show and more of it would have been an unnecessary drag. The structuring is on point, with numerous flashbacks making us care more for the character who is presently in deep trouble. For once, I am happy to see CCTVs, mobiles, spy cameras and laptops not playing a major role in a story. And it is the same reason why you would appreciate the brilliant art direction. I am still awed on how does Netflix manage to bring such high production values that even beats some of the cable networks.
There are hardly any complaints that the show would leave you with. Yes, some plot points come under “too-convenient-to-be-true”. And the season finale would leave you with too many questions, for which you have no option but to wait for the next season. But these nitpicks wouldn’t come into the way of purely enjoying the viewing.
All in all, Stranger Things marries complex concepts with simple storytelling and a great structure. It will scare you, humor you and will also give you some whistle-worthy moments. What else could you ask for? Go, meet Dustin and gang now!