“It’s Hawkins”, says Chief Jim Hopper to a distressed Joyce Byars in the first episode of Netflix’s enthralling sci-fi series, Stranger Things. In this moment, Joyce Byars is distraught and eager to find her 12-year-old son, Will, who along with his three best friends are awkward and fragile. The show takes place in a small Twin Peaks-esque Indiana town that is more likely to lure in decorated families rather than bald psychokinetic girls, or so we thought. This Netflix Original presents a simple plot that has been fairly overdone but makes it new and turns it into pure gold with the help of music, dialogue, direction, and production.
The “It” factor that the show procures is that it follows the footsteps of cult classics like E.T., Twin Peaks, Stand by Me, and the never ending list of ‘80s sci-fi films. However, the show doesn’t dwell on the past as much as they should which is a smart move for both the showrunners and Netflix because the Duffer Brothers may want to pay homage to these classics but they also have to become their own bold cult classic in order to find their place in the spectrum that is this “Golden Age of Television”. These influences find a way to benefit the show in this case by taking character traits from these classics and twisting it so that flowery “Susie college” daughter is actually more angry at who she is and believes her whole life is a lie. However, the most intriguing character of them all is Eleven and yes her name is Eleven, she is bald and controls things with her mind, you can think of her powers as what Superman was like when he was a baby because evidently she can’t fully control her powers which leads to her demise. But you can’t blame her, you see some people from broken homes she came from a broken womb and was swiftly taken away to be tested on to become a government lab rat in which she was convinced for a time that she was in fact being cared for rather than being bred into a machine. When she is introduced with the real world, she becomes quick friends with Mike Wheeler who presents to her the lifestyle she should’ve grown up with and she is quickly fascinated by this foreign life of suburbia which makes you cry with her in moments where she cannot be accepted into this society due to her peculiarities.
On the adult side, take Chief Jim Hopper and Joyce Byars, the most unreliable pair of adults and yet we as a viewer have faith in them to find this missing boy. Joyce is just a grieving mother who turns into the town kook only because of her gut feeling that she knows her son is alive and to watch her breakdown and cry for her boy to come back makes you sympathize with her and she is broken when we meet her but her only redemption is the love that came from her boy. Jim Hopper on the other hand is a more chaotic good, his breakdown in the show comes not from the investigation but his own loss of his daughter in which he uses that to find Will because it’s nothing like the father’s pain to watch another parent lose the one they love. These two are mentally screwed up which makes them and gives them the only reason force of nature to find Will Byars.
The entire production of this show goes far beyond basic television because when you watch this show you know they took their time when developing these episodes seeing as how the dialogue isn’t processed and the music seeps under your skin to create goosebumps all around. Somehow the Duffer Brothers were able to make a show about a bald psychokinetic girl and four brilliant but awkward cursing 12 year old boys, a hit. Not just a hit, a phenomenon because it’s not that the plot has been overdone by many other creators before them, it’s that they did it the right way. Literally everything about this show screams for a lasting cult following (in every good way that is) because not only are they featuring out of the box characters they’re giving them freakishly adoring character traits that makes adults have hope in our youth. This show carries over elements of friendship, acceptance, and bravery in four tweens and along with broken adults who are still coping with their own pain. However, it’s not just the obvious ‘80s homages and menacing music that makes a viewer hooked onto the show. This show is heavily 80s-inspired from the title font to the fact their best hope is an alien, the only thing missing was a Star Wars reference (up until they referenced it) but don’t let that overshadow the quality of the show. The writing and direction exceeded and even shattered my expectations along with the music and technical productions that came with the show.