Stranger Things Season 1 Review
Find my Non-Spoiler Episode Reviews HERE
Can Netflix deliver a nostalgic 80s TV series that still feels new and exciting? Or does Stranger Things feel like a rip-off of better quality TV and film? Does Winona Ryder giving a great performance like most of her fellow Netflix TV Show leads? Here’s my review of ‘Stranger Things’ Season 1
- While the acting was mixed throughout, I feel David Harbour gave the best performance. Balanced, realistic and with great comedic timing, it was nice to see someone not playing the role like they were in a melodrama.
- Millie Brown had probably the most to do of all the child actors, and though her role was clichéd, she was able to capture a consistent sense of being aware of the dangers lurking within the community.
- Again, Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton did what they could with largely stereotypical teenager roles, but were brilliant in the more horror-esque sequences, working largely in the role of the viewer to provide reaction and question to the science fiction sort of events occurring before them.
- When the show focussed on the tensions between the core family members, whether that be between Will and Joyce or the Wheelers, the show had a certain authenticity about it that was more intriguing than the conflict between the children and teenagers. It didn’t feel so scripted, rather a realistic portrayal of the relationship between parents and child.
- I liked that Chief Jim Hopper was slowly developed over the course of the show in a way that allowed the audience to see change in him at the same time as the other characters did. The mirroring of his daughters story with that of the current plot was also beautifully written to achieve this.
- The episodes where Joyce and Jim worked together were thoroughly more enjoyable and interesting than when they were separate. Both characters worked better when they had someone to interact with and draw emotional connections to.
- The visual effects and realisation of Eleven’s powers felt fitting within the world, balancing a level of realism and horror with more light-hearted moments to capture the youth of the 80s.
- Similar to Jim and Joyce, when Nancy and Jonathan began working together rather than against each other, and found themselves out of their typical roles, they begun to be better developed. Their individual reasons for finding Barb and Will were also emotionally reflective of each other and the connection they shared resonated with the audience.
- The writers did a good job of making the mythology seem a lot larger than it really was, creating intrigue and suspense throughout the series not just in individual moments. That was a massive factor in making the viewer return for more.
- The sense of danger towards the entire community was also well realised, through both the viciousness of the monster and the way the public came together to look for Will. It very much felt like a communal effort.
- The brotherhood between the four young boys was also very well written and never felt forced. Therefore, the conflict that eventually arose between the characters and their individual assessments of how to find Will felt more organic.
- The set designers perfectly captured the 80s style and atmosphere, complimented by the beautiful score.
- When the show decided to sway more towards the science fiction plot elements as well as the horror style of direction and editing, the show grew out of the overused set up it often found itself in and provided some thrilling sequences.
- A lot of ‘Stranger Things’ felt ripped off from other films and TV shows. While I understand the idea of an homage or reference, these shouldn’t be fundamental to a film’s plot or character, but rather add ons that help the audience find a connection with the new material.
- Eleven is an example of such an homage gone wrong. Instead of simply being a reference to Steven Spielberg’s E.T (a film that ‘Stranger Things’ is clearly inspired by), the character follows nearly the exact same path as the extra terrestrial to the point where you feel you have seen her story before. Everything from her powers, to the way she interacted with others was near identical to E.T.
- The stories that dealt with either the children and their interaction with the bullies or Nancy and Jonathan’s love triangle were incredibly clichéd and ultimately boring as the development was uninspired and served more as filler. If you have seen a teenage highschool love triangle, you have seen this one.
- The characters made a number of really dumb decisions throughout the series, choosing stupid logic in the face of danger. All this was, was the writers attempting to increase the suspense and put the heroes in harm’s way. However, what was even more annoying was that there were little consequences to these actions.
- Similarly, characters often just suddenly knew things. A means to progress the plot with little foundation or evidence.
- A number of episodes probably could have been cut or condensed as they offered little new narrative or exposition, rather often resorting to again clichéd material.
- Joyce Byers was super one-note, a whining, messed up character who the audience knows is right about the unbelievable things she is saying, while the other characters dont’ believe her. This is a trope we have seen again and again in TV and film. What made this worse however, was Winona Ryder’s screeching performance that lacked any range or emotional connection with the audience. She just became plain annoying.
- The typical set up of a boy without a father fell flat. Joyce Byer’s ex-husband was not necessary and the ‘family drama’ he created felt forced and again unoriginal. Another concept we have seen before, and poorly executed here.
- Martin Brenner was also not necessary mostly because the relationship between him and Eleven was not well enough defined. The show could have benefited from more flashbacks, including some before Eleven was put into confinement. This would have developed their relationship and made Brenner’s role greater. Other than that he was your typical disillusioned scientist.
- A lack of answers or tie ups at the end of the season was incredibly frustrating. As I said in my episode review, I understand the need for a cliffhanger, but when you get zero answers about a character (Eleven) that was teased throughout the show’s run, as well as nothing about the main enemy (the monster), it does feel like a major let down.
- The reveal that Nancy had gone back to Steve was also very out of the blue considering what she and Jonathan had just gone through and the connection between the two that the writers made us believe in.
- The show tried to discuss elements of teenage paranoia and a resistance to growing up, but ultimately with few arcs properly resolved, ‘Stranger Things’ didn’t provide a conclusion or defining statement for any of these ideas.
- Ultimately the mythology was never properly explained, so the constant exposition about it throughout the series felt like a waste of time and diluted the tension.
- The series became incredibly repetitive in its exposition, slowing the pace down considerably and again acting as filler.