Stranger Things (Season 1 Review)

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

It has been one of the most hyped TV shows in recent memory, but does Stranger Things live up to the hype? Or is the show getting more praise than it deserves?

Stranger Things does not shy away from the fact that it is a Stephen King and Steven Spielberg ‘greatest hits’ mixtape of a show. Throw in The Goonies, Super 8, X-Files and E.T for good measure and you have a winning formula for a compelling series. But while you can identify certain traits and themes from other media, the way in which the Duffer Brothers have sewn these threads together to create such a magnificent show is outstanding.

The length of the season has a big part to play to ensure the show is as good as it can be. Eight episodes seemed the ideal number, ensuring that there wasn’t any padding or filler episodes to slow the storytelling down.
If this was a twenty episode series the quality may have took a dip in the middle. Instead we got the right amount of episodes to tell a great story that left you feeling extremely satisfied at the end. It also made the show much easier to binge watch! (We did it in one go).

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The sets, props and clothing were all stunning and you truly felt like you were watching a true piece of 80s history. The attention to detail in every aspect of the show’s design and aesthetic was phenomenal.

Another aspect that really helped to give extra life to the show was the music. This was an original score of pure 80s synth goodness. The music was just as important to the show as the writing was, it helped to add an extra layer on top.

But when you strip away the heavy nostalgia and let those giddy feelings subside, you are still left with some tremendous storytelling and filmmaking of the highest quality. So for the naysayers who think people only like it because of the pop cultural references, you are so wrong. Stranger Things is as close to a flawless show as you will get.

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The show has everything! Science fiction, horror, comedy, romance, drama and a plenty of heart and warmth. With so many elements making up the fabric of the show, there is such a mass appeal that the show has been able to find a much wider audience. As great as the Marvel and Netflix shows are, they are not able to reach out to a wider target audience like Stranger Things can.

You can have all the best props, sets and writing in the world, if you don’t get the casting right your show could suffer. This was not the case for Stranger Things.

The standouts in the adult cast were David Harbour and Winona Ryder. You feel like you have only just scratched the surface of Harbour’s character. There is so much story to be told there and his performance throughout the series was a joy to watch.
As for Ryder, she truly brought her A-game that is sometimes lacking in some of the projects she takes on. As a single mother going through such an ordeal you truly devoted your time and heart in to her character. She helped bring a level of gravitas to the show with such a mixed array of emotions and performances.

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In terms of the child cast you could not have got it better if you tried. The ensemble of Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) and Noah Schnapp (Will) had a great chemistry throughout the show. There was highs and lows, fallouts and brotherhood. The dynamism between them was truly absorbing viewing.

The stand out star of the child cast was of course Millie Bobby Brown as 11 or El. The complexity of her character was fascinating. On the surface she seemed new to everything, but behind that lack of familiarity of the world lurked power and knowledge that most of us could only dream about. The striking contrast between her fragility and tremendous strength was such a joy to watch. Millie also produced some of the greatest eye acting you will ever see on screen. No. Seriously. Go back and watch it. The emotions she was able to express without even opening her mouth was remarkable.

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So what about Season 2? While there has been no official confirmation from Netflix yet, you can fully expect that it will happen. The Duffer Brothers and cast have already been talking about their hopes and the themes that a second season will cover. And if it is anything close to being as good as Season 1 then Netflix might just have in their hands one of the greatest TV shows in recent times.

Stranger Things is a phenomenal combination of filmmaking and storytelling interspersed with nostalgia and a plethora of genres to create a simply outstanding piece of television. The horror and sci-fi is balanced with the heart and soul of childhood friendship and determination.  With an exceptional cast and aesthetic, Stranger Things does not only live up to the hype. It exceeds it.

Stranger Things is available on Netflix now.

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