4YE’s Better Late Than Never: Stranger Things

Credit: Netflix

I didn’t know much about Stranger Things going into the show this month post the end of school. I knew it was a sci-fi show set in the 80s in a small town that revolved around children and some crazy experiments. I’d seen the Funko pops that had been released and I knew that it had a bit of a following and had been nominated for awards but I didn’t know what it was and what it all entailed nor did I know how deeply entertaining, engrossing, and nuanced the show was.

For those who were like me and are not initiated in all things Stranger Things, the show focuses on Will Beyers (Noah Schnapp), his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder), and Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) as they and other Hawkins, Indiana natives, including police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) deal with the sudden disappearance of Will one night in October after a game of Dungeons and Dragons. While the adults and Joyce’s older son, Jonathon (Charlie Heaton), don’t believe her when she says Will is still around and trying to communicate with her. Will’s best friends, Mike, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and—by extension thanks to the infamous Barb (Shannon Purser)—Nancy (Natalia Dryer), Steve (Joe Keery), and eventually Jonathon, all join together to defeat the Upside Down and find Will. Along the way, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas find a psychokinetic child, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who helps in their quest.

The second season ups the stakes a notch and finds Will inhabited by a shadow monster and the ensuing season finds Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and newcomer Max (Sadie Sink) try to save Will’s life. They also strive to keep Eleven a secret and save Hawkins from the spreading darkness that is the Upside Down and a pack of “demodogs” on the hunt for the shadow monster.

I adore science fiction and Doctor Who and Legion definitely presented the idea of the multiverse theory, but neither of them did it to such a perfection as Stranger Things has. Where Doctor Who just barrels into timelines and alternate dimensions, Stranger Things focuses on the Upside Down and its effects on our world far more than either other science fiction show and I think that’s where the show really thrives. It’s also interesting to note that while the Upside Down is an important part of the show, the most important part of the show is character development. Where Legion often shirks that for the crazy and the metaphorical, Stranger Things languishes in character. Honestly, that is its strength.

The core kid group of Dustin, Mike, and Lucas really suffered in the first season. Largely in part, due to Lucas and his insistence on being bossy and overbearing. Thankfully, in the second season with the introduction of Max, Lucas really mellows out and made for a much more enjoyable look at the kids. In season one, I really slogged through the kids’ section because Lucas was always yelling or complaining about Eleven or something. It made their story quite annoying and hard to get through. The second season really made things a lot more bearable. The kids got along splendidly and I never cringed when Lucas showed up on the scene.

I think the greatest part of this show, though, kids and Brown as Eleven aside, is Harbour as Hopper. Of course, Ryder is fantastic and her lack of major nominations is sad. Ryder aside, Hopper really feels like the star of the show. Harbour brings a certain nuance to Hopper over the two seasons and his character development is better than anything on TV right now. I think the best example of Hopper’s brilliance is really seen in the second season with is interactions with Eleven. Brown and Harbour have great chemistry and the climax of the second season is an exercise in brilliance.

Basically, if you haven’t seen the show, do yourself a favor and watch it. You’ll be incredibly grateful that you have. Just be prepared for it to suck you in. This is definitely a show to binge watch and you will binge watch it.

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Shelby Arnold

Shelby is currently reviewer extraordinaire for 4YE. She is also currently the co-editor of Arkansas Tech University's paper The Arka Tech. She runs her own movie review blog called Shellin' Out Reviews where she crossposts many of her reviews. She previously was a staff writer at PopWrapped.

Shelby started writing at the age of 13 and has been hooked ever since. She's currently going to school at ATU for Creative Writing and English with a minor in Film Studies. She hopes to one day be a professor of film, a film critic, and a screenwriter. (Can you tell she likes the movies?)

She hopes to walk the red carpet one day. She contributes a long list of friends, co-workers, professors, and writers as the inspiration for her dreams and goals.

You can find Shelby on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
Shelby Arnold
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