While borrowing story elements from other television shows or films can be hit or miss for audiences, due to the fact that it could come off as an exact rip-off of a property they loved from the past, Netflix's newest outing with Strangers Things proves that homages can still be homages, while remaining fresher than ever. Combining classic story elements with a fresh twist on the genre, this mystery/sci-fi is not one to miss. Here is why I believe Stranger Things is not just Netflix's best show in a while, but easily the best television show of the year, in general.
The Fresh Premise
Following a group of three young boys after the disappearance of their friend Will, they set-out on a quest to find him. Discovering a girl with special abilities along the way, they are able to go to places they would not have been able to alone. Will's mother believes he is still alive, as she finds ways of communicating with him, and the entire town creates a search party to find him, even though certain things may lead them to believe he is really dead. With quite a few emotionally satisfying plot twists, this first season of Stranger Things goes to places you would not expect. Although it borrows plot devices from classic sci-fi and horror films of the past, it puts a new spin on every one of them, making every line of dialogue seem like it has never been said before. This is due to the great writing, and fantastic cast to go along with it.
The Near-Perfect Cast
With the exception of Winona Ryder, whom I felt was over-acting in more than a few instances, the cast that they were able to assemble for this series was astounding. Almost all unknowns, everyone brings their A-Game. With a specific spotlight on Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the girl they find in the woods, Eleven. The amount of weight that her character has on the story was a very big burden for her to hold on her shoulders. Luckily, they casted the perfect little girl for the role, making every choice she makes, line of dialogue she delivers, or emotional response to an event, pitch perfect.
The main three boys do a very commendable job, but the biggest standouts were Charlie Heaton as Jonathan (Will's older brother) and Natalie Dyer as Nancy (the older sister of Will's best friend). Their chemistry seemed a bit off at first, but it blossoms as the season progresses, making for some great character moments. Although these are my personal favourite performances in this first season, I can't wait to see even more from them, as well of the rest of this cast in the future.
The Television Takeover
It goes without saying that television has been trumping film lately, and Stranger Things is just another example of exactly that. It is the sad truth that television is just a more powerful medium, due to its benefit of long-form storytelling. Being able to flesh everything out in eight episodes is a much easier task than cramming in ten hours of plot into a two hour feature film. Netflix allows for more freedom in storytelling, which is yet another reason that many people will leave the Hollywood scene in the future. Stranger Things is perfection when it comes to storytelling. In just eight episodes, I was able to care for the characters as if I had been viewing them for years. That is when you know you are watching something special.
My Overall Thoughts
In the end, Stranger Things is the best thing to come from television all year. In my opinion, the progression of this story from small thriller in the first episode, to all-out sci-fi awesomeness in the final few episodes, the escalation is breathtaking to see. I will be honest, this show is either going to hook you from the very first episode, or it is just not for you. Filled with 70's and 80's references, clever film jokes throughout, and a pace that never lets up, this show (at least this first season) is not for the casual Netflix binger, but more for the film fanatics like myself. Yes, it is an accessible show for everyone, and I can't recommend Stranger Things enough. Aside from slightly disliking Winona Ryder's performance and a few odd character choices in the final two episodes, this first season of Stranger Things is near-perfect in every way. Highly recommended!
Season 1 Rating: 4.5/5
Review By: KJ Proulx