It seems like every original show that Netflix touches turns to gold, and such is the case with a show that premiered last week known as Stranger Things. When we first reported on it, we called it a mix of something that Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams would come up with. What follows is a review of the series as well as anticipation over the release date for Season 2 of Stranger Things, and what it will bring with Five Questions that have to be answered.
Review of Stranger Things, Season 1, with Spoilers Ahead
In all honesty, this series felt very unoriginal, and I watched it with a lot of skepticism. The last time something like this was tried was in Super 8, and I would have to say that this film from J.J. Abrams feels more like an inferior copy of Steven Spielberg's magic realism from the late seventies/early eighties rather than the tribute/homage it was supposed to be.
The thing about Stranger Things is that it knows it is unoriginal, and it embraces it in all of its glory, yet it somehow comes up with something incredibly original. In all honesty, I don't know why there hasn't been a series that is a mix of horror and suburban fantasy before, and Stranger Things feels like it should have come out in the eighties. Even the title sequence and synthesized music feel like a show from the eighties, and the only thing that feels modern are the special effects and the language, which isn't quite R-rated.
Given that it feels like a show that takes place in the eighties, Stranger Things is a period piece that takes place in 1983 in a small town in Indiana. The story begins with four kids playing Dungeons and Dragons, and then one of them, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing.
Given that it is a small town, the town is concerned, and Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is on the case, but he is not used to a big case such as this. It turns out that the case is bigger than a missing child as there is a secret organization performing a supernatural experiment.
What is interesting is how this experiment involves a shaved-head little girl known only as Eleven. I'm going to take the time to say that Millie Bobby Brown does an excellent performance as this girl who talks little and yet can say so much. She deserves an Emmy, and I had better not be the only one who thinks that. She reminds me of the precog girl from Minority Report, if she was much younger.
Anyway, Eleven escapes from the facility where she is held, and is then found by Will's three friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). Finn keeps Eleven (who he refers to as "El" for short) in his room, and it feels like something out of Spielberg's E.T. The fact that there is a mysterious monster who is killing children is straight out of Stephen King's It.
Yes, this film is equal parts Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, and it works perfectly. As it so happens, there is a facility that is experimenting with opening a door into a dark dimension which the D&D characters call the Vale of Shadows, otherwise known as Upside Down. The plot is mysterious enough that what I believe happened is a monster was somehow set free, takes Will Byers, and yet Will can still communicate via electricity (just watch it, because I can't describe it).
Even when Will Byers' body is found, the mother Joyce (played by Winona Ryder, in a role against her type that she somehow nails) believes that he is alive. The scene where she creates a string of Christmas lights with the alphabet is creepy as it is neat.
Will also has a brother named Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and he loves Nancy (Natalia Dyer), who is Mike's older sister. The two of them find the monster because it killed Nancy's best friend, Barbara (Shannon Purser). Yes, young characters die in this.
Five Questions that Need to Be Answered in Season 2
As the three boys with Eleven, as well as Jonathan and Nancy, with the Sheriff and Joyce, confront the facility and find the monster, then the show gets great. In fact, Stranger Things first season is so good and almost wraps up so well, I almost don't want a Season 2. It reminds me of NBC's Heroes, and even though I want my questions about Season 2 answered, I would accept only one season of Stranger Things.
What is the Upside Down Realm?
The boy's science teacher, as well as that secret facility, answered this, and this concept was named the Vale of Shadows, straight out of D&D. This realm is filled with monsters, or at least one. According to Variety, the creators of the show, The Duffer Brothers, stated that the look of "Upside Down" was inspired by Silent Hill, which is what it reminded me of. The creators also stated that in most horror stories, the less that is revealed, the more terrifying it is. Perhaps we don't want to know exactly what the Upside Down realm is, but it has limitless potential for more dark stories for the series.
What did Will bring back with him?
After Will is found in the Upside Down realm, and bought back, he starts coughing. At first, we think it is the side effect of having a big tube down his throat, but later on, the audience sees him coughing up a slug thing and spitting it down the drain of the bathroom sink. Is this the monster's way of reproducing himself?
Is this the end of the monster?
In the end, I almost thought that Lucas' wrist rocket had stopped the monster, but it required Eleven sacrificing herself. As I said before, Will coughed up some slug thing from the Upside Down realm, so perhaps that is like the pupa version of the monster. Will it "grow up" in our "right-side up" the world, and will it have all the memories it had before? If so, it is going to be mad.
Why did Nancy and Jonathan not hook up?
It felt like the finale of Stranger Things had a lot of closure, but it still had ten minutes left with an epilogue of "one month later." It showed how Jonathan and Nancy were not together, but she was with Steve (Joe Keery). It was surprising because Nancy and Jonathan were growing closer together romantically as they searched for the monster. I accepted this decision, and if they don't hook up in later seasons, I am honestly okay with it.
Please bring Eleven back.
You will notice that I didn't phrase this in the form of a question. This is because Eleven is such a great character, and I want her back. Season 2 has the potential to really "jump the shark" as far as the established story in Stranger Things, but I want to see her free from the control of that evil science facility.
Stranger Things Season 2 Release Date
Like a lot of Netflix shows, there usually isn't an instant greenlight of the next season after a season has aired on their streaming network. I would imagine that Netflix will need to look at the numbers for a month after Season 1's release date, but Stranger Things has a lot of devoted fans, including myself. So Season 2 is probably going to show up, in the summer of 2017.