Does Stranger Things live up to the hype?

The latest in the growing list of Netflix original TV shows, Stranger Things has been tipped as the new binge-worthy series. Premiering last month, the show has already overtaken other Netflix hits like Jessica Jones and House of Cards in views, and is now the 3rd most watched show on the entire site. So what’s all the fuss about, and is it actually worth a watch?

The storyline is set in small-town 1980s Indiana and centres around the disappearance of a young boy, Will. Fighting to solve the mystery of his whereabouts, it becomes apparent to Will’s friends, a group of goofy outcasts led by Mike, and his mother Joyce, who is brilliantly played by Winona Ryder, that his disappearance is connected with supernatural forces. With the help of Eleven, a mysterious young girl with apparent superpowers, Will’s friends find themselves caught between reality and science fiction as they fight both human and supernatural enemies to save him.

So far, so…. Well, maybe it doesn’t sound all that original, actually. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into, but as the story progresses and the mystery thickens, the plot does becoming really gripping, and the interlacing sub-plots of teenage angst and young love make the story a lot more relatable; at times frustrating, at times touching and ultimately very watchable.

What makes the show really special is the atmosphere it so effectively creates. The ‘80s aesthetic and a great soundtrack featuring classics from bands such as The Clash and Toto, as well as well-placed eerie synth melodies, is totally immersive and reminiscent of shows such as Twin Peaks. From the moody title sequence to the dodgy hairstyles, references to 80s pop culture and the sense of nostalgia completely draw you in and create a wistfulness and serene wholeness in the setting that overarches the calamity taking place within it.

The visuals are really beautiful. In particular, the scenes of Joyce trying to communicate with her son with masses of fairy lights in a faded, wooden-clad living room looks utterly magical and manages to both vividly convey her desperation and stir a sense of wonder and heartache and some sort of comfort in the audience, all at the same time.

The casting is certainly brilliant, too. Ryder perfectly evokes the restless, relentless mother in search of her son, and the child actors totally encapsulate the dimensions of adventure, innocence, fear, frustration and curiosity of youth. The character relationships that are created between generations, families and friends are diverse and interesting, but it is the developing bond between Mike and Eleven that was, for me, the most poignant.

Stranger Things may not sound like the most original plotline on paper. But the show is so much more than heroes and monsters. It is affecting and sentimental, a little scary and a little funny. The characters, mystery and unadulterated, unashamed homage to the 80s make it worthy of its status alongside the Netflix greats.

TL;DR: yes, watch it.


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