On July 15, 2016, Netflix rolled out its biggest show to date. It was not a new season of "House of Cards" or another spin-off of "Daredevil," however, for this show was entirely original. The name of the new series was 'Stranger Things," and it broke my mind.
"Stranger Things" was designed as an eight-part mini-series that plays like one giant movie when watched consecutively. The creators of the show are even styling the second season as a cinematic sequel, in order to keep the "movie-feel" that the show provides. The most interesting part of this entire series, however, is how it's designed.
The entire show is made to feel like an '80s movie. Everything from the original soundtrack to the story arcs are reminiscent of a multitude of iconic films from the 80s. The show seems to blend aspects of films like "The Breakfast Club," "E.T.," "Poltergeist" and "Alien" into one single story. The concept seemed doomed to fail from the start, but the end result, however, was nothing less than incredible.
To start, one of the lead stars in the series is Winona Ryder, who plays a very distressed, single-mother desperately looking for her missing son. She steals the show in almost every scene she's in, providing an incredibly emotional and intense portrayal of just how far a mother would go to find her missing child. The show also walks a fine-line at times between what's reality and what may just be paranoid delusion, making Winona's story even more captivating and, at times, confusing.
While Winona Ryder does an incredible job, no role was wasted in "Stranger Things." Every character in the show serves an important purpose to the plot, and the casting for all was done beautifully. This leaves the viewer with a strong remembrance of every character in the show after its conclusion, something that is rare with a TV series. Even more shocking is that a strong portion of the main cast are children, yet all act our their roles wonderfully. The show does not shy away from giving the child actors very complex parts, and each of them deliver incredibly rememberable performances.
Everything about this show, from the camera work, to the casting, to the writing, is way above the standard set for a Netflix series. I found myself putting off watching the finale for days, just because I didn't want to actually finish the show. Even when I finally did complete "Stranger Things," I began re-watching it to see if I missed anything (which I did; there's a plethora of content in the show that makes more sense when watching it again).
Watching "Stranger Things" gave me more than just entertainment, however. Both my brother and I realized almost immediately why we, and so many others, loved this show. It's like stepping into a time machine. Growing up, my family and I were raised on various John Hughes' films and iconic '80s movies. On every family road trip, there was a small television in the backseat with a VCR player hooked up to it. Every family holiday usually had an '80s movie tied to it (Thanksgiving was "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" and Christmas was "Home Alone," to name a few), and I honestly could not even tell you how many times I have watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (I know it's over 20 at this point). Films from the 80s offered something that even now I can't quite describe. Maybe it's the humanity of the characters, maybe it's just the appeal of an earlier time, I honestly could not even tell you. What I can tell you, though, is that "Stranger Things" gave that back to me. For eight one-hour long sessions, I was able to go back to the days of sitting around a small screen to watch "The Goonies," and it was incredible.
If you haven't watched "Stranger Things" on Netflix yet, make sure to check it out as soon as possible.