TV Review | Stranger Things | Season One
Season summary: When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back. (IMDb)
Spoilers online are a big thing, with most people very much against them to such a degree that it's pretty commonplace to find people whinging about having something spoiled for them despite the subject in question being years old.
I've never quite understood this mentality as I'm perfectly fine with spoilers anyway, but I also think that if you really cared about watching/reading/playing something unspoiled, then why are you leaving it until years after it is released to get around to it?
The reason I bring this up is that I knew very little about Stranger Things going into it. I knew it was set in the Eighties, that there's a place called the Upside Down, and that the little girl's name is Eleven. And that's it. Over two years old and that was all I knew about the show.
It's not like I was even intentionally avoiding spoilers either, it just kind of happened - and I'm glad it did, although I really wouldn't have minded if more had been 'spoiled' for me. With so many characters to follow across the season, it would've taken a serious effort for anyone to really spoil it.
The fact that this 'only' has eight episodes is the first plus point, especially in comparison to the various Marvel series on Netflix. Nothing in Stranger Things feels like it outstays its welcome nor rushes by too quickly to be appreciated.
It's made even more impressive by just how many characters we get to follow, all of whom get their moments to shine, even if some - like David Harbour's Jim Hopper - are ludicrously competent to the point of wondering why they even need most of the others.
Even then, he's still outshone by Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. Yeah, she does kind of develop powers as the story requires, but that's a matter of writing and not performance. Eleven is extremely sheltered and unaware of the world, and Brown completely sells you on that.
Eleven is the kind of character that could prove very irritating and over the top considering the extreme emotional range the role demands, but Brown more than meets the challenge. I do have to admit that I was worried about the character at the start of the season, but looking forward to seeing more of Eleven in the future.
If there's one criticism to be made of the characters, it's that everyone we follow gets on a little too well with each other. The season's not lacking conflict - albeit with a rather generic 'evil corporation' - but it would've been interesting to see some real sparks fly between the heroes rather than everyone getting along like one big happy family.
This is part of what is my other main criticism of the season: it's all very predictable. Fair enough, I like sci-fi and fantasy, so it might just be that I knew what to look for and expect - it doesn't change the fact there was very little here that I found to be particularly new or original.
I don't really have much more in the way of criticism aside from what feels like paying homage to Return of the King and having what feels like a dozen ending scenes, complete with sequel set-up. A side effect of having so many characters and wanting tie up everything neatly for them.
Otherwise, it's pretty great fun from start to finish, with the quality of execution making up for a pretty generic central story. It looks great, mimicking the Eighties pretty well, although it does really on licensed music a little too heavily at times to reinforce this point.
That's kind of emblematic of Stranger Things' main 'problems' - the potential for something truly great is there, but it all feels a little too cautious and safe, even if it's all done extremely well. How's this for the opposite of damning with faint praise: instead of being incredible, Stranger Things' first season is just very, very, very good.
Stranger Things' first season starts out very good and continues to improve throughout, although it still has a few problems that stop it being truly great. Not that you'll really care thanks to the wonderful range of characters and the fantastic performances from pretty much all of the cast.