Stranger things – hype worth the fuss?

Stranger things – hype worth the fuss?

            Stranger Things were on my list for years now, but the hype around it was overwhelming. Everyone I know watched this show and was amazed. “Jules, you MUST watch it!” … Well, you know how it goes with “musts” – I don’t do well with musts. However, when Covid struck me twice, I said: why not? And this review is long overdue!

Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.

            Good thing with waiting to watch any series is that you have a few seasons to catch up with. I mean, is there a better feeling than having all 7 or 9 seasons to watch (Sons of Anarchy, The Office). But then again, you risk all kinds of spoilers or announcements or being involved in creating conspiracy theories. The choices we make, I guess.

For me, Stranger Things felt the same as Narcos or La Casa de Papel – if everyone is watching it, I will give it a few good months. Or years. Perhaps not my best choice, given that I have this place here, but… It’s my little rebellious act. Anyway, Covid gave me a pretty good excuse to finally give it a try and… Well. The rest is history.

Source: IMDb, Photo by Tina Rowden – © Netflix

Its first season premiered in 2016. Next seasons followed in October 2017, July 2019, and May and July 2022 – the 4thmarking one of the longest breaks between installments. In 2024 the fifth season will conclude the series – and good. Because at times, it was stretched too thin.

            So, what is so amazing about this series created by the Duffer brothers? Is it the overused nostalgia? Or maybe the dynamics between main characters? Oh, I know – it’s the slow-burn in some love affairs. I will tell you – it’s a little bit of everything, but I don’t feel the hype. 

You shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to.

            Don’t get me wrong: I believe that Stranger Things is a very good series, but human have this wonderful quality of overhyping things and people. And it truly is wonderful, because recently I read that what we need in our lives are… Cheerleaders. Be that your boss, best friend or a parent – it’s so awesome to have someone believe you in, no matter what. Maybe even blindly sometimes, like you cheer for a kid that has no absolutely no talent for playing football.

The thing is, that oftentimes we cannot find the right balance. The fine line is very thin and we tend to slip towards one or the other extreme. And these days, the overhyped things, products, services, shows, movies… Tend to disappoint. 

stranger
Source: IMDb, Photo by Curtis Baker/Netflix – © 2016 Netflix

Covid made me soft enough and since I had nothing else to do… Took me a week to watch all 4 seasons. My friend was laughing because my pace was a killer. And all these texts: “OMG PLEASE TELL ME THEY ARE ALIVE / THEY DON’T KILL THEM… BUT DON’T SAY ANYTHING” – you can tell I was invested.

If anyone asks where I am, I’ve left the country.

            Let’s start with the setting and the plot (the real one, not the one I have in mind haha) – colorful 80s in all its glory (hey, Dan), bunch of kids in school and supernatural events that shake little town. For some reason I kept thinking of a PG version of Twin Peaks, with the extra amount of 80s love. But even though the overall concept felt weirdly familiar, it was nice and refreshing to see kids actually taking the lead. 

Hawkins became a beacon for supernatural incidents, as the mysterious lab (or a power plant) accidently created a breach and opened a gate to “The Upside Down” dimension. First their friend disappears, but as they look for him in the woods (Mirkwood, for the win!), someone else shows up on their way. 

Source: IMDb, © Netflix

We meet Mike, Dustin, Will and Lucas – 4 best friends who love to play D&D together and ride their bikes to school. The dynamics between them is so pure! The friendship – so adult-like in their opinion is something so rare these days. They became the strongest point of the show, however… With the 4th season, I noticed a sudden drop in the “kids’ magic”. 

Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?

            Maybe it’s because the actors grew up during that time, maybe the theme became overused – I am torn. But that does not mean that Stranger Things took a turn for worse. Sometimes showrunners have a hard deciding when to put a full stop. For 4 seasons, the “final” battel was never truly final, as the monster defeated came back in a newer, scarier form. 

And that is probably the reason why the Duffer Brothers decided to make the 5th season the final one. I am hoping to have answers to all the questions, but I have this fear in my heart as well. Final season is set to head into “writers’ room” early next year and… Time flies. These kids will be all grown up by the time they will start shooting. 

But “The Party” is just one thing that deserves the praise. Characters played by Wynona Ryder – Will’s mom, Joyce, and David Harbour – Police Chief Jim Hopper (and Eleven’s adopted dad) … What a spectacular casting! Gosh, the chemistry between them since day one was amazing and that is the slow-burn I was talking about! 

stranger
Source: IMDb, © 2022 Netflix; 8FLiX

            Cast can really “make” the show, even if the plot is nothing new in the Universe. And that was the case with Stranger Things. Cast and music, which was just on point but also such a classic “slap” of nostalgia: Okay, maybe it’s the plot is a bit stretched and we keep repeating the same themes over and over again but hey, here you go, listen to this banger for a week now – kind of a deal. 

I asked if you wanted to be my friend. And you said yes. You said yes. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.

            Which isn’t necessarily a bad deal, it’s just… Not really original, right? Stranger Things generally got very good reviews and won a lot of awards – both for the show and cast. However, the awards and what critics say is not my personal indicator of “good show, bad show” parameter.

It’s all about the audience appreciation and Stranger… got plenty of it. I mean, the hype started somewhere, right? I think the last straw that broke the camel’s back for me was Kate Bush’s song that was flooding the internet, I was so sick of it! 

stranger
Source: IMDb, Photo by Courtesy of Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix – © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

And I will admit – in that scene it was really a perfect moment, but it wouldn’t make my list. Only thanks to people on the Internet for totally overusing it. Again, that’s both a curse and a blessing, depending on the point of view. 

            I also think that the 4th season was stretched to its limits with 1h+ long episodes and a feature-like finale. Half of the sequences were unnecessary and were a simple time-filler. Constantly repeating the “El saves the day” theme, a bizarre love triangle between Nancy, Steve and Jonathan – these are the major issues for me. 

If we’re both going crazy, then we’ll go crazy together, right?

            What did I like? Oh, there are plenty of things: the emphasis on complexity of friendship. It’s never just black or white, it’s all the colors on full brightness. The older we get the easier it is, but once upon a time, when we were kids… Every little thing seemed so important. Keeping that fragile dynamic was a tough task. 

Another thing that deserves recognition is the parent-child relationship. Joyce was ready to go above and beyond (quite literally) to save Will and help him recover from that traumatic experience. Even when no one believed her, she never backed down. And that is how a true parent feel about their kids. I know it’s how my parents feel, even though we fight from time to time. 

Source: IMDb, © 2022 Netflix

Best Dad Award goes to Jim Hopper, even though he was a tiny bit overprotective over Eleven. For me, Jim went through one of the best character developments in the entire series. The second one is Steve – from a high school flyboy to a mature (enough) man who always cares for his friends. 

            But main characters are usually memorable. I think the key to success in the streaming industry is a little more complex – having an outstanding “second” line is a cornerstone. And Stranger Things did it damn well.  

This is my year. I can feel it!

            Season 2 had Bob (THE SWEETEST SEAN AUSTIN) – the typical (in a good way) good guy that goes out with an epic sacrifice, leaving a gigantic hole in our hearts. Then in the 4th season we met Eddie and… Gosh, what a perfectly imperfect, lost but kind of “well figured out” boy. 

The Internet went crazy about him, and in Eddie’s case… I jumped the train as well. Maybe the back part of it, but I totally understand the love for this character. After all, some of us, I think most of us, the “forced conforming” is something that killed the inner child.

Source: IMDb, © 2022 Netflix; 8FLiX

Also, the 80s stigma of D&D being a “cult” transformed into 2000s+ stigma of “losers and nerds” playing this game. Now, that is something I absolutely cannot understand. Why are we like this for each other? I agree with Eddie – these things can kill the spirit. But Eddie’s sacrifice, much like Bob’s, was so damn tragic. Necessary, but heartbreaking.

I say you’re asking me to follow you into Mordor… But the Shire is burning. So, Mordor it is!

            Will I watch Stranger Things all over again just in time to watch the final season? Absolutely. The pros outweigh the cons, as it truly is one of the best series to watch on Netflix. Was the hype worth its power? In my opinion no. Good show, but I’ve seen better, less hyped. 

It’s a shame, though – I know a lot of people are missing out on this (and other, equally hyped shows), because they don’t want to participate in the forced conforming (pun intended). You know, when you feel obligated to watch something, just to be up to speed… This isn’t how the world is supposed to work (Marvel, I see you). 

Source: IMDb, © 2022 Netflix

Movies and shows are to be enjoyed; it cannot become a grim duty. Luckily, that is not the case of Stranger Things. Now that I think about it, it’s a good mental link to my beloved Twin Peaks. I like that pool of science-fiction. 

            Give it a try, Lot. If not for the 80s vibe pouring out in every single second, then for plot. And you know what plot I mean.

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