I would first like to start by saying I am not a film critic. I am not an English major. I am not someone you would expect to write an essay about any type of film work. I am doing these essays about Stranger Things for a couple reasons. One: I want to practice writing more so I can improve. Two: I found that there is something great about Stranger Things that I would like to analyze and write about.
From the start of a Television series, there are a number of things that the writers have to do. Introduce characters, introduce the plot, and balance that all while keeping the audience interested. This is not an easy task. Although I have personally never tried, I imagine it being one of the hardest parts of starting a new series. There are some shows that use the first season as a feeling ground. Using the time to find exactly how they want characters to be. How to make the series flow and what directions they need to move the audience in. Still while hoping that the viewer is still interested enough so the show can continue.
From the start of The Vanishing of Will Byers, the first episode in Stranger Things, we are “introduced” to our first (I am writing this having watched only the first two episodes) main plot in the series; The Escaped Creature from the Government Testing Facility. At this point we know nothing about what escaped from that room. Except that it is faster than most human receptors, or has a very good camouflage ability. Maybe both, I'm not sure.
After that opening sequence, we are introduced to most of the main characters in this series; Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas, as they are playing Dungeons and Dragons in Mike’ basement. It's perfect. Immediately preceding this we are introduced to Mike’ family. Is it important that we know who they are? Yes. It is quite important. As the children are leaving to go home, we get into the real first plot line; Will is Missing. This introduction into the main plot is crucial. It allows the viewer to get a slight look at whatever it was that escaped the Facility.
We then get a quick meeting with three more key roles in the series, starting with Joyce and Jonathan. Joyce being the mother of the now missing Will, Jonathan being his older brother. After not finding Will anywhere in the house, and after a brief phone call, we meet the aforementioned other main character, Hopper, the Police Chief of the small town this story takes place. We are not that far into the first episode and we already have six main characters and an established plot.
Remember when I was writing about the difficulty of keeping audience attention and introducing all the important parts of a show? Stranger Things does that. It has already given us character characteristics, a reason for why we should care about what's happening, and some quality entertainment that grabs our attention. How is this only the first episode? What great writing it takes to compound all of these elements into an episode without it being overpowering. This isn't even based off of works that already have lore you are familiar with.
I know it feels like I am just writing base notes for the script, however, it was important that I did. I will try to summarize the rest of the episodes up quickly from here so I can continue watching. I don't want to accidently mix in things from later episodes and possibly say too much. Especially for people who haven't seen anything or haven't gotten that far yet.
We find out that Joyce is single handedly raising Will and Jonathan. Their father lives in a city a little ways from their town. This opens up the possibility that their father abducted him. He didn't. After Chief Hopper inspects the Byers resident for clues, he sees something in the garage, the last place we saw Will, and starts getting everyone ready for a search party.
We also get introduced to 011. We get to view her as she stumbles into a diner and starts eating the fries in the kitchen area. El (11) is another escapee from the Government Facility. We get to view that she possesses otherworldly powers. The first example being the metal fan that she finds annoying, so she stops it. The owner of the diner calls the appropriate services for a lost child. Later in the episode (yes, some of this will be out of order) the “Child Services” arrive to take El. She is able to escape out the back door with the help of her powers. Obviously they knew she would try to escape that way and had people there, but still proving to be no match for her.
The last part of the first episode is Mike, Dustin, and Lucas running into El in the forest. Why are they in the forest? It was the location of Wills bicycle. Despite being told to not look for him, they did anyway.
Sure I left stuff out. Yes it was important stuff, but this is still episode one. There is still a whole other episode for me to gloss over. I will try to keep it brief. I promise. I'll try for one or two paragraphs.
At the beginning of “The Weirdo on Maple Street”, we start with the three boys trying to figure out what to do with El. The best solution is having her stay in Mike' basement for the night. Mike has a plan to have her knock on the door in the morning so that his mom can deal with this mysterious girl. In the morning when Mike tells El the plan, she refuses with a resounding, “No.”
Jonathan and Joyce at this time have been making attempts to make posters for finding Will. Jonathan goes to distribute the posters around town. He takes a journey out to his father's house to search for Will. He also runs into his father and after some conversing, delivers one of the best lines in a long time. “Incase you forgot what he looks like.” as he slams one of the posters into his chest. So amazingly beautiful.
Third paragraph. I tried. Mike skips school to make sure El has someone to talk to and be around for the day. At some point she is looking at Mike's trophy collection. There is a photo of the four boys together. She points at Will. How crazy. She knows about Will and that he's missing. Maybe even where he's gone.
This episode ends with characters I haven't actually talked about. There are other scenes as well that are important. That is intentional. I don't want to ruin everything for you. Now on to the next part.
The reason this show has brought me to write about it. The whole reason for this. This show is amazing. After only two episodes I am hooked. I want so badly to watch the other episodes. Completely and thoroughly. I'm going to list a couple things in the next part. All important on why this show rocks.
It's important when making a story to make it interesting. Every shot could have meaning. Some significance. This has that. If you look closely enough and pay attention, you realize how much there truly can be. For instance, when you first see El. It pans up from the ground. This shot shows her outfit. Did you notice the first time when you watched it that her gown is ripped? It's the piece of clothing that they find when looking for Will.
With everything formed together, you understand one thing. This show was made with passion. Passion for entertainment. Passion for storytelling. Passion for suspense and the mysterious. Truly one amazing show in the Science Fiction genre.
Just one last note. I classify Science Fiction and Sci-fi as two different genres. When you hear or think Sci-fi, usually things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Firefly etc. On the other hand, when you hear Science Fiction, things like X-Files, Fringe. That is where this belongs. In Science Fiction.
Thank you for reading.