All Things ‘Stranger Things’

We’re uncertain if there’s anyone left in the world who hasn’t watched the Netflix original series Stranger Things yet. What isn’t uncertain though is this that if you haven’t, you need to drop everything you’re doing and do it now.

Stranger Things is a beautiful, ’80s-themed trip into the mysterious, the horrific, and the outright weird that, unlike some of its contemporaries, cannot be ignored. The series premiered less than two months ago and has somehow and without a doubt already become one of the Netflix original series. That is to say that, with all of the original content Netflix is pushing out, we’re really only looking forward to new seasons of House of CardsOrange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And now, Stranger Things has undoubtedly joined that short list of in-demand titles that has us craving more and rabidly debating whether or not it’s actually a good thing that we can watch entire seasons in one sitting or not.

Perhaps because everyone has already seen it and made up their own mind about it, it’s almost pointless for us to publish an outright review of the series. Instead, we’ve thrown together this list of our favorite pieces of Stranger Things. You can sound off in the comments below or in the new-and-improved forums to weigh in on your favorite bits!

Winona Ryder!

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Winona Ryder in Stranger Things.

We could probably just leave it at that. It’s pretty hard for us not to love the woman who has been in geek-centric roles from Beetlejuice in 1988 to Spock’s human mother in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. This new role of hers is no exception. In fact, it seems as though the role of Joyce Byers was created specifically for her. Who better to take on a central role in a deliciously ’80s-set series than an actress whose breakout starring vehicles were released during the later years of that decade?

We also strongly believe that Winona’s best, star-turning roles are in the films where her character seems completely out of her mind (see 1999’s Girl, Interrupted and get back to us). During your first viewing of Stranger Things, you’ll realize just how successfully she’s brought this characteristic to life yet again. As a mother desperately trying to find her son Will, who disappeared under very suspicious circumstances, we often straddled the line between whether or not she’s really communicating with him through the lights in her home. Or if she truly has just gone completely bonkers. There aren’t a lot of seasoned actresses we could think of that could have portrayed this role quite as perfectly as Winona.

Waffles!

Stranger Things revolves around a group of children trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of their friend Will. They soon encounter a young girl, code-named Eleven (or “El” for short), who wields unspeakable mental abilities and who also proves instrumental in finding Will. While hiding out in her new friend Mike’s house, El makes several fascinating discoveries about the rest of society. Most importantly though, she also uncovers a fondness for frozen waffles.

Without revealing too many spoilers for anyone who may not yet have seen all eight episodes, the waffles become far more than just a recurring item that Mike frequently smuggles to El. They actually wind up serving as something of an important symbol of Mike and El’s friendship. It also appears that they might be providing important clues for the show’s upcoming second season!

Waffles haven’t seemed so magical since Parks & Rec. By the way, there’s even a fan theory about that show existing in the same universe as Stranger Things (this is why we love the internet!).

Barb!

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Shannon Purser in Stranger Things.

Even though Barb only appears in a few episodes, she definitely had an impact on the story and the hearts of the audience. And what isn’t there to love about Barb, the delightfully down-to-earth wallflower portrayed by up-and-comer Shannon Purser? It seems the entire internet has come down with Barb Fever and we can’t exactly disagree.

Barb initial purpose in the show’s overarching story seems to be to provide a voice of reason to her best friend Nancy, Mike’s much more popular older sister. Though Barb goes on to fulfill a deeper purpose in the series when she also suddenly disappears, we can’t help but forget just how much we felt a connection with Barb. In a way, she represented all of us in the audience who felt like we were on the outside looking in.

Though her time with Stranger Things may be over, we’ll thankfully be able to see Shannon Purser on the big screen soon!

’80s Nostalgia!

Arguably, without a doubt, one of the best elements of Stranger Things is its uncanny ability to timewarp us all back to a time when synthesized theme music and the original Trapper Keepers were still a thing. This provides the show with less of an X-Files vibe and one more akin to Super 8, the J.J. Abrams-directed film that also takes place in the ’80s and centers around a group of kids trying to solve a mystery while running from a science fiction-inspired monster. And the best part is that, unlike other movies and shows set in previous decades, the universe of Stranger Things feels authentic. Maybe even more than Super 8 did!

Just take a look at Barb’s enormous glasses and overall style, the real Trapper Keepers, the opening title sequence, the large plastic landline telephones, and the music used throughout. For the love of God, look at Steve Harrington’s hair! Rather than throwing together a bunch of neon-colored clothes and chunky jewelry for the faux retro-’80s look (sorry, Katy Perry), it genuinely feels as though the producers of the show have painstakingly spent time and money and really done their research in how to make the show work for the decade it’s representing. And it honestly couldn’t look better!

The Kids!

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(from left) McLaughlin, Matarazzo, Wolfhard & Brown in Stranger Things.

The real stars of Stranger Things are its cast of kids at its core. Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, and Gaten Matarazzo as everyone’s favorite Dustin Henderson star as the group of kids left behind when their friend Will mysteriously disappears into the realm known to them only as “the Upside Down.”

While Winona Ryder is bringing the star power and providing a recognizable name during the opening credits, it’s these four who truly shine throughout the show’s run. Millie Bobby Brown does a bulk of the heavy lifting and proves to be an especially capable actress who demonstrates a large range of emotion even with minimal dialogue. And we can’t help but love Gaten Matarazzo’s turn as Dustin, the curly-haired kid with the lisp, who inadvertently turns out to be the show’s comedic relief. If this kid doesn’t turn into a huge star after he’s done with Stranger Things, we’ll be sorely disappointed.

One of the show’s most memorable lines of dialogue is even shouted by Dustin to a couple of bullies about El: “She’s our friend, and she’s crazy!”

The Suspense!

Last but most definitely not least, our favorite part about Stranger Things was its ability to keep up the suspense and mystery going without getting boring throughout all of its episodes. Perhaps attributed to its season only consisting of eight episodes, the show never once feels like you’re slogging through filler padded around its more important installments. Shortening the number of episodes is a trick that has been used in other international television markets that has only, in recent years, started seeping into the American television industry. Eight episodes is absolutely the perfect length to be able to tell a story of this nature — it’s concise and has forced the writers to fit in all the beats they need to hit into a significantly shorter amount of time so the audience doesn’t grow bored and eventually stop watching.

From shouting at the screen for Nancy to listen to Barb at Steve’s party to realizing that maybe Joyce isn’t crazy after all and hoping El will just unleash all hell on Matthew Modine (oh yeah, he’s in it too!), Stranger Things is a fun and memorable romp from the moment you start the first episode to the bittersweet end.

Stranger Things is available on Netflix now!

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