This is the new show on Netflix (season 1, 8 episodes) that everyone’s talking about. Many people are talking about how brilliant it is. I don’t think it’s brilliant. But it is worth watching and a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a weekend.
The Good: You liked ET, right? And Alien? Guess what, you get to see them again! But amidst all the nostalgia and homages you’ve heard about, there’s also a cohesive story told with fleshed-out characters. The writing is good, the directing is good, the acting is good. The production is very good. The show is made for binge-watching, building to a solid climax. It invokes horror movies without being cheesy or cheap. It comes to a satisfying conclusion while leaving room for a season 2. I recommend it. But I don’t think it’s brilliant.
To understand why, you have to understand what I mean when I say “theme.” If you’re pitching a TV show, the “theme” section is where you say what your show is about. Grey’s Anatomy is about the family that we choose. iZombie is about accepting yourself and others for who you are, flaws and all. Game of Thrones is about power, and how those who want it are not necessarily the best at wielding it. Many themes recur across different types of shows, because as human beings we tend to be drawn to the same topics again and again. This is normal, and fine. The problem with Stranger Things is that I can’t find the theme. The show doesn’t seem to be *about* anything beyond 80’s nostalgia. (You can try to tell me that it’s about friendship, but you would be wrong. If it’s about the friendship between Will and the rest of the boys, we should probably have seen them together for more than a minute out of eight hours. If it’s about the friendship between Mike and Eleven, they need to stop kissing.) (And if it’s about the audacity of men who play God, said men should probably not be unsympathetic throughout.) It exists as a little bubble of entertainment. It’s a good TV show. But it cannot possibly be great.