Let’s Talk About Stranger Things

Here at Pegboards we like to imagine that you, our faithful readers, enjoy reading Jesse and I discussing the latest trends in TV, movies and sports. While traditionally we will review TV shows like Survivor, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Better Call Saul in episodic fashion, there is a new wave of TV shows that don’t work well in that format. Usually these are Netflix shows that are meant to be binged upon and then discussed. Which brings me to today’s review/discussion. The hit Netflix show Stranger Things. Take a jump with us to…Be warned that full season spoilers haunt this review much like a demogorgon.

Kevin: Alright Jesse, weeks after I blew you up with texts to drop everything you are watching, reading, playing so that you could focus your entire attention on Stranger Things, I have to ask, was I right to recommend this show to you so highly? Before you answer that let me briefly explain why I felt compelled to force a binge watch upon you.

First, the group of boys (Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will) shot some nostalgia into this 20-something heart of mine. Sure I have never touched a Dungeons and Dragons book, nor will I ever, unless I want to play a mean prank on my wife. But I think we both can agree we had a group of friends growing up that we spent all of our time with playing Gameboy, hide and seek with walkie talkies and all sort of adolescent nonsense right? The world seemed so adventurous back then and this show is a prime example of what we always sort of wished would happen in our lives. Our wildest imaginations coming to life and forcing us to play a real version of our favorite games. Pretty good stuff.

Second, I’m usually behind the water cooler stuff of our times. I was never caught up with Breaking Bad when Walter White was wrecking havoc in New Mexico. I’m still not caught up on all of the bloodbath in Game of Thrones. I mean, the one TV show I’m 100% faithful to (Survivor) hit it’s water cooler peak in 2001 when I was 11. Let’s just say I’m usually abnormal in my TV watching pattern. But for once my friends roped me into Stranger Things at just the right time and I was able to participate in some watch parties and discuss each episode’s twists as we watched them. It was a thrill and I enjoyed myself, so naturally I wanted to pull you in for your opinion.

So what say you Jesse? Sure me pressuring you to like the show isn’t cool as Jonathan points out, “You shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to” but to that I say, friends don’t lie! Did I lie Jesse? Did you not enjoy yourself?

Jesse: First off, it’s not really fair for me to say if you lied or not. A lie only occurs when you say something that you know to be false, and there’s no way you could’ve been certain that I would dig Stranger Things. After all, I was damn sure that you’d have gotten into Game of Thrones by now, but alas, it has yet to happen.

But at the risk of becoming a complete buzzkill, my answer is no, you didn’t lie. It wasn’t even a half-lie because I dug the crap out of Stranger Things. From the not-so-subtle nods to classic Steven Spielberg tales to the retro soundtrack to the legitimate thrills I experienced while watching, I ate it all up and had to pump the brakes a bit so I didn’t blow through the whole season in two days. It’s safe to say that this is my favorite show that Netflix has cranked out other than Daredevil, so no dude, you most definitely did not lie. The boys would be proud of you.

One thing that I was particularly impressed with was that even though the season’s main storyline was resolved by the end (What happened to Will Byers?), pretty much everything else remains shrouded in mystery. Is Eleven really gone or is she stuck with the monster in the Upside Down? Why did Hopper get in that car at the end? Is Will really okay or will there be side effects from being gone for so long? Most importantly, did Steve really change or did he just realize that he couldn’t act like a douche around Nancy anymore if he wants to keep banging her? All important questions and all very much open to interpretation.

What were some of the subplots that left you wanting to know more?

Kevin: Outside of the biggest mystery of all (Eleven’s whereabouts/Hopper getting in the car) I’m actually curious to see if we ever see Barbara again. I was absolutely perplexed that she disappeared after Will Byers and there wasn’t much uproar from the town. Two kids missing in the matter of days? Sure I know we actually saw what happened to Barbara but why wasn’t Hopper able to pull the nasty anime-esque tentacle out of Barbara’s mouth like he did with Will? I hope we at least get a flashback to show us what poor Barbara went through. Her story-line feels incomplete.

My question for you is, where do they go from here? Stranger Things seemed to build a mythology but left us with many, many questions. Remember the last show that was a huge hit after it’s first season but left us with lots and lots of questions? Lost. While I know you are not a fan of Lost yourself, you are aware of it’s reputation. Does Stranger Things need to consciously avoid the same traps that Lost fell into? Or does the audience need to accept that a story can exist without all of the answers?

Jesse: Oh crap, like the rest of the town I forgot all about Barb. I do find it a little disjointed that her disappearance was largely ignored by most of the characters. Even Nancy stopped caring after awhile. Man, with friends like that…

Despite my misgivings concerning Lost, I can’t speak for that show’s shortcomings since I didn’t actually watch it. I do believe that Stranger Things is walking a fine line and needs to be careful with how ambiguous it wants to be, especially if things continue to be, well… strange. There’s nothing wrong with not pulling the curtain back and revealing every single detail, but the storylines still need to provide us with enough of a payoff so that we don’t feel cheated. Do I have to know who was waiting for Hopper inside of that car and what they discussed? Not necessarily, although I’m curious what that encounter means for his character and how it will change him. Is he in the pocket of the government now? Who knows man, but scenes like that need to pay off down the line.

I’m going to throw part of your question back at you, mainly because I couldn’t think of a good answer. Are we really done with Eleven and the Upside Down? While the demogorgon was vanquished, I have a hard time believing that the writers would kill off such a cool character or move on to events that don’t have anything to do with the Upside Down.

Kevin: In short, no we are not done with Eleven and the Upside Down. Neither the audience nor the other characters have any closure with Eleven’s “death”. She isn’t going to disappear in a quick moment and then never be heard from again. Besides that you don’t kill off your marquee character.

Unless Stranger Things works a la American Horror Story in that we see a different “miniseries” every season, she will definitely be back.

As for the Upside Down? I’m hoping we explore another dimension of some sort. Unless season two is spent entirely in the Upside Down following the kids searching for Eleven, then I don’t see the point. Almost all of the bad guys from season one are dead, besides, maybe, the demogorgen. Why not move onto some sort of new dimension with new villains?

Which reminds me, I think I only had two complaints about the season as a whole. First, bear with my black heart here, but I did not care for the love story between Eleven and Mike. Look, they are kids, let their love blossom in their awkward teen years. Or you know, let a boy and a girl be friends without having to worry about all this love nonsense.

And second, Eleven’s “dad” was the central villain for the season besides the demogorgen right? Or at least he came off that way. He was mysterious and evil. But he was killed off without a thought right? There’s been Marvel villains who got more screen time than this guy.

I’m usually the complainer in our friendship but how about you, any complaints?

Jesse: Yeah it seemed like that guy got off pretty easy. He made a living terrorizing children for his own scientific gains and then he barely even has to face the music. I still enjoyed him more than the dark elves from Thor: The Dark World though..

Speaking of not facing the music, we talked about this briefly through text but I feel like Hopper could basically do whatever the hell he wanted just because he was the Chief of Police. Beat up a guy behind a bar until he gives up some information? Go for it, no one’s going to stop you. Break in to a top secret facility and assault the guards? They don’t even lock you up, man, just take you home and bug your living room. I’m not even mad. I just wonder if I should move to a small town in Ohio and take up a career in law enforcement.

Other complaints include Lucas being the token black guy and Steve fearing the wrath of his parents more than being abducted by the government or killed by a monster (which is objectively funny, in my opinion, so maybe not a real complaint).

I know you weren’t digging Mike and Eleven’s version of young love, so how stoked are you for the Jonathan/Nancy/Steve love triangle in season 2? Super stoked, right?

Kevin: Actually my cold black heart only dislikes love stories for children under 15 years old. Love triangles for teenagers? I’m all in. Especially because I like Jonathan and Steve and Nancy. I’m kind of secretly hoping they all settle down together to make one big family.

I’m running out of questions here but I think it’s about time to wrap this party up. I just want to be on record that I think the creators of Stranger Things truly love the universe they built and I appreciate the amount of work they put in to create such a great show. I look forward to season 2. And thank you Jesse for trusting me enough to take the plunge to the Upside Down with me.

 

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