Stranger Things – Episode 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers

Stranger Things is the latest Netflix production to have taken the world by storm. As a new feature I will be reviewing a new episode every day for the next 8 days. I am watching the episodes in real time so please no spoilers from future episodes. With that in mind, please only continue reading if you have already seen the episode and you don’t mind spoilers yourself. Enjoy!


Without wishing to sound hyperbolic, Stranger Things could well be the show I have always waited for. I’m certainly not alone in considering the 80’s and 90’s to be the real golden age of cinema. Star Wars, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, Terminator, the list goes on and on… and on. The 80’s nostalgia train has been a lucrative one for Hollywood but it hasn’t produced much in terms of actual quality. The problem seems to be that nobody can accurately capture the feel of those classic movies… until now.

Stranger Things doesn’t just feel inspired by Twin Peaks or The Goonies. It feels like those films are peers. Everything about the look, setting, costume and soundtrack screams classic 80’s cinema. And that is part of what makes Stranger Things so good, it is cinematic in scope, it never feels inherently like a television show.

Episode 1 features a terrifying cold open that sees a scientist type being pursued by an unseen monster. Colour me intrigued. The opening credits are so delightfully retro that I expected the theme song to morph into the Transformers theme. A very strong start for a series that has received more hype than any TV show since Making A Murderer (also a Netflix production, has the streaming site overtaken HBO? Possibly).

Following the intro is a delightful introductory scene that shows our young protagonists playing Dungeons & Dragons. This could have come straight out of a John Hughes movie but there is still a backdrop of dread as the Will Byers from the title is introduced. The young cast stay the right side of cheesy and but it is not until David Harbour and Winona Ryder are introduced that things really get interesting.

Harbour plays that same maverick police chief we have seen a thousand times before but he is such an excellent actor that he brings something new to a character trope as old as time. Ryder’s wide eyed hysteria is played to perfection as she searches in vain for her missing son. The cast generally works well together on the whole in fact which is a good sign for the rest of the season.

I have been waiting so long for a show that genuinely feels like a Stephen King adaptation directed by John Hughes, on the basis of this exemplary first episode, that long wait has come to an end. Have Netflix produced the best TV show of 2016? Far too early to say yet but Stranger Things have happened…

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