Stranger Things: Season 1
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Stranger Things: Season 1

Watching a television program were so much easier back when I was a kid. Even in a major market such as New York City only seven channels to choose from and even then the quality was highly dependent upon how the position of the indoor, ‘rabbit ears’ antenna. Decades later, after the introduction of cable TV, uncut theater quality films direct to your home and in the early 80s, it was possible to record your favorite TV shows and movies thanks to the VCR. Recently there was a rapid succession between laser disks, DVDs, Blu-rays and outsources 4K resolution. It seems that over the course of a normal lifetime we are always confronted with technology that we are confident is the apex format for home entertainment that is until the next greatest format proliferates its way through the masses. For decades the trend has been to liberate the consumer from dependence on an outside source for the TV shows and movies. It became possible to amass a sizable collection of videotapes later replaced by DVDs and Blu-rays. Now, the pendulum seems to be swinging back again as storage is once more, and ever-increasing amount of movies and shows distorted some central location.

All of these changes have pointed to in one direction but have culminated in the advent of streaming video services such as 'Hulu,' Amazon’ Prime and ‘Netflix.' It required decades for premium cable networks receive serios recognition in the important award ceremonies. In contrast, streaming services, particularly Netflix, and managed to serious contenders for some of the most prestigious awards in the industry. The reason for this incredible rise in acclaim is more complicated than might immediately be evident. Certainly, exemption from the content standards maintained by the FCC was a major factor allowing for the exploration of more mature themes. Netflix has become one of the well-respected and influential sources of original television programming ever. In just a few short years they rent from a service that expedited DVD rental is streaming video service that has dominated that form of distribution. Now with the original programming, they have not only exceeded the competition similar services they now arrival and exceed the major television networks. Last summer one example of the original programming instantly became a phenomenon, a water cooler topic is popular and influential, and its effect on the audience is the most anything HBO has a provided. ‘Stranger Things,' is the type of series that if you just read the synopsis, you invariably say to yourself that it sounds all too familiar, something that you have seen many times before. That is part of the genius of the series. It lulls you into a complacency of familiarity only to repeatedly rip before out from under your feet. Only eight episodes in its first season this series created a world of mystery and intrigue, wonderment, and danger that had the inescapable poll of the black hole upon the viewers.

It all begins on November 6, 1983, in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. The group of friends gathered together to play Dungeons & Dragons. Is immediately evident that this is more than just a casual range of past time, they all have elaborate back stories for the characters and even have sets of figurines to represent the various monsters and dangers the abundant estimate place in the path of the players. Considering this matter in which they choose to pass the time it is almost certain that in school they are branded as geeks and nerds relegated to their clique consisting of the boys gathered in that room. Such social modernization tends to form exceptionally close bonds of friendship that is exactly how it is for this cadre of boys with an incredible imagination. One of the more outspoken of their number is Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard). This steadfast loyalty to his friends bestows upon his position of respect in the group. Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) is the more pragmatic and wary of the group. He is in stark contrast to the exuberant willingness to believe exhibited by Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), frequently ridiculed because of his pronounced list which is due to cleidocranial dysplasia, which has a pronounced effect on the eruption of his permanent teeth. To the credit of the showrunners, a young man playing this role has that distorted in real life. It is also quite notable that for the most part the children are played by actors and actresses close in age to their characters. Usually quiet and exceptionally honest is a fourth of the number, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). During the crucial moment in the game, the decisive role of advice is off the table onto the floor. Will confess to Mike that the dice role was against his character and he lost. That evening as they all took to their bikes to go home for dinner; Will Byers disappears without a trace.

With only eight episodes to convey the entire story the creative brothers behind this your de force, Matt and Ross Duffer exhibited an incredible degree of efficiency. There is not a moment wasted, every pixel of the 4K master video was meticulously planned and exquisitely executed. Increasing the level of difficulty was not only maintaining the look and feel of the eighties but migrating that into an ideal homage to the movies of that period. The primary motivation is when the three erstwhile young detectives encounter a very unusual preteen age girl, who refers to herself only as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), called ‘El’ by the boys. When they find her El is dressed only in a hospital gown, her hair buzz cut down to her scalp. Because of her appearance, the three friends initially think she is a boy; El escaped from a top-secret laboratory facility, Hawkins Laboratory. They were engaged in investigations into other dimensions. El was crucial to the research which consisted of submerging her in a tank of water and other procedures that purposely inflicted considerable amounts of pain. The writers infused the perfect touch of creature feature in to the story; the unknown dimension held a monster that is now able to hunt in our world.

The full story consists of two distinct main threads orbiting the barycenter created by the covert activities of the Institute. Obviously, the first and dominant thread concerns the three friends and the new addition to their coterie, the strange yet extraordinarily powerful girl, El. Her psychokinetic abilities can be overwhelming as a hurricane or as subtitle as an evening breeze. There is little wonder that Lucas takes a while to accept her completely fully. The other intertwined storyline concerns the adults in the town. The primary focus in this instance was understandably Joyce (Winona Ryder), Will Byers’ mother. She was barely able to cope with reality before the inexplicable disappearance of her youngest child. Joyce quickly descended into lunacy after hearing a voice that seemed to eminate from the walls. Her instance that the voice belongs to Will soon eclipses everything. When Joyce notices that the apparition causes an electrical disruption, she purchases every strand of Christmas lights in town, stringing them all over her house. Upon realizing Will apparently can exert control over which lights to affect Joyce rigs a crude Ouija board by spray painting the letters of the alphabet which cluster of lights associated with the message. All along Joyce manically lights cigarettes, drawing on them as if they provide some tether to the familiar aspects of life. This behavior disassociates her from her friends with the sole exception of the town’s sheriff, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), who is sufficiently concerned with Joyce’s erratic behavior to try to curb his alcoholism. The other significant adult in this story is Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), the scientist in charge of the secretive research and primary tormentor of El.

The secondary story involving the kids revolves around Mike’s older sister, Nancy (Natalia Dyer). She is a quiet young woman, smart, reserved with her social circle limited to her best friend, Barbara "Barb" Holland (Shannon Purser). Barb becomes upset, feeling threatened when Nancy is actively pursued by the popular Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), who manages to deflower Nancy. As Steve pulls away, the emotional void is by Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton). He is a sensitive loner, photography buff, and Joyce’s oldest son. He is the only one willing to help Nancy search when Barb also vanishes. Al of these concurrent plots is woven together in a synergist tapestry imbued with such nuances that experiencing this series multiple times will reveal details previous unnoticed. While the series is foremost an eighties kids uncovering a town’s hidden horror but that is the façade that covers an intricately designed tale of the loss of innocence. That is the critical theme pervading every relationship, each character and the driving force with the myriad of subplots.

Three boys face the loss of innocence on several cascading levels. Fist when they have to face the harsh reality that bad things, painful, terrible things can happen to them, not the characters they vicariously experience in their games. Mike has first crush with El, making him the first one to understand a different relationship possible with girls. Lucas comes to understand that a significant portion of life exists beyond what he can comfortably assess in his mind. Nancy is forced to face her burgeoning sexuality enhanced with the loss of her best friend. Of course, Joyce forcibly conronts the frightening reality that it isn’t paranoia if a monster is really after you. Of all the characters in the series the most pronounced loss of innocence i.e. with El. Life in the laboratory was torture but is completely isolated her from reality on the most fundamental level. Every moment is another iota of innocence ablated from her. She must subject herself to the deconstruction of her existence as a laboratory subject, reforming into a young woman, strong, independent and fully in control of her abilities. The other dimension refereed as the ‘Upside Down,' as a place where reality twisted around, and nature itself altered. In effect, this is a McGuffin, critically important within the context of the story, crucial to the characters but secondary to the audience behind the all-important character arcs each person undergoes. Very soon the second season will be released return us all to Hawkins, Indiana, and the Upside Down.

Posted 02/03/2017

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