Normally I detest Netflix original content. It comes across as HBO with the brakes off and that's saying something.
One example; the original House of Cards was about a take over of the Conservative Party by a reactionary chief whip who amusingly cheated and murdered his way to the top of parliament's greasy pole to become prime minister. The Netflix version was about a reactionary Democrat (really?)whip who was promised the post of Sec State and decides to murder his way to the top when he doesn't get it. There is no way in hell a House of Representatives Whip would be offered Sec State, it just wouldn't happen. Oh yes their version Frances Urquhart is a Southron because the South is evil and racist.
Sense 8 on the surface looked to be potentially amazing. Netflix had the producers of Babylon 5 and The Matrix working together on a show. I was prepared to be dazzled. I was not prepared for a ridiculous sermon on inclusive, intersectional joys of psychic transgenderism.
I found Daredevil preachy and slow. Although I did like the Punisher episodes, those were tolerable. But for the most part it's a show about uber lefty knobs as heroes.
I had liked All Hail King Julian but then they had to soil that one for me with anti-Trump, pro-immigration episode. I can't bring myself to watch it now. Thanks guys!
Consequently, Stranger Things nearly slipped beneath my radar. I just wasn't interested in it, if it was by Netflix.
Wrong call. This show is great. I loved it.
The characters or at least the main characters are detailed, layered, interesting and believable.
The MacGuffin is simple enough. You have three greatly different groups of people, with greatly different motivations trying to rescue a boy that has been taken to someplace...else.
These groups are The Kids, The Teenagers and The Adults.
It's set in the 1980s and they mostly got the 1980s right.
Today we live a world that is as divorced from that one, as Marty McFly's 1985 was from 1955. This was a world without the internet, without cell phones, (hell, without cordless phones come to that). If you had a make a call on the road, you had pull over when you found a public phone booth. If you didn't know where you were going to you had to buy a map, also you had to know how to read a map.
There was no internet, teenage boys who wanted to see something naked were reliant on a cooperative girlfriend. Which wasn't that easy, teenage girls despite being under relentless pressure from Hollywood to become sluts, largely weren't. There was still a stigma attached to that. In fact that was one of the better scenes in the show....
Nancy our heroine had been holding out on her rich, bad boy, Alpha, Steve. She had finally given up the goods in a scene that tastefully avoided nudity. The next day when she is walking down the hall of her high school another girl looks at her and smirks. A number of emotions cross Nancy's face but the big take away is that she lost her virginity and she can't walk that one back. Nancy is now of diminished value in her society and she knows it.
Nancy has two romantic interests. Steve, the aforementioned bad boy Alpha who is so rich he drives a seven series BMW and Jonathon a poor boy with an artists heart. I was expecting a good deal of Alpha-resentment but that never really showed up. There is conflict between the two but Steve manages to avoid becoming the bad guy.
There is in the background the usual Gamma Male fantasy of winning over the girl with the sincerity of true love. And that if the girl only understood the depths of your feelings for her, she will abandon the unworthy Alpha for the true-hearted Gamma. While there is a bit of the Secret King vibe from Jonathon (he's a photographer who dreams of attending NYU, (*eyeroll*)) This theme is muted. And before anyone says it, no, he is not a Sigma.
Sheriff Hopper is the more traditional Alpha. Although a broken one because of the death of his child and the ensuing collapse of his marriage. He cares for and protects his group. He exerts calm, assertive, dominant energy. He doesn't have trouble getting laid, he just doesn't care about it either. It's like going to the bathroom for him, just do it and get it over-with. The disappearance of Will Byers is the start of his road to salvation.
The boys were my favorite characters. They were actual boys. They had a major problem that they were facing like boys that age would. Their fellowship had been broken by the disappearance of one of their number, namely Will. They were certain that he was alive and were determined to rescue him. A worse problem to their relationship arrives in the form of Eleven...a girl! The boys are at an age where girls are disruptive indeed to established relationships. But she is a girl with superpowers and that might be useful since they are facing a monster come to life from their game of Dungeons and Dragons.
It's a show that is not without flaws. Superpowerful government conspiracies have never done it for me. I've been inside the Green Machine, it's not that omnicompetent and no, it doesn't eliminate random US citizens who accidentally learn too much. There is also a major inconsistency there regarding their treatment of Sheriff Hopper after he infiltrates their facility.
Additionally the show handed itself a small problem with it's period hyper accuracy because when you work that hard on details you get right, the minor ones you get wrong, stand out. The teenage costumes look like my high school yearbook. We didn't dress or look that way every single day. At one point one of the kids refers to "Commies" in the 80s no one used that term anymore. You didn't even call the Russians, "Russians". Everyone called them, "Soviets." As I said, very minor but it stood out.
In summary, Stranger Thing is an excellent show. Well plotted and the tone is consistent through out. It respects it's characters and it's audience. It is even to some extent Game aware, which I was not expecting from a show whose major underlying theme is about a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
I enjoyed it thoroughly and I highly recommend it.
P.S. Vox Media doesn't like it's lack of feminism, it's too boy-centric for their taste and that alone makes it worth your time.