Stranger Things - Netflix




If I may dare to go slightly off-script, I was just thinking of shows with kids being the main characters and my mind immediately went to Avatar (and its more “grown-up” sequel, Legend of Korra). They’re animated, and absolutely brilliant (in my humble opinion). There’s a good amount of steampunk in those, but no sci-fi.


We finished Stranger Things in a weekend a few weeks ago and, while I enjoyed it for the most part, overall I found it pretty tame and predictable. Tom used the word ‘anodyne’ on the front page and I think that’s about right. I wasn’t wild about Super 8 either for pretty much the same reason.

There kind of is (if you switch out science fiction for the undead (but not as you know it) and other paranormal stuff): The Returned. It’s French, slow, mysterious, creepy, bleak and scored by Mogwai, so it’s a very different kind of experience to Stranger Things. They remade it into a US series but, like Humans vs. Real Humans, I suspect it’s not as good as the source material. Real Humans was god damned brilliant btw.

We watched the first season of The Returned some years back and were thrilled to realise it was on Netflix (we signed up for the free trial recently) so now we’re watching season two. It’s taken a while to pick up the pieces from where we left off but I’m really enjoying it again. I’ve no idea where it’s going but I’m keen to find out (and quietly hoping it doesn’t do a Lost and disappear up its own arse). Probably ought to watch the movie while we’re at it too.



A monster. I’m still twitching after seeing that GIF, you bastard.


Just binge watched this over the weekend and really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to season 2.

I had thought that an American Horror approach might work, with each season being a unique story arc, but I’m ok with continuing the season one story.


My wife and I watched this in two days. We thought it was excellent overall, although I’m a little down on the ending. ‘The End?’ may be a period-appropriate way to wrap it up, but it still bugs me.

I’m consciously avoiding fan theories, on the assumption that for any moderately popular work by any author within a standard deviation or two of average talent, fans will either hit on the thing the author is planning to do (cf. Lost) or come up with something better than what actually happens (… Lost again, actually).


I’ll avoid fan theories too, for the same reasons, but…

Honestly, I’m not sure there’s too much currency in the speculation. As much as I enjoyed the show, it wasn’t like the central “mystery” was all that complex or even really all that mysterious.

We (the audience) already knew there was (a) a monster, (b) a secret government lab, and © a girl who escaped from “b” and had super-powers. Sure, there was some filling-in in the margins, but mostly the show was about the characters coming to discover what we already knew and how they acted once they figured it out.


In retrospect, that’s probably one of the reasons I liked it. Instead of trying to tie us up in knots about mysteries and twists, they made it firmly about the journey and not the destination.

Shows that constantly tease you with “Maybe it’s this - no wait, no maybe it’s that!” constantly run the risk of being severely anticlimactic when the final explanation is revealed. This is especially true of Lost and its children, but it was true back in the day as well. (Last act of It, anyone?)


I liked this about the show as well. Rather than dangle bits and slowly paint a picture, they kept moving the plot forward at a steady pace.


I loved the way they handled things as well. We in the audience were always shown things well in advance of when our protagonists learn the same lessons. Most of the time it was well in advance. There’s times when I don’t enjoy that, but here it was handled superbly.


Tangerine Dream cover the soundtrack


That’s glorious. Thanks for sharing.


It’s a bit like a band covering their cover band.


If I have a gripe at the end, it’s that

SPOILERSSSS (how do you do the spoiler hide window?)

the critter at the end is too powerful, clearly shrugging off hundreds of rounds by submachine guns, and walks in on the kids without an apparent scratch. We had just established that it doesn’t like to get cut/chopped/bear trapped/burned back in the house, and then it somehow slaughters about 30 trained military agents who were at close range and could not miss. While it is fairly fast, it’s not much more so than a big man.

If they had just chosen to have it come in to the classroom riddled with holes and oozing blood / viscous liquid, barely standing but still with energy to overwhelm the kids, that’d have been much better. Maybe the thing is driven entirely by tendons or something and has no organs or whatever to pierce and incapacitate, but that skin should not have been kevlar.

I’m also wondering what the deal is with the critter; is it the only one? What did it eat before the portal had been opened? Or was bizarro world entirely slaughtered by him? That wouldn’t be consitant as he doesn’t seem to be used to having a wide range. Or had he been pulled into bizarro world from somewhere else before, and was newly a stranger to that place too? But I’ll be honest, having these questions answered won’t really be as much fun as watching the first season unfold, these things never are, and in film when they do, it’s always kind of a let down. I wish they’d start a new season with new characters and a different scenario, maybe playing with the dimension thing if they have to in a different context.


According to interviews, the Duffer brothers have all of that figured out/written down. They didn’t think it was required for the story this season.


The notion of a bullet-proof bad guy is kind of a trope, in and of itself. They normally require some more creative way of being killed, despite the science saying the kinetic force and resultant damage imparted by a bullet should massively outweigh a few spikes from a bear trap or whatever else gets used. When I see the bullet-proof bad guy/monster, because I’ve seen it so often in the past, I instantly transition to the underlying meaning: those who we unquestioningly rely upon to protect us (parents/teachers/police/military/whomever) are powerless, so this is a moment where we - seeing the story through the protagonist’s eyes - must summon the courage to become heroes. This trope was reinforced within the show (and it’s practical absurdity highlighted) when the boys readied themselves with the wrist-rocket to somehow try to kill the monster once and for all. Of course, their greater heroism to befriend Eleven and take a stand in their (eventually collective) belief that this was the right thing to do is in part what won the day, as she did her thing to defend them. She became their paladin, her cause their friendship.


Continuing spoiler talk:

It seems clear there’s a nether-world ecosystem of some sort. The cop encounters what seems to be a hatched egg, and it’s clear that the Will’s body was being used to incubate a larva of some sort, even before he coughs up the leech-thing in the epilogue. I would assume either:

  • the Demogorgon eats dark world critters most of the time, but they’re hard to catch, having evolved to avoid it. Real-world prey is easier and probably even tastier so it was gorging on easy prey, like a bear at a salmon run.
  • it doesn’t eat in its own world, because its just a magic part of that world. But it likes eating real world flesh because it’s eeeeeeevil. It might need true flesh to reproduce, again because it’s an evil nether-thing.

Re: invulnerability, if I was writing it, I’d say that physical trauma surprises it, but doesn’t damage it at all. Fire might actually hurt it (e.g. purifiying properties), but it can retreat to it’s own world to escape. Lighting it on fire while it’s in the dark world might work though. (Eleven disassembled it on a molecular level, so there wasn’t really an “it” left when she was done).

Thinking too hard about bizarro world is never going to work. It’s a dark mirror of our world, so we saw cars and stuff on the street and rotting food in the kitchen. When and how did these cars appear? Is it just because there’s a real world car there?What happens to the dark world car when the real world cars drives away? What’s the refresh rate?

It doesn’t matter. It’s a magic dimension. Part of what made the series good is that it understands that this stuff doesn’t matter. The Duffers may have an answer, but I personally don’t care until it become storyline important.


Yeah, that’s what I meant by my last paragraph… rarely is an explanation of the mechanics of how/where/why of an alien menace that interesting as a reveal, which is the way most films play it. If you’re going to stay in that world and use the mechanics in an interesting way, that’s another story, which I guess we’ll see in another season. But the worry is that it gets technical, rather than be scary in a new way. Just putting characters in danger isn’t great; it’s the unknown that gets me.

Oh yeah, another thing I was wondering about. The sheriff was caught up to when he infiltrated the compound, drugged, and returned to his trailer. I thought that was really baffling, considering they outright murdered a chef in a public space, and were happy to go to lengths to pretend another murder. Especially since he was off the grid, at that moment, so to speak. I thought we’d find out the science guys had an ulterior motive for letting him live, but in the end it didn’t seem that way.


They could have had Modine talk about how it would be too risky and public
to flat out kill an officer of the law and elected official when they could easily play off his history as an alcoholic and public drunk. They could have also explained how killing the sheriff would likely draw more competent law enforcement in much larger numbers, so why kill a sheriff with a history of incompetence and a lack of general concern for pretty much anything and bring in legitimate law enforcement in greater numbers? I thought this was pretty obvious myself. Not killing the sheriff perfect sense to me.