Is Netflix’s new original worth your time? The pilot promises really good things…
It seems like barely a week goes by without Netflix releasing a new original series. If there’s one main reason the streaming service is criticised for increasingly poor movie content, it’s just that: it’s too busy focusing on acquiring and making TV. But it’s times like this where that seemingly frustrating devotion pays off. Stranger Things is one of the most intriguing original series in years.
Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, the minds behind last year’s Hidden, the show sets itself up with a classic hook: the disappearance of a young boy in a small-ish town and the subsequent search for his whereabouts. The consequences of his vanishing naturally ripple to his mother (Winona Ryder), who descends into fits of hysteria before sensing some kind of strange presence through the light bulbs around her. Meanwhile, the local Sheriff (David Harbour) is gradually beginning to realise there’s perhaps more to this than just a missing person’s case, while the boy’s friends stumble upon a mysterious girl with telekinetic powers who may or may not lead them to Will.
The show is immediately working with archetypes drawn from other sources; the small American town hiding secrets, the group of kids hunting down a monster, the grizzled Sheriff conjuring old memories with a new case, the high school bullies and confrontations between “cool kids” and “weirdos”. We’re thinking Stephen King (who’s already championed it) and the likes of Super 8, E.T., Chronicle and It Follows. But rather than feeling like we’re just stomping over old ground, Stranger Things appears to work because it’s drawing these really strong influences but building something completely new, where every strand is deliciously intriguing. After just one episode we already feel as though we’re on the precipice of something special.
And if the actual show wasn’t enough, even the Terminator-esque title credits hypnotise us into this strange world with dark, ominous synthesizers and a throwback font, promising nothing good will come of these characters. Promising that we should dig in and prepare for the unexpected.
Overall, Netflix is onto something good here. As with any pilot episode, we’ve only scratched the surface of what the series has to offer, but I immediately watched episodes 2 and 3 based on the strength of the first one, which is rare for me. And honestly? It just gets better. The full series will tell how all of these intriguing threads ultimately mingle together, but one thing is already certain: Stranger Things should be at the very top of your watch list.