‘Stranger Things’ Episode One Review: The Vanishing of Will Byers


Episode 1 was an action-packed roller coaster leaving me desperate to start episode 2.

So I may be a little late to the party, but I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon for Netflix’s latest original series, Stranger Things. Written and produced by Ross and Matt Duffer, Stranger Things has been incessantly clogging up my news feed across all social media platforms this past week. Many of my coworkers and friends have been recommending it for a quick binge with only an 8 episode season, but I’m feeling some sort of newly acquired self-control. I’ve decided to watch the episodes over a bit of time and write reviews on the new series. Although it’s something a bit new for me, here it goes.

The good stuff…obviously spoilers lie ahead.

Stranger Things opens with an immediate eerie feeling to it which turned me off a bit. I’m not exactly the hugest fan of horror/suspense television shows, but I wanted to give this one sometime. A time stamp dating back to November 6th, 1983 pans across the screen giving me some hope for a good vintage scary story. We begin our journey at the Hawkins National Laboratory, US Department of Energy…what a place to be late at night. Lights flickering, spooky music, and a typical scary movie “jump out of your seat moment” in the first 2 minutes of the first episode and we already have our first victim. A scientist who presumably works in the lab falls victim to an unseen beast.

Our story immediate shifts to a basement of a house where we come upon what are sure to be some of our main characters. Four young boys are playing some Dungeons and Dragons when their game is put on hold by Mike’s mom informing them of their dreaded bedtime. The game is cut short with the all powerful Demogorgon on the table hungry for blood. Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin seem like your typical adolescent nerds having just gotten out of a 10-hour campaign of D&D only to be cut short by the school night curfew.

Man, I wish someone ordered me to go to bed at night.

The three other boys proceed to pack up and get onto their bikes to ride home together in the dead of night…what a time the 80’s was. Will Byers zooms off ahead only to be forced off the road by a dark mysterious figure (which we assume is the same monster that has eaten up our scientist friend). Despite making it into his shed and loading up the rifle that just happens to be lying around…again with the carefree 1980’s…the mysterious shadowed figure magically appears inside of the shed behind Will Byers and the two disappear into oblivion.

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Will Byers shortly before he is taken.

At 10 minutes in, we finally get the title screen that has been plaguing the interwebs with the episode’s title being- Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers.

At this point we get the sense for one of the main antagonists of the series, but we’ll get back to that. We’re then introduced to what are sure to be some more major characters of the series. We meet the hardworking single mother of Will, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and his brother Jonathan who both jump to take the blame for the current “missing” Will Byers. The two spend the rest of the episode trying to look for Will while also trying to get in touch with his absent father, Lonnie. Head of the Hawkins Police Force, Sheriff Hopper, also makes a handful of appearances in this first episode as well. Visually hungover in his first encounter, the Sheriff seems completely carefree of anything until he sees the state of the shed Will vanished in. He notices a weird entry point (or escape route) in the back of the shed as well as a flickering light bulb which immediately prompted some much needed urgency in finding the missing Will. We come to find out that he lost his daughter and due to his swift response to certain clues, I think that he might be in on some of the soon to be revealed secrets of Hawkins. Mike’s sister Nancy is also a point of interest along with her sleazy little “boyfriend” Steve Harrington. The two spend their screen time snooping around to make-out, and personally I’m hoping that Steve becomes our next victim as someone who has a little sister.

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Winona Ryder as Joyce, Will Byers’ mother.

Let’s get back to that antagonist part though. Part-way through the episode, I had a little ET flash back as men in hazmat suits stormed the laboratory from the opening scene. Searching for what we believe is our mysterious monster, the scene ends with a rather Alien-esque infestation of the lab where one of the men says “she couldn’t have gotten far”. This “she” doesn’t actually have a name and we come to find out that she goes by “eleven” as per the tattoo 011 marked on her forearm. Found wearing nothing but a burnt hospital gown and a buzzcut, the girl escapes the clutches of two armed guards that were a part of the original hazmat crew using some sort of assumed supernatural ability. The group of cronies trying to round up the little girl shoot an innocent man while disguised as child protective services, so right now I’m thinking they’re  the bad guys and this mysterious little “Eleven” might end up being beneficial to finding our lost Will Byers.

The episode comes to an end as the three boys start a search for their lost friend Will in a rainstorm where they come across an out of breath Eleven near the site where Will’s bike was found. No words are exchanged between the four, but I’m sure they will take her in and we’ll figure out more about her background in due time.

My First Take

Stranger Things to me is a much tamer American Horror Story with an added Alien/ET feeling. It’s definitely going to be an action-packed series with a lot of unexpected twists and turns. There’s a number of interesting plot lines that are sure to unravel as I continue the series and the first episode only left me thirsty for more.

Bold predictions

Honestly, I’m sure that my predictions will be completely out in left field. As an avid binge-watcher of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, I’ve become quite accustomed to unforeseen plot twists in Netflix originals. However, here are some of my predictions:

1) Lonnie Byers

Although Lonnie hasn’t been answering the phone, Joyce seemed very determined to get a response out of her ex on the phone. I don’t think this is the last we will hear from Lonnie, and I like to think that he might play a significant plot role in the show’s future episodes.

2) D&D Foreshadowing

The boys’ last interaction with Will was in a D&D campaign where Will opted to roll for a fireball to attack the Demogorgon instead of casting a protection spell. During the episode, Dustin claimed that had Will cast the protection spell, maybe he may not have been taken by the actual monster. I think that maybe the game might be tied to the plot a bit and that they may continue this campaign to try and anticipate their mysterious attacker’s next moves.

3) Sheriff Hopper and Eleven

I think that potentially Sheriff Hopper knows a little bit more about what’s going on then he is telling everyone. His response to the state of the Byers’ shed left me thinking he might have an idea what the town is up against. I also think that maybe Eleven might be Hopper’s “lost” daughter.

My hope is that I can drag out this 8 episode series as long as I can, but even if my binge watching gets the best of me, be sure to check-in soon for my episode 2 recap.

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Kody

Kody

I ate fiberglass insulation. It wasn’t cotton candy like the guy said… my tummy itches.

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