Stranger Things (TV series)
|Created by||The Duffer Brothers|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||42–55 minutes|
|Picture format||4K (Ultra HD)|
|Original release||July 15, 2016 – present|
Stranger Things is an American science fiction-horror web television series created by the Duffer Brothers. It is written and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer and executive-produced by Shawn Levy. It stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, and Dacre Montgomery. The plot follows the disappearance of a young boy, and the appearance of a telekinetic girl, who helps his friends in their search, while the boy's older brother, his mother, and the town police chief start their own investigations.
The show is set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, and is a homage to 1980s pop culture, inspired and aesthetically informed by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Stephen King, Robert Zemeckis, and George Lucas, among others.
The show was released on Netflix on July 15, 2016. It received acclaim for its characterization, pacing, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing, and homages to 1980s genre films. On August 31, 2016, Netflix renewed the series for a second season of nine episodes, to be released in 2017.
On November 6, 1983, in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, 12-year-old Will Byers vanishes mysteriously. Will's frantic mother, Joyce, searches for him while Police Chief Jim Hopper launches his own investigation. Will's friends Dustin, Mike, and Lucas discover a psychokinetic girl who claims to know Will's location. As they uncover the truth, a sinister government agency tries to cover it up, while a more insidious force lurks below the surface.
Cast and characters
- Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, mother of 12-year-old Will Byers and teenager Jonathan Byers. Divorced from Lonnie, she relies on her older son, Jonathan, for help.
- David Harbour as Jim Hopper, chief of Hawkins Police Department. Hopper divorced after his young daughter died of cancer, which caused him to lapse into alcoholism.
- Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, son of Karen, younger brother of Nancy, and one of three friends of Will Byers. He is an intelligent and conscientious student and is committed to his friends.
- Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven ("El"), a young girl with psychokinetic abilities and a limited vocabulary. She befriends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. It is eventually revealed that she is actually Jane Ives, the biological daughter of Terry Ives. She escaped from Hawkins Laboratory where experiments were being performed on her.
- Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson, one of Will's friends. His cleidocranial dysplasia causes him to lisp.
- Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair, one of Will's friends. He is wary of Eleven.
- Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, daughter of Karen, older sister of Mike, and girlfriend of Steve Harrington.
- Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, the older brother of Will Byers and the son of Joyce Byers. Considered an outsider at school, he is a quiet teenager and an aspiring photographer. He is very close with his mother and brother, and has a secret crush on Nancy Wheeler.
- Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler, mother of teenaged Nancy, middle schooler Mike, and toddler Holly.
- Matthew Modine as Martin Brenner, the scientist in charge of Hawkins Laboratory and the experiments performed there. He is manipulative and remote. He and his team are searching for Eleven.
- Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, the younger brother of Jonathan Byers and the son of Joyce Byers. He vanishes after encountering the monster. Schnapp was promoted to a main cast member for the second season, after recurring in the first season.
- Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, the boyfriend of Nancy Wheeler. A popular student at the high school, he initially tries to develop a relationship with Nancy and ostracize Jonathan Byers, though he comes to regret the latter. Keery was promoted to a main cast member for the second season, after recurring in the first season.
- Sadie Sink as Max, a tomboy with a complicated history and a suspicion of those around her.
- Dacre Montgomery as Billy, Max’s older step-brother, who has a violent and unpredictable nature hiding under his charisma.
Introduced in season one
- Shannon Purser as Barbara "Barb" Holland, best friend of Nancy Wheeler. She is intelligent, outspoken, and very loyal to Nancy. She does not care about being popular with the other students at the school she and Nancy attend, but is concerned that her and Nancy's friendship may be threatened by Nancy's relationship with Steve.
- Ross Partridge as Lonnie Byers, the drunk, egotistical, selfish ex-husband of Joyce Byers and father of Jonathan and Will. He has a much younger girlfriend named Cynthia.
- Joe Chrest as Ted Wheeler, husband of Karen, father of teenaged Nancy, middle schooler Mike, and toddler Holly.
- Mark Steger as The Monster, a creature that exists in the Upside Down.
- Rob Morgan as Powell, one of Hopper's officers. He is serious and by the book.
- John Paul Reynolds as Callahan, another of Hopper's officers. Not nearly as serious as his partner, he still works hard in the search for Will Byers.
- Randall P. Havens as Scott Clarke, the boys' teacher. He encourages their interest in science and technology and helps them whenever asked.
- Aimee Mullins as Terry Ives, the mysterious woman who claims her daughter, Jane, was stolen from her shortly after Terry gave birth. It is hinted that she may be the biological mother of Eleven.
- Catherine Dyer as Connie Frazier, Brenner's FBI enforcer who has no qualms about murdering those who have come into contact with Eleven.
- Peyton Wich as Troy, a school bully of Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will.
- Cade Jones as James, a school bully who hangs around with Troy.
- Chester Rushing as Tommy H., former friend of Steve, and boyfriend of Carol.
- Chelsea Talmadge as Carol, former friend of Steve, and girlfriend of Tommy.
- Tinsley and Anniston Price as Holly Wheeler, daughter of Karen and Ted, younger sister of Nancy and Mike.
- Chris Sullivan as Benny Hammond, owner and chef of Benny's Burgers, and friend of Hopper.
- Tobias Jelinek as the lead agent at Hawkins National Laboratory, who assists Brenner.
- Susan Shalhoub Larkin as Florence ("Flo"), the secretary at the Hawkins Police Station.
Introduced in season two
- Sean Astin as Bob Newby, a former schoolmate of Joyce and Hopper, who now runs the Hawkins Radio Shack.
- Paul Reiser as Owens, a Department of Energy executive tasked with containing the events of the first season.
- Linnea Berthelsen as Roman, a woman that was emotionally damaged as a child and who has come to Hawkins due to events tied in with the strange events of the town.
- Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman, a former journalist that became a conspiracy theorist, who visits Hawkins to go after a cold case.
Season 1 (2016)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers||July 15, 2016|
|In 1983, in a US Department of Energy laboratory in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, a scientist is attacked by an unseen creature. 12-year-old Will Byers vanishes after encountering the creature while riding his bicycle home from a Dungeons & Dragons session with his friends. The next day, a young girl with a shaved head, wearing a hospital gown, steals food from a local diner. The owner, Benny, takes pity on her and feeds her before calling social services. A woman posing as a social worker arrives and shoots Benny. Armed men search the diner for the girl, but she escapes. Joyce, Will's mother, believes she hears Will's voice on a distorted phone call, but her phone short circuits. Will's friends Lucas, Mike, and Dustin find the girl in the woods as they search for Will.|
|2||2||"Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers||July 15, 2016|
|The boys learn the girl's name is Eleven, which is tattooed on her arm; they nickname her "El". Scientists from the laboratory find a substance oozing from the walls of Joyce's home. At Mike's home, El recognizes Will in a photo. She uses psychokinesis to lock the door and prevent Dustin and Lucas from informing Mike's parents about her. Searching for Will, Hopper discovers a torn piece of El's hospital gown outside the laboratory grounds. Nancy goes with her friend Barb to a party at her boyfriend Steve's house. Will's brother, Jonathan, investigates his disappearance, photographing the woods where Will went missing. Hearing screaming, he runs and sees Steve, Nancy, and their friends at Steve's swimming pool, and he photographs them. Barb vanishes from the poolside. Joyce receives another call from Will, hears music from his room, and sees something coming through the wall.|
|3||3||"Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly"||Shawn Levy||Jessica Mecklenburg||July 15, 2016|
|Barb wakes up in an empty pool near a dark creature. She tries to climb out in vain, but is dragged down. Joyce strings Christmas lights around her home, establishing communication with Will, who can turn them on and off. Hopper and his deputies research Dr. Martin Brenner, the laboratory, and a woman named Terry Ives who claimed her daughter was taken by scientists. El has a flashback in which Brenner, whom she calls "Papa", has her put in solitary confinement for refusing to telekinetically harm a cat. Nancy worries about Barb, who is missing. Steve and his friends discover Jonathan's photographs and destroy them along with his camera, but Nancy notices a photo of Barb before she disappeared and returns to Steve's house to search for her. Nancy finds Barb's car and sees the creature in the woods. Joyce establishes a code with Will using the lights, which he uses to tell her that he is alive but unsafe. He tells Joyce to run as a creature begins to climb through her wall. Will's "body" is discovered in the water at a quarry.|
|4||4||"Chapter Four: The Body"||Shawn Levy||Justin Doble||July 15, 2016|
|El proves to the boys that Will is still alive by making contact through Mike's walkie-talkie. Using their science teacher Mr. Clarke's powerful ham radio to contact Will, El and the boys overhear Will talking to his mother, saying he is afraid. Simultaneously, Joyce hears him through her living room wall and tears the wallpaper, revealing a flesh-like substance with Will on the other side. She breaks the wall with an axe, but this opens only to her front porch. Examining Jonathan's photo of Barb, Nancy realizes the monster is also visible. Jonathan realizes that Nancy's description of the creature matches his mother's: a humanoid figure with long arms and no face. Hopper confronts the state trooper who found Will's body. Suspicious, Hopper goes to the morgue, cuts open Will's body, and discovers it is a dummy. He heads to the laboratory and breaks in.|
|5||5||"Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat"||The Duffer Brothers||Alison Tatlock||July 15, 2016|
|Will's father Lonnie assures Joyce that her experiences are hallucinations. The boys conclude that Will is trapped in an alternative dimension which El calls the Upside-Down: the same location as normal, but on another level of existence. Hopper infiltrates the Hawkins National Lab and discovers the portal. He pursues the creature but is knocked out by suited guards. He wakes up in his own home and finds it bugged. After Will's funeral, the boys ask Mr. Clarke about dimensions, who he tells them that a spacetime tear could create a passage between dimensions. The deputies inform Hopper that Barb's car was found by the state; Hopper finds the state's involvement suspicious. Positing that a tear in spacetime would disrupt the electromagnetic field, the boys follow their compasses to find the source of the disruption. El remembers being placed in a sensory-deprivation tank to telepathically intercept information from a Russian spy; while listening to the spy, she came across the creature. Scared of finding the gate, El directs the compasses away from the laboratory. Lucas notices the distortion and confronts her. Mike defends her, and he and Lucas fight, which ends with El telekinetically flinging Lucas off Mike. Lucas recovers and runs away. In the woods, Nancy and Jonathan find a wounded deer, which the creature attacks and drags away. Following the blood trail, Nancy crawls through a passage to the Upside-Down world and discovers the creature feasting upon the deer. While in the portal, the creature notices Nancy and attacks her.|
|6||6||"Chapter Six: The Monster"||The Duffer Brothers||Jessie Nickson-Lopez||July 15, 2016|
|When she can't get out by herself, Jonathan pulls Nancy through the portal, saving her from the creature. In her bedroom, she is afraid to be alone and asks Jonathan to stay. Steve sees them together through her bedroom window, and assumes they are dating. The next day, Nancy and Jonathan resolve to kill the monster and purchase supplies from an army surplus store. After a fist fight with Steve, Jonathan is arrested after he inadvertently assaults an officer. Joyce and Hopper decide to investigate together after Hopper discovers his home has been bugged. They track down Terry Ives; she is El's biological mother, who underwent MKUltra training while pregnant. Jane, now known as "011", was taken by Brenner. El shoplifts frozen waffles and recalls how she accidentally opened the gate to the Upside-Down on a reconnaissance mission, allowing the monster through. While searching for El, Mike and Dustin are ambushed by Troy and his bully friend; Troy holds Dustin at knifepoint and demands that Mike jump off the cliff into the lake where Will's body was discovered, which will likely kill him. Mike jumps but is levitated to safety by El. Lucas sees agents leaving the laboratory and realizes they are heading to Mike's house to capture El.|
|7||7||"Chapter Seven: The Bathtub"||The Duffer Brothers||Justin Doble||July 15, 2016|
|Lucas warns Mike via walkie-talkie that government agents are en route. Mike, Dustin, and El flee the house and narrowly escape with Lucas; El telekinetically flips a van that blocks their path. At their junkyard base, Lucas reconciles with Mike and El. Joyce and Hopper are called to the police station, where they find Nancy with Jonathan, and Jonathan reveals his knowledge about the creature to his mother and Hopper. The group contacts Mike and his friends, and they rendezvous with him at the junkyard, formulating a plan to make a sensory-deprivation tank to amplify El's powers so she can search for Will and Barb. They break into the middle school and construct the tank in the gym. With Joyce's help, El successfully enters the Upside-Down to find Barbara dead and Will alive, hiding in the Upside-Down "Castle Byers", his makeshift fort. Hopper and Joyce attempt to break into Hawkins Laboratory to save Will, but are apprehended by security guards. Nancy and Jonathan resolve to kill the monster, and steal their hunting gear back from the police station. In the Upside-Down, the monster breaks into the fort where Will is hiding.|
|8||8||"Chapter Eight: The Upside Down"||The Duffer Brothers||Story by : Paul Dichter |
Teleplay by : The Duffer Brothers
|July 15, 2016|
|Interrogated by Brenner, Hopper gives up El's location in exchange for neutrality and access to the gate. He and Joyce enter in Hazmat suits and discover the creature's nest, where they find Will unconscious with a slug-like creature in his esophagus. Nancy and Jonathan booby-trap the Byers' home, then cut their hands to attract the creature with their blood. Steve arrives, intending to apologize to Jonathan about their fight. The monster attacks and Steve traps it, but it escapes back to the Upside-Down. In the middle school, where El and the boys are hiding, Mike asks El to a school dance, then kisses her. Agents storm the school, but El crushes their brains. As Brenner recovers the weakened El, the monster enters and begins to attack Brenner. The boys escape with El and hide in a room, until the monster finds and tries to attack them. El pins it against a wall, says goodbye to Mike, and both vanish. Will is hospitalized and reunited with his mother, brother, and friends. Hopper is reluctantly picked up by a black car. One month later, Nancy has gotten back together with Steve, and both are friends with Jonathan. Hopper leaves Eggo waffles and other food in a box in the woods. Will is getting ready for dinner but goes to use the bathroom and he coughs up a slug-like creature, briefly sees the world like the Upside-Down, and returns to dinner.|
Despite revealing episode titles for the season in the announcement teaser in order "to provide some hint of where we were going in season two without giving anything away," Matt Duffer stated that some of the titles would change, since there were some things "we didn’t want to put on there because we felt like it would give too much away."
The season will take place around the last part of 1984, about a year after the events of the first season, and will explore the "bigger mythology" of Will's disappearance, according to the Duffers. Levy described the second season as being about the "determined desire to return to normalcy in Hawkins” for Will, his friends, and the other townsfolk affected by the events. Parts of the season will also take place outside of Hawkins, Indiana. After leaving Eleven's fate "up in the air", Brown will return as Eleven in the season. Two new characters for this season include Max and Billy.
Production and release
Stranger Things was created by Matt and Ross Duffer, who wrote and directed the series with Shawn Levy as executive producer. The Duffer Brothers originally wanted to call the series Montauk, after Montauk, New York, and set it on Long Island, but filming locations around Atlanta, Georgia could not pass for a beachside setting, so they went with Indiana instead. The show's first season was released worldwide on Netflix on July 15, 2016.
The Duffer Brothers pitched the story to a number of cable networks, all of which rejected the script on the basis that they felt a plot centered around children as leading characters wouldn't work. In 2015, Dan Cohen, the VP of 21 Laps Entertainment, brought the script to his colleague Shawn Lewy. They subsequently invited the Duffer Brothers to their office and purchased the rights for the series, giving full authorship of it to the Brothers. After reading the pilot, Netflix purchased the whole season for an undisclosed amount.
Matt and Ross Duffer have cited several influences on the series, including Stephen King, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Alien, Japanese anime such as Akira and Elfen Lied, and video games such as Silent Hill and The Last of Us.
On August 31, 2016, Netflix renewed Stranger Things for a second season of nine episodes, to be released in 2017. The Duffer Brothers revealed that the series had been renewed for a second season before the first premiered. Regarding the decision to wait more than a month after the first season premiered to announce the renewal, Matt Duffer said, "it actually ended up working because it had built up to this fever pitch. I guess that’s what [Netflix] were intending to do all the time."
Filming of season one began in November 2015 and was extensively done in Atlanta, Georgia, while Jackson was used as fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana as a main shooting location. Filming concluded in early 2016. Other shooting locations included the Georgia Mental Health Institute as the Hawkins National Laboratory site, Bellwood Quarry, and Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge, Georgia for the middle and high school scenes.
The Stranger Things original soundtrack was composed by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of the electronic band Survive. It makes extensive use of synthesisers in homage to 1980s artists and film composers including Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Goblin, John Carpenter, Giorgio Moroder, and Fabio Frizzi. Excerpts from actual Tangerine Dream and Vangelis tracks have also been used in the series.
Stein and Dixon got the gig after the Duffer Brothers used a Survive song in the mock trailer they created to pitch the show to Netflix. The two were hired for the project before casting began, and created demos to be played over the actors' audition tapes, which influenced the casting.
On August 10, 2016, Stranger Things' social media profiles announced that the original soundtrack would be available for digital download and streaming on August 10 for Volume 1, and August 19 for Volume 2. Volume 1 was made available September 16 for the digital CD, while Volume 2 was released the following week.
According to Symphony Technology Group, within the first 35 days of release, Stranger Things averaged around 14.07 million adults between the ages 18–49. This made it the third most-watched season of Netflix original content behind the first season of Fuller House and season four of Orange Is the New Black.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series an approval rating of 95% based on 58 reviews and a weighted average score of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Exciting, heartbreaking, and sometimes scary, Stranger Things acts as an addictive homage to Spielberg films and vintage 1980s television." Review aggregator Metacritic gave the series a normalized score of 76 out of 100 based on 34 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
IGN gave the score of 8 out of 10 and called the show "Great" saying, "Stranger Things is an easy recommendation, offering viewers an atmospheric and endearing series that is a nostalgic throwback without feeling like a simple copy." In a review of San Francisco Chronicle Dave Wiegand wrote: "Stranger Things reminds us of a time marked by a kind of no-strings escapism. And as it does so, we find ourselves yearning for it because the Duffers have made it so irresistibly appealing. There may be other equally great shows to watch this summer, but I guarantee you won’t have more fun watching any of them than you will watching Stranger Things." Joshua Alston of The A.V. Club also reviewed it positively saying, "Balancing style and substance is always challenging for a series like Stranger Things, but the show is perfectly calibrated. It feels like watching a show produced during the era in which it’s set, but with the craft of today’s prestige television." Reviewing for HitFix, Alan Sepinwall said, "Over the course of the eight hours, the story and characters take on enough life of their own so that the references don't feel self-indulgent, and so that the series can be appreciated even if you don't know the plot of E.T. or the title font of Stephen King's early novels (a huge influence on the show's own opening credits) by heart."
Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker also applauded the series and wrote, "This is astoundingly efficient storytelling, eight hours that pass in a blink, with even minor characters getting sharp dialogue, dark humor, or moments of pathos." Television critic Mary McNamara of Los Angeles Times said, "For the most part, and in absolute defiance of the odds, Stranger Things honors its source material in the best way possible: By telling a sweet 'n' scary story in which monsters are real but so are the transformative powers of love and fealty." The Wall Street Journal's Brian Kelly said, "Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, brothers and the show’s creators, have done their homework when it comes to ’80s cinema. Whether you’re a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing or The Goonies is more your speed, there’s plenty to like in Stranger Things."
|2016||Hollywood Music in Media Award||Best Main Title – TV Show/Digital Streaming Series||Kyle Dixon
|Best Original Score – TV Show/Miniseries||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music Supervision – Television||Nora Felder||Won|
|Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Drama Series||Stranger Things||Pending|
|2017||People's Choice Award||Favorite TV Show||Stranger Things||Pending|
|Favorite Premium Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show||Pending|
|Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Actress||Millie Bobby Brown||Pending|
|Satellite Award||Best Television Series – Genre||Stranger Things||Pending|
|Best Actress – Television Series Drama||Winona Ryder||Pending|
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