Making Your Sidestories Count for Something: Stranger Things (TV Showcase #44)

I had been staying away from this show, because despite the hype surrounding it, I knew it wasn’t a literal TV show, so I wasn’t sure if I could count it as a TV Showcase. But this is my blog, so I think I will. Anyhow, I’ve been sick all week, with nothing to do, so why not binge this series, right? So let’s take a look at “Stranger Things”. Also, spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.

“Stranger Things” began releasing on Netflix in 2016, and so far has only run one season with eight hour-long episodes. Season two is scheduled to begin releasing on Halloween of 2017. The story takes place in a small American town in 1983, when a kid named Will disappears without a trace. It’s quite complicated, but essentially, he’s taken to another dimension where a monster came from, and that monster was brought into our world by a girl who only knows herself as Eleven (a number given to her) who has incredible mind powers. She accidentally opened the interdimensional gate, which brought the monster to the real world, and it took Will and another girl and killed some people and freaked out some other ones. The main plot is trying to find Will in the other dimension, of course, but there are sidestories galore, as is common among modern TV shows, and those are what I care about. But why?

All of the sidestories are extremely predictable. The pretty girl who’s a nice and caring person starts to fall for the school jock, and he invites her over to his house. She says she won’t do anything, but what ends up happening? Exactly what you’d expect. The conversations between family members and close friends on emotional topics end exactly how it looks like it’s going to end. Only one character in the entire series changes his behavours and the audience’s opinion of him, but there are more than twenty characters to keep track of. So what is it about these sidestories that I like?

Perhaps the predictability of the sidestories are just shoddy writing in order to connect the characters to the main storyline. But the reason I like the fact that they’re predictable is because they don’t matter, and that’s what’s important. Most of the sidestories play themselves out within the first three episodes, with the characters forming larger sidestories related to the main plot, before bringing them all together for the finale. So you start with individuals, concerned with their lives, who play out their little sideplots before catching on to the main issue at hand. This leads unlikely characters to combine and form teams, finding out details related to Will being missing and the interdimensional monster. The teams join up as their information fits with another team’s information, and by the finale, everyone’s together. It’s an old-fashioned method of driving the plot rather than developing the characters’ backstories. Backstories are there, but they aren’t important; they really only explain certain reactions or behaviours.

So those are my thoughts on “Stranger Things”, besides pointing out that I’ve never seen so much detail put into sets to communicate the culture of the day, in this case, the 80s culture. It’s really amazing. But other than that, that’s what I’ve got to say. “Stranger Things” didn’t blow me away, but it wasn’t bad either. What do you think?

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