Despite its charms, Netflix’s 1980s throwback series errs in how it treats its most important young character.
This post contains spoilers for the first season of Stranger Things.
It’s impossible to talk about Stranger Things, the eight-episode Netflix sci-fi drama series released this month, without talking about all the ’80s references. Like the J.J. Abrams film Super 8, Stranger Things is an homage to all things Spielbergian—broken families, kids having secret adventures on bikes, supernatural beings, government conspiracies, heartfelt endings. After the series debuted, journalists began publishing comprehensive guides to its many, many allusions, a testament to the show’s dedication to authentically reconstructing the past.
But even if you’ve never seen E.T. or The Goonies, or lived through the 1980s in suburban America, Stranger Things has plenty to offer. Set in a small Indiana town, the story centers around the mysterious disappearance of a young boy named Will, the search effort that ensues (led by his mother, played by Winona Ryder), and the arrival of an odd young girl with strange powers. In the hands of its directors, the Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things is at turns touching (when it explores teenage love and friendship) and harrowing (when it follows the creature that turns out to be terrorizing the town).