Stranger Things Season 1 - The Ultimate Recap #netflixstreamteam
Stranger Things is Back!
Turn off the lights and wait for the synths to kick in, that’s right my friends, Stranger Things is back! If you were anything like me, you embarked upon Season One with little to no expectations. It didn’t take long before this shows 80s-esque soundtrack, beguiling mythological and outstanding child acting had me hooked and bingeing as many episodes as my wife would allow. With the success of Season One, expectations are - and rightly so - extremely high.
So what exactly happened?
With the sounds and moods of Stranger Things still familiar to my mind, have I remembered any of the shows plot and character details? Details that might prove important (or at least interesting reference points) for Season Two. Sadly, and I’m not sure why, but the answer is no. I LOVED the show but have forgotten most of what happened. There was that monster which had something to with the lab and the place where the kid was hiding was called the ‘Upside Down’. Oh, and there was that girl who I thought was a boy. So... for anyone out there that’s in the same boat but haven’t the time or will (Will! The main character is called Will) to re-watch, I’ve done the hard work for you. So get yourself up to speed and ready for the arrival of Season Two by running your eyes over some of Season One’s key elements.
Stranger things is set in the fictional Indiana town of Hawkins in the 1980s. Appealing immediately to those of us who grew up with movies such as E.T, Stand by Me, The Flight of the Navigator and The Goonies, Stranger Things draws you in with it's nostalgia of an America we know so well.
We follow four best friends; Mike, Dustin, Lucas as they search Will, who has been captured by a monster and transported to the alternate reality of The Upside Down. Thankfully, Will somehow got away from the monster and hid in the alternate reality version of his house, communicating with his mom through a clever code with Christmas lights.
So where are the adults in this scenario?
Good question! We have a couple of adults intertwined in this supernatural narrative, namely Police Chief Hopper and Joyce, Will's mom. They do their bit to help save Will from the terrifying monster, but this story is all about the kids saving the day. Also, Joyce should totally be with Hopper but she’s not.
Dungeons and Dragons
Dungeons and Dragons has a very special place within Stranger Things.
Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will are playing Dungeons & Dragons in Episode One and this seems to be a significant metaphor for what is about to unfold.
Basically, without going into too much detail or understanding (which I have not got much of!) Mike summoned the Demogorgon (the name the boys later use to refer to the monster from the Upside Down). Will attempted to 'fireball' it, but was defeated by the Demogorgon. In an eerie coincidence, Will was abducted by a monster in real life shortly after the campaign.
Later in the season, Eleven turns the D & D board upside-down to demonstrate to the boys the nature of the place where Will is trapped. Dustin compared the Upside Down to the Vale of Shadows from the game: "a dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a place of monsters. It is right next to you and you do not even see it." Eleven then takes the Demogorgon character figurine and explains that the monster is also present in the dimension that contains Will.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is used as a metaphor in Season Two as well.
The Laboratory and The Gate
The Gate to the Upside Down (sometimes referred to as The Rift) is a portal to the other dimension located in the lower levels of the Hawkins National Laboratory. It is a large entanglement of sprawling roots, tendrils and toxic biological growth.
Unlike other portals that open within the Season, The Gate stays permanently open with the Upside Down growing out of it, extending into the laboratory. The Gate disrupts the local electromagnetic field, causing compasses to point toward it instead of the Earth's magnetic north.
The Girl (Eleven)
In Series One we begin to piece together her backstory. “Eleven” was kidnapped at birth by scientist Dr Brenner, who was interested in using her psychokinetic powers for his own ends. Her biological mother is suggested to be Terry Ives, who underwent a CIA mind control experiment called Project MKUltra while unknowingly pregnant and is now in a catatonic state. Is the girl we know as Eleven actually Terry Ives’ daughter Jane?
Having been raised as a lab rat by Brenner – who she called Papa – Eleven finally escaped. Mike and his friends Dustin and Lucas found her in the woods and offered her shelter, hiding her in Mike’s basement and feeding her Eggos.
Eleven helped the boys make contact with Will and showed he was still alive somewhere. But while Mike started to fall for her, Dustin and Lucas were more suspicious – leading to a major fight. Towards the end of the series the kids all reconciled and focused their efforts on finding their friend.
It all comes to a head with a showdown at the school. When Brenner and his agents arrived at the middle school to capture Eleven, she managed to kill most of them using her powers – but was soon exhausted. Then the Demogorgon arrived.
Eleven made a final sacrifice, attacking the Demogorgon – but this caused her to vanish. Where is she now? In the final moments of season one we saw Hopper leaving her an offering of Eggos, so we know she’s around somewhere.
The Monster (Demogorgon)
The Monster (nicknamed the Demogorgon by Mike and his friends) was a predatory humanoid creature originating from the parallel dimension known as the Upside Down. When Eleven, a psychic test subject from Laboratory made contact with it, a gate or rift between the dimensions was created and the Monster was released or at least free to roam between dimensions.
Back in 1983, The Monster terrorized the town for a week, abducting various residents and taking them back to the Upside Down, usually killing them. In the final episode of Season one the monster is defeated and destroyed by Eleven when the gang tracks it down to the local high school.
Those Other Kids
While Will’s friends are running around with Eleven, the older kids went on a journey of their own – and it involved mild stalking, teenage sex, and plenty of bear traps.
Mike’s older sister Nancy made a plan to go to a secret party at her boyfriend Steve’s house and dragged her dorky friend Barb along for the ride. But while Nancy was off having fun with cool kid Steve, the legendary face-of-the-stranger-things-meme Barb was taken by the Demogorgon and vanished.
The only witness to Barb’s final moments was Jonathan Byers, Will’s older brother, who just so happened to be hiding in the nearby forest with a camera taking photos. (He was looking for Will – honest.)
With Barb and Will both missing, Nancy and Jonathan began to team up, despite Steve’s jealousy and general nastiness. They managed to collect a bunch of weapons and traps and booby-trapped Will’s house, slashing their hands with a knife to lure the Demogorgon with their own blood.
Steve turned up, and it looked like he’d derailed the whole thing. However, realising there was something seriously amiss and that Nancy and Jonathan were both in danger, he heroically joined the fight against the Demogorgon.
Where did we leave Stranger Things?
The last we saw of Will, he was coughing up a slug-like creature in the sink and having horrific visions – but keeping this a secret from his family. It’s clear that Will Byers has not come back from the Upside Down unscathed, because kids don’t normally go around expelling slugs from their mouths.
Hopefully your memory is now up to date and your excitement at bursting point. The great news is the wait is over, Season Two is about to drop. Let’s hope Dominoes have extra staff on, me thinks the Binger Warriors will be out in force. For now, here is a teaser for tomorrow night's release.