The latest episode of the wonderful Movies with Mikey series — a kind of hyperkinetic, ongoing look at what movies do well instead of how they fail -— focuses on Stranger Things. The video, which you can and should watch above, consists of 34 minutes of some pretty striking insight that proves there’s enough here to give the show yet another look.
The question of what to call these Netflix originals is almost as interesting as the criticism itself, because these aren’t television shows in the traditional sense. There is the fact that we watch them on whatever screen we have available, sure, but also the structure of the narrative itself has been changed by the format. We get every episode at once, and that’s kind of a big deal.
This binge-friendly structure loosens up the rhythm of when important information can be given to the viewer, which leads to — ideally, at least — a more even experience that doesn’t operate like a movie, but isn’t exactly a TV show either.
And there’s still more interesting stuff to be said about Stranger Things! The video examines how Stranger Things places some pretty major bets on characters and situations early in the “season,” before digging into how they’re paid off as the show continues.
How things look are rarely how things are, and the fact Stranger Things is so evocative of the pop culture that came before it actually helps to lower our guard in this area. Just because you investigate a character trope in your show doesn’t mean you can’t turn it against the viewer in the final act. The characters that dig into themselves to adjust their actions to changing information while working through the shitty things in their nature that were holding them back to begin with ...
OK, that’s not actually a new thing. Many shows and movies do that, and it’s the primary source of tension in a lot of the entertainment we consume.
But Stranger Things handles it with more grace than almost any of films or books it’s designed to resemble, while dealing with issues like class with more care than you’d expect from this sort of genre work. The expected rules of who is punished and why are thrown out the window, and that leads to some great moment from the entire cast.
The fact we’re still talking about this show is one thing, but the fact there are still things to be said is quite another. The second season needs to hurry up and get here.