Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “Stranger Things” is a science fiction-horror web television Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.
What: “Stranger Things,” created, written, directed and co-executive produced by the Duffer Brothers, stars (in Season Two) Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, and Paul Reiser.
The Hawkins, Indiana, National Laboratory ostensibly performs scientific research for the US Department of Energy but secretly conducts experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects, which start to affect the unknowing residents of Hawkins in calamitous ways. The first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy by his friends, older brother, and traumatized mother, as well as the local police chief, amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a psychokinetic girl who helps the missing boy’s friends in their own search. The second season is set a year later, starting in October 1984. The boy, Will (Schapp), has been rescued, but few know of the details of the events. When it is discovered that Will is still being influenced by entities from another dimension, his friends and family learn that there is a larger threat to their universe from that other dimension.
When: The second season of the series was released in its entirety to the Netflix streaming library on October 27, 2017.
Where: The action is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, during the 1980s.
Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the links below – though it bears mentioning that Stranger Things may very well be the most popular and most requested panel/show to discuss since the inception of this humble little podcast.
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
CPU!, naturally, covered the first season of this “stranger” series. To listen to that prior podcast episode, click the embedded link below:
Stranger Things was a runaway hit with the CPU! core, just as it was with the nationwide water cooler that is America when it first premiered in summer 2016, and we have a deep bench of eager panelists ready to be called up for their chance to talk about all the Stranger Things. Because, really, what’s not to love? If you grew up in the 1980s, this show appeals to your sense of nostalgia. If you are older, this show and its youngest characters remind you of your adult children when they were young. If you are younger, the child stars and characters of the series are easy to relate to because they are timeless archetypes, amalgamations of similar characters that appear throughout the pop culture of the past thirty or forty years. In fact, the Duffer Brothers deftly pay homage to the atmosphere of the decade; the influences of auteurs on this scifi/horror drama such as Speilberg, Lucas, Scott, Carpenter, Craven, and others; and the appeal of the vintage and the tactile to an increasingly expanding group of disaffected post-millennials, who see bits of themselves in the Dungeons and Dragons playing boys or the quiet and scared yet powerful Eleven (Brown).
Going into our Season 2 discussion around the water cooler, our panel experienced somewhat of an “upside down” changeover itself. Panelists Hilary, Kyle, and Michael return, eager to dissect and share their thoughts and feelings on the second Stranger season. Joining them for the first time are two panelists new to the panel, but not to the podcast, specifically Sarah – who has been on a hodgepodge of panels too many to list but including American Horror Story, Doctor Who, and our Buffy-Verse retrospective – and Jeremy, who is on our Supernatural and 13 Reasons Why panels and who Looked Back at Six Feet Under. Former panelists Chelsea and Rob (two of our Game of Thrones panelists) departed the panel for now in favor of busy lives behind the podcast, though they join the ranks of on the wait list folks who can barely wait to discuss their supreme love for this program.
As it turns out, the panel, new in composition though it was, found itself slightly more divided when discussing Season Two, with some panelists commenting on the hasty and superficial introduction of new characters like Billy (Montgomery), though they regarded other new introductions like Bob (Astin) and Dr. Owens (Reiser) as better handled, even if intermittently short-lived. Still, the majority of the panel spent most of the chat gushing about this series’ latest season. Again, there was little bad or negative to say because everyone universally agreed that the creators and show-runners continued to nurture a character-driven, nostalgia-rooted story that appeals to our basic fears and nightmares, though most panelists also struggled with the controversial seventh episode of the season, exploring Eleven’s quest to root out her own origins. In any event, most of the panelists still find the story to be tightly woven with an organic and logical flow, a perfect visual presence from art direction to cinematography to visual effects, and stellar if stranger performances all around. If you are part of the Stranger Things fan club, this discussion will only continue to serve to validate your commonly held adoration for this unlikely sleeper hit. Have I convinced you to listen via the embedded link below?
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, our How to Get Away with Murder panel returns to the Water Cooler – sort of – but, I should warn you, gentle listener: the jug of water sort of broke, and a faint lilt of the Jaws theme started underscoring the drama of the spill. That’s right, folks. Our HTGAWM panel very much tried on some water skis and scaled some predatory fish in their path. Stay tuned for the reasons why the three HTGAWM panelists have become members of “Shark Jumpers Anonymous!”
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) What is Will’s connection to the Upside Down beyond his ability to seemingly straddle the inter-dimensional barrier – is it more than a lucky connection? In other words, was his initial disappearance into the Upside Down truly random? How was Will able to survive for so long there? Is he special or immune to the Upside Down? Is he something more than just the dimension’s first victim? Was Joyce (Ryder) part of the drug trial that Eleven’s bio mom was part of, causing Eleven’s special abilities?
2) Will we see other psychic kids, akin to Kali/Eight and Jane/Eleven, such as some of the other numbered test subjects in the drug trials? Did any others actually survive?
3) Is Dr. Martin Brenner still alive, as was stated in the seventh episode of the season by the man who electrically fried Eleven’s bio-mom’s brain at Brenner’s behest?
4) Will the show explore the lab/facility more where Eleven was housed, either in the past with Kali and/or the one, if the same, in Hawkins?
5) Will we see other dimensions beyond the Upside Down? Are there others? Does Eleven have the power to open up pockets or rifts to those other places?
6) Does Billy serve a larger purpose to the show other than being an on-the-nose homage to all of the teen bully characters of ’80s films?
7) Will the female characters intermingle more, as panelist Michael wishes?
8) Will Joyce find love again – and will it be with Hopper (Harbour), as the show seems to be seeding?
9) How much in-school experiences, with Eleven in attendance and interacting with Mike (Wolfhard), Dustin (Matarazzo), and Lucas (McLaughlin) as well as Max (Sink), will we see in the next season?
10) What does the Mind Flayer really want? Is it trying to destroy this world? Occupy and conquer it? Possess psychic children? Reveal itself to be the Man in Black?
11) What is the Upside Down, really, beyond an alternate dimension?
The CPU! Stranger Things podcast panel essentially recommends this show to anyone who breathes – or, at least, who watches and enjoys television. Period. The general consensus among the panelists is that this well crafted, well written, well directed, and well performed piece offers “something for everyone” and can appeal to young and old, man and woman, people who like science fiction and horror and people who do not, and everyone and everything in between. The panel also generally agrees, even though one or two panelists struggled more in season two than in season one with the story while others preferred the second season overall, that the basic yarn is a riveting one, told with largely fanciful ideas and seamlessly crafted dialogue; in fact, the panel universally agrees that the story and the show will especially connect to those born before or during the Reagan era. The only caution the panel would offer is that the program succeeds in providing some legitimate scares and moments of the disturbed or moments designed to unsettle the viewer, though, largely, without being “too scary,” even for the most squeamish of our intrepid panelists. Those panelists also agree, though, that with proper forewarning, even the most sensitive or the most overactive imaginations among the viewing audience can find something to enjoy in this perfect nosh of creepy nostalgia.
Stranger Things was (readily) renewed for a third season, which is expected to be released to the Netflix streaming library in 2019, though no official release date has yet been announced. Our Stranger Things panel will, subsequently, reconvene some time thereafter to dissect Season Three, in or out of the Upside Down. As always, CPU! will stay abreast of and report all material Stranger Things coverage. Until then!