Finding The Key To The Upside Down: What Makes Stranger Things So Successful?

Ed Angeli

“Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.” — Stranger Things Chief, Jim Hooper

Well done, Chief; well done. You know what mornings are about, so whilst we’re at it, let’s all contemplate that Stranger Things is returning to our screens. Rejoice, run around, scream; do whatever it is you need to do to exercise your excitement.

It’s the one show we don’t mind taking over. Why? Because it’s not too ‘in your face’. Where shows like Narcos flood your screen with ads, such as Premier League takeovers which highlight how much money the Cali Cartel had, or even, dare we knock it, Game of Thrones feeling the need to have a gimmicky strategy of parading GoT cast members around London:

It’s promotional moves like this which Stranger Things aren’t interested in. They’re sticking to their routes of how the show came to prominence: word of mouth. People were watching it because people were talking about it; exactly the same is happening with the second season launch.

This isn’t saying GoT sold its soul, but the show lost credibility in the most recent season; casting pop culture figures like Ed Sheeran was a reminder to the audience of the world we live in – that’s not what the show is supposed to be about. We want distraction; we want to forget the normalities of real life – ultimately, we are always looking for the happiness of our childhood innocence; welcome to the world of Stranger Things.

But what makes the show so special? It only takes one episode for viewers to buy into the concept, and such is its popularity and quality that Rotten Tomatoes gave the show a 96% rating; flawless.

It goes without saying that Will Byers’ fan club is the main reason for such an exceptional show. The four lead characters: Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson, Lucas Sinclair and Eleven are the perfect combination of humour and seriousness; younger actors have a great ability to make a show.

Take Luke in Modern Family, the Dunphy youngster stole the show in the early years; the sort of character who could get away with a cheeky outlook on life and forget you’re watching a youngster at work. The exact same goes for Ben in Outnumbered; similar sort of role, and carried all the likeable and humorous traits which made him so watchable.

However, the stars grow up, you suddenly feel unattached to them. Where performances seemed so natural, they become forced and awkward to watch. This won’t happen with the Stranger Things cast because they represent more than a seven-year-old trying to be funny and quick-witted on stage; they carry different messages which we should all learn from, but it’s not patronising or ‘in your face’:

It’s not just the four lead roles who you carry such affection for. Every character has their own story to tell, from Barb – RIP – to Will’s mother, Joyce. Every scene is engaging because every character is gripping and just as watchable.

The cast are then complemented with a soundtrack that typifies the time the show is set. Utilising the likes of David Bowie’s Heroes through Peter Gabriel’s rendition and the Clash’s, Should I Stay or Should I Go, adds to the show’s mysteriousness. You’re using an upbeat song during an intense scene which seems offbeat, yet it works.

Life lessons. The show has quotes throughout which carry their own ingenious messages. Dustin is usually at the forefront of them with regular moments of hilarity and brilliance.

“Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?” — Dustin Henderson

Arguably Dustin’s finest line which highlights everything the show is about. The producers keep the curiosity door open for the entirety of the show which is what makes it so gripping throughout.

The fact the producers did not overkill the series adds to its popularity; it wasn’t too long, or not too short. The eight episodes were the perfect conclusion to set us up for a highly-anticipated second series, which is carrying the weight of 2017’s viewers expectations on its shoulders.

Don’t let us down, Netflix.