Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Warning! Full spoilers for the episode below.
Stranger Things begins on November 6, 1983 in cozy Indiana. 12-year-old Will Byers vanishes under eerie circumstances after a ten-hour-long Dungeons & Dragons campaign (which still remains unfinished!) with friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. The series doesn’t pull any punches by enacting a slow burn in Chapter One, and immediately raises the stakes through Will’s disappearance. While Stranger Things could have spent its first episode meandering through the various character introductions and ended with Will’s chilling vanishing sequence, the creators chose to go against the grain and open with Will’s disappearance. Not only did this start Stranger Things off on the right foot, but it was also a truly eerie opening.
I knew going in that Stranger Things was going to have some horror elements, but the sequence and the gurgling ’80s synth playing throughout delightfully disturbed me. I cannot wait to see this trends continue as Stranger Things continues to move into Spielberg and Carpenter territory.
Will’s mother, played by the perfectly picked Winona Ryder, is a frantic mess following his disappearance. While Ryder hasn’t been a huge draw in recent years, there is already high praise for her performance, and I hope to see more of her in the proceeding episodes. Her frenzied freak-out during the phone call towards the end of Chapter One was a great bit of scenery to chew on, and I’ll continue to look forward to her portrayal of Joyce Byers as one of the few adults featured on the show.
On the flip side, while I’m sure that Stranger Things has bigger plans for both Steve and Nancy, I could have gone without spending as much with their characters. I’m certain that they’ll become vital in assisting Will’s friends, but for the time being, I could do without them. They certainly aren’t the worst teen couple that I’ve ever seen on TV, but there are much more interesting aspects of Stranger Things that I would love to spend time with.
There are much more interesting aspects of Stranger Things that I would love to spend time with.
The most intriguing part of Stranger Things and Chapter One, of course, was the introduction of Eleven. Well, besides the gurgling and moaning monster alien thing, of course. After the escape of the monster from Hawkins Laboratory, who will be malevolent baddies willing to do anything to keep their secrets, well, secret, Eleven also apparently escaped from their labs. We see just how far that Hawkins is willing to go, even though Chris Sullivan’s Benny Hammond charmed the heck out of me, personally. During Eleven’s time with Benny, and second escape from Hawkin’s capture attempt, we see glimpses of some sort of telekinesis or outer-worldly powers, to say the least. Will we perhaps see an inevitable showdown between Eleven and the “monster alien spooky tall thing” similar to Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher? Although the disappearance of Will is the catalyst of Stranger Things, the appearance and character of Eleven is just as important, if not more so, and entirely intriguing moving forward.
Stranger Things has all of the potential in the world coming off of a strong first episode. There was little time wasted with slow-burn exposition and explanation, and Chapter One was all the better for it. While Stranger Things is chock-full of ’80s homage, I am still cautious as to whether the series will be able to establish its own unique take on the era. Chapter One ended with a plethora of questions yet to be answered, but I cannot wait to discover what comes next.