A Review of the Pilot Episode
Stranger Things has blown up since its release in July 2016. From memes to Halloween costumes, the series is everywhere. I took it upon myself to see what the hype was all about. The pilot episode, titled “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” introduces the premise of the story without force.
The series is set in the fictional Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. Without the introductory title page, there are a multitude of references to the 1980s throughout the first 48 minutes of the series including a mention of Poltergeist, rotary phones hanging on kitchen walls covered in wallpaper, trading comics, smoking indoors. The four central characters, middle schoolers Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) are best friends who spend their time playing games and riding their bikes from place to place — alone, and in the dark no less. Just another nod to the 80s, now considered a much different time. Right from the start, there’s foreshadowing to danger when the lights in the garage flicker as Will pedals towards his home.
Less than ten minutes into the pilot, he is kidnapped. The sounds of the barking dog and door chain convince us to be afraid. With absolutely no preface to the show, one might assume that Will is dreaming the sequence. It’s in the next scene that his very frantic mother Joyce, played by Winona Ryder, realizes that her son never made it home the night before.
The town’s police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), is an overly relaxed cop with seemingly zero intentions of finding Will, despite his mother’s frantic protests about how her son is different than most boys his age. Hopper does not seem to take the missing person report very seriously, asking Joyce if her son is a fag, as the boy’s father used to call him. Hopper says that Hawkins, Indiana is a safe place, proving so by explaining the most dangerous thing to have ever happened was when an owl attacked a woman’s head.
As the plot progresses, the show becomes increasingly confusing. Men in what appear to be white hazmat suits search through a lab for a girl who has escaped. Upon her introduction, we find a boyish child running wild: buzz cut, ripped hospital gown. A small town cook finds the child in his kitchen. After yelling at her as she steals fries from his kitchen, he realizes the child is just a young girl. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), as she is called, is virtually mute, assumingly from whatever abuse she had been through by a group we are still unsure of after 48 minutes.
By the end of the episode, we’re left with a make out scene between high schooler and older sister Nancy and her new boyfriend, a heart to heart between Joyce and her older son Jonathan, both blaming themselves for the disappearance of Will, and a phone call with nothing but static on the other end, convincing Joyce that someone has her son.
As Will’s friends venture into the woods to find him, despite Hopper’s threats, the episode ends when they cross paths with Eleven, who is on the run from whoever had kidnapped her. We’re now under the impression that Eleven and Will have been taken by the same government organization, but there’s no clues as to why or what would make them appealing by the pilot’s end.
Stranger Things Leaves Viewers in a Puddle of Confusion was originally published in Hawk Talk @ Montclair State on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.