Netflix’s Stranger Things is quite an accomplishment, and has proven its worth several times over by constantly breaking audience viewership records for a streaming TV series. It has completed three of its tentative five seasons, but the fourth installment has been delayed indefinitely due to the current COVID pandemic.
Although Stranger Things has remained incredibly popular until now, it has its own specific pitfalls that hinder the smooth flow of the story. In fact, this is reflected in the gradual decrease in Rotten Tomatoes score — going from 97% to 94% to 89%. Stranger Things maintains its strength in some aspects, but still grows increasingly closer to jumping the shark with every passing season.
10 Went Downhill: Too Much Rambling
The characters begin to lose focus midway through the story, which results in a convoluted combination of teenage angst, nerd culture, added characters, and scientific magic.
The romance shared by Max and Lucas, for instance, isn’t fleshed out as much as it should be because more time is spent on all the different types of “evil” the kids have to face. Do they even go to school, anymore? Or is it all just about narrowly escaping the jaws of death?
9 Still The Best: Deals With Toxic Masculinity
In many ways, the show discusses the extreme forms of emotional abuse that were, and still are, prevalent. The geeks get threatened with violence for no reason, and Nancy is slut-shamed because she hurts Steve’s ego.
Nevertheless, Steve grows more than anyone else, as a man, as a mentor, and as a friend — especially in his tender relationships with Dustin and Robin.
Then there are Billy’s aggressive tendencies, which are clearly rooted in his father’s behavior, like using homophobic slurs to “emasculate” him. At the end of season 3, Billy’s redemption unfortunately takes the form of death.
8 Went Downhill: Cold War Nostalgia
In Season 3, the plot revolves around a secret Soviet lab constructed deep below Starcourt Mall, raising questions as to how would such a thing be possible given that Hawkins is under the watchful eye of the military.
In 1986, the Cold War was beginning to shut down under Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, so the topic was quite popular at the time. However, that doesn’t mean that Stranger Things ought to relive the entire thing, and to the extent of “Americanizing” a strictly Soviet scientist with the help of an Independence Day carnival.
7 Still The Best: Practical & Visual Effects
The Demogorgon is actually played by a real-life actor rather than the CGI monsters that many films and series regularly employ. This is because the Duffer brothers insisted on the creepier aspects being as realistic as possible, much like iconic ’80s horror cinema.
On the other hand, computer graphics were utilized in the construction of larger landscapes, such as the Upside Down, as well as the ridiculously gigantic Mind Flayer.
6 Went Downhill: Unclear Subplots
For the most part, the show’s storyline follows a clear trend of discovery, action, and resolution, but there are bits and pieces scattered all over the place that fail in providing consistency. One of the biggest problems has been the introduction of Kali, Eleven’s “sister,” which shows that the world beyond Hawkins has the potential to be just as incredible.
Nonetheless, after dedicating a single episode to their adventures together (some kind of foreshadowing, probably), Kali is whisked away into obscurity, leaving fans bewildered and annoyed.
5 Still The Best: A Terrifying Final Villain
The Mind Flayer is scary not because of its ability to control a host of demonic beings from the Upside Down, nor because it can “possess” people into doing its bidding. It is scary because nobody knows the first thing about it, let alone how to defeat it forever.
Where did it come from? Is it an artifact of a science experiment gone horribly wrong? How is it related to Eleven’s experiences at the Hawkins National Laboratory? What is the extent of its powers? The mysterious villain is far more dangerous than one who shows all their cards in the first round.
4 Went Downhill: A Bit Predictable
Aside from a few surprise twists, the present narrative is not really as suspenseful as the first season’s. The kids always save the day and Eleven is compulsorily at the center of all the havoc and destruction.
The monsters are evil and will never stop looking for a way to enter the human world. And people are never going to stop fighting with each other for the silliest of reasons until a common enemy shows up to unite them as one. It’s time for Season 4 to shake things up a bit.
3 Still The Best: All The ’80s References
Including the obvious tributes to the Clash’s London Calling, Back to the Future, Evil Dead, Alien, Wonder Woman, The Thing, and so on, Stranger Things is filled to the brim with delicious throwbacks to one of the most extravagant decades of the last century.
Bob, played by Sean Astin, also acted in The Goonies, a highly popular adventure movie from 1985 (which is overwhelmingly referenced.) Not to mention that the series borrows heavily from Freaks and Geeks, another ’80s-set show, with its similar setting and character development.
2 Went Downhill: Adolescent Drama
This isn’t exactly a major issue, but all the hormones flying around Hawkins make for an often trivial viewing experience. It’s certainly believable, but audiences are far more likely to take Hopper’s side of the argument when it comes to Eleven and Mike making out incessantly.
Then there is the scene in which Dustin is turned down by a girl at the Snow Ball, so Nancy consoles him by hurling petty insults at her and her friends.
1 Still The Best: Got Its First Queer Character
The ’80s were not the friendliest decade to the queer community, especially at the peak of the AIDS pandemic.
As such, it is a refreshing change of pace to have a queer character among the newer additions to the cast of Stranger Things. In an incredibly genuine and heartwarming scene, Robin tells Steve that she does not, in fact, have romantic feelings for him because she’s attracted to girls. Steve may have his flaws, but he’s totally accepting and his positive attitude further cements his and Robin’s friendship.
NEXT: Where Is Stranger Things Filmed? (& 9 Other Things About The Show You Didn’t Know)
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