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Stranger Things is an American science fiction-horror web television series created, written, and directed by the Duffer Brothers. The Duffer Brothers, Shawn Levy, and Dan Cohen serve as executive producers. The first season, released in July 2016, stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono and Matthew Modine, with Noah Schnapp and Joe Keery in recurring roles. For the second season, Schnapp and Keery were promoted to series regulars, along with the additions of Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser.

Stranger Things
Stranger Things logo.png
Genre
Created by The Duffer Brothers
Starring
Composer(s)
  • Kyle Dixon
  • Michael Stein
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 17 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Karl Gajdusek
  • Cindy Holland
  • Brian Wright
  • Matt Thunell
  • Shawn Levy
  • Dan Cohen
  • The Duffer Brothers
  • Iain Paterson
  • Shannon Tsang
Location(s) Jackson, Georgia
Cinematography
  • Tim Ives
  • Tod Campbell
Running time 42–62 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Netflix
Release
Original network Netflix
Picture format
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1
Original release July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15) – present
External links
Website

Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps the missing boy's friends in their own search. The second season, titled Stranger Things 2, is set a year after the first, and deals with attempts of the characters to return to normal and consequences that linger from the first season.

The Duffer Brothers developed the series as a mix of investigative drama alongside supernatural elements with childlike sensibilities, establishing its time frame in the 1980s and creating a homage to pop culture of that decade. Several themes and directorial aspects were inspired and aesthetically informed by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and Stephen King, among others, including several films, anime and video games.

The first season was released on Netflix on July 15, 2016. It received critical acclaim for its characterization, pacing, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing, and homages to 1980s genre films. The series has received several industry nominations and awards, including winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2016, and receiving nineteen nominations for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.

On August 31, 2016, Netflix renewed the series for a second season of nine episodes, which was released on October 27, 2017. In December 2017, Netflix ordered a third season, which began production in April 2018 and will consist of eight episodes. The Duffer Brothers have said that Stranger Things is likely to end after its fourth or fifth season.

Contents

Premise

Stranger Things is set in the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana, during the early 1980s. The nearby Hawkins National Laboratory ostensibly performs scientific research for the United States Department of Energy, but secretly does experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects. Inadvertently, they have created a portal to an alternate dimension called "the Upside Down". The influence of the Upside Down starts to affect the unknowing residents of Hawkins in calamitous ways.[1][2]

The first season begins in November 1983, when Will Byers is abducted by a creature from the Upside Down. His mother, Joyce, and the town's police chief, Jim Hopper, search for Will. At the same time, a young psychokinetic girl called Eleven escapes from the laboratory and assists Will's friends, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, in their own efforts to find Will.[3]

The second season is set a year later, starting in October 1984. Will 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 the Upside Down, his friends and family learn there is a larger threat to their universe from the Upside Down.[4]

The third season is currently planned to take place another year later, in mid-1985, in the midst of the popularity of Back to the Future's release. Mike and Eleven have developed a relationship, as have Max and Lucas.[5][6]

Cast and characters

 
The Duffer Brothers, Shawn Levy and the main cast of season 2 of Stranger Things at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con International
  • Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers,[7] the mother of Will and Jonathan Byers. She is divorced from Lonnie Byers. In season two, she is dating her old high school classmate, Bob, until his death later in the season. She and Hopper are suggested to have feelings for each other.
  • David Harbour as Jim Hopper,[7] chief of Hawkins Police Department. After his young daughter died of cancer, Hopper divorced and lapsed into alcoholism. Eventually he grows to be more responsible, saving Joyce's son as well as taking Eleven as his adopted daughter. It is suggested he and Joyce have feelings for each other.
  • Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler,[8] son of Karen and Ted, younger brother of Nancy, and one of three friends of Will Byers. He is an intelligent and conscientious student and is committed to his friends. He develops romantic feelings for Eleven.
  • Millie Bobby Brown[8] as Eleven ("El"), a young girl with psychokinetic abilities and a limited vocabulary. Her real name is Jane, the biological daughter of Terry Ives. After escaping from Hawkins Laboratory, where experiments were being performed on her, she befriends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. She develops romantic feelings for Mike.
  • Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson,[8] one of Will's friends. His cleidocranial dysplasia causes him to lisp. In the second season, he is proud of his new front teeth and is attracted to Max.
  • Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair,[8] one of Will's friends. He is wary of Eleven but later befriends her. In season two, he is one of Max's love interests.
  • Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler,[8] daughter of Karen and Ted and older sister of Mike. In season one, she is Steve Harrington's girlfriend. In season two, she becomes Jonathan Byers' girlfriend.
  • Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers,[8] the older brother of Will Byers and the son of Joyce Byers. He is a quiet teenager, an outsider at school, and an aspiring photographer. He is close with his mother and brother, and he becomes the boyfriend of Nancy Wheeler.
  • Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler,[9] mother of teenaged Nancy, middle schooler Mike, and toddler Holly.
  • Matthew Modine as Martin Brenner,[10] the scientist in charge of Hawkins Laboratory. He is manipulative and remote. He and his team are searching for Eleven. He reappears in season 2 briefly.[11]
  • Noah Schnapp as Will Byers,[8] the younger brother of Jonathan Byers and the son of Joyce Byers. He is captured by a monster from the "Upside Down", an alternate dimension discovered by Hawkins Laboratory scientists.[12] Schnapp was promoted to series regular for the second season, after recurring in the first.[13]
  • Sadie Sink as Maxine "Max" Mayfield / "Madmax", Billy's younger stepsister, and a tomboy who catches the attention of both Lucas and Dustin. She was introduced in the second season.[13]
  • Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, a popular high school student and the boyfriend of Nancy Wheeler. He ostracizes Jonathan Byers, but later comes to befriend him. He begins as Nancy's boyfriend but breaks up with her in season two.[14] Keery was promoted to series regular for the second season, after recurring in the first.[13]
  • Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove, Max's violent and unpredictable older stepbrother. He challenges Steve's popularity. He was introduced in the second season.[13]
  • Sean Astin as Bob Newby, a former schoolmate of Joyce and Hopper. In season two, he runs the Hawkins RadioShack[15] and is Joyce's boyfriend, putting him at odds with Hopper. He was introduced in the second season.[16]
  • Paul Reiser as Sam Owens, a Department of Energy executive. He replaces Brenner as director of Hawkins Laboratory. He is stubborn and committed to scientific research, yet empathetic to the residents of Hawkins. He was introduced in the second season.[15]
  • Maya Hawke as Robin, an "alternative girl" bored with her job until she stumbles onto one of the secrets of Hawkins. She will be introduced in the third season.[17]

Episodes

Season 1 (2016)

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
1 1 "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers" The Duffer Brothers The Duffer Brothers July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
On November 6, 1983, in a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, a scientist is attacked by an unseen creature. While bicycling home from a Dungeons & Dragons session with his friends, 12-year-old Will Byers encounters the creature and vanishes. The next day, a buzz-cut young girl wearing a hospital gown steals food from a local diner. The owner, Benny, takes pity on her and feeds her before calling social services. From a tattoo on her arm, he learns that her name is Eleven. A woman posing as a social worker arrives and murders Benny. Armed men search the diner for Eleven, but she escapes. Will's mother Joyce believes she hears Will's voice on a distorted phone call, but her phone short circuits. Will's friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas search for Will in the woods and find Eleven.
2 2 "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street" The Duffer Brothers The Duffer Brothers July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
The boys bring Eleven to Mike's house, where she sleeps in the basement. The next day, Mike nicknames her "El". She says that "bad people" are looking for her and refuses to meet Mike's parents. Scientists from the laboratory find a substance oozing from the walls of Joyce's home. At Mike's home, Eleven recognizes and points out Will in a photo. Dustin and Lucas want to inform Mike's parents about Eleven, but she uses psychokinesis to stop them. While searching for Will, Mr. Clarke, the boys' science teacher, discovers a scrap of a hospital gown outside the laboratory grounds. Nancy goes with her friend Barb to a party at her boyfriend Steve's house. Will's brother Jonathan investigates the woods where Will went missing. Hearing screaming, he runs to help but finds only Steve, Nancy, and their friends roughhousing around Steve's swimming pool. He secretly photographs them. Barb, left alone by the poolside, vanishes. Joyce receives another call from Will, hears music from his room, and sees something coming through the wall.
3 3 "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly" Shawn Levy Jessica Mecklenburg July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
Barb wakes up in an empty and decaying pool. She screams for Nancy and attempts to climb out but is dragged down. Joyce strings Christmas lights around her home to talk to Will, who can turn them on and off. Hawkins Lab director Dr. Martin Brenner allows Hopper to view the lab's security camera footage, but he realizes it's fake. He and his deputies research Hawkins Lab, Brenner, and a woman named Terry Ives who claimed her daughter was taken by Brenner. Eleven has a flashback in which Brenner, whom she calls "Papa," has her put in solitary confinement. Nancy worries about Barb, who is missing. Steve and his friends discover Jonathan's photographs, destroying them and his camera. Nancy finds Barb's car while searching for her and sees the creature in the woods. Joyce establishes a code with Will using the lights, which he uses to tell her that he is alive but unsafe. He tells Joyce to run as a creature begins to climb through her wall. The boys secretly commence "Operation Mirkwood" as Eleven leads them to Will. However, Will's apparent body is discovered in the water at a quarry, causing Mike, Dustin and Lucas to be devastated.
4 4 "Chapter Four: The Body" Shawn Levy Justin Doble July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
Eleven proves to the boys that Will is still alive by making contact through Mike's walkie-talkie. Joyce goes to the morgue to view the body and refuses to believe it is Will. The boys give Eleven a makeover so they can sneak her into school. Joyce hears Will in her living room wall. Tearing away the wallpaper, she sees him behind a membrane. At school, Eleven uses Mr. Clarke's ham radio to channel Will talking to his mother. Joyce demolishes the wall with an axe but reveals only her front porch. Nancy discovers a figure behind Barb in Jonathan's photo. Jonathan realizes that the figure matches his mother's description of the creature: a humanoid figure with long arms and no face. Nancy tells the police about her missing friend and subsequently admits to her mother that she slept with Steve. When she tells Steve about the police, she is irritated that he cares only about not getting in trouble with his father. Hopper confronts the state trooper who found Will's body and beats him until he admits he was ordered to lie. Hopper goes to the morgue and finds that Will's supposed body is a dummy. He breaks into Hawkins laboratory.
5 5 "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat" The Duffer Brothers Alison Tatlock July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
Will's father Lonnie assures Joyce her experiences are hallucinations. Hopper discovers a portal in the basement of the lab but is knocked out by the lab's guards. He wakes at home and discovers a hidden microphone. Sheriff's deputies inform Hopper that Barb's car was found, but Hopper finds the state's involvement suspicious. The boys determine Will is trapped in an alternate dimension Eleven calls the "Upside Down," and he is being pursued by a monster similar to a Demogorgon. After Will's funeral, science teacher Mr. Clarke tells the boys that a high-energy spacetime tear could create a passage between dimensions. Using their compasses, they search for a disruption in the Earth's electromagnetic field. Eleven remembers encountering the creature during a lab experiment, and afraid, she redirects the compasses. Lucas notices and confronts her. Mike defends her, he and Lucas fight, and Eleven telekinetically flings Lucas off Mike. While Dustin and Mike tend to the unconscious Lucas, Eleven disappears. In the woods, Nancy and Jonathan find a wounded deer. The creature drags the deer away, and Nancy follows the trail of blood to a portal to the Upside Down. She crawls through and discovers the creature feasting upon the deer. She snaps a twig and draws the creature's attention.
6 6 "Chapter Six: The Monster" The Duffer Brothers Jessie Nickson-Lopez July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
Jonathan pulls Nancy back through the portal, saving her from the monster. Later, Steve sees them together and assumes they are dating. Nancy and Jonathan resolve to kill the monster and purchase supplies from an army surplus store. During a fist fight with Steve, Jonathan inadvertently assaults a police officer and is arrested. Joyce and Hopper track down Terry Ives, who is catatonic and tended by her sister Becky. Becky explains that Terry underwent Project MKUltra testing while unknowingly pregnant; she believed her daughter Jane was kidnapped by Brenner at birth. Joyce and Hopper conclude Eleven is likely Jane. Eleven shoplifts Eggo waffles. She recalls being asked to contact the monster and accidentally opening the portal to the Upside Down in the laboratory basement. While searching for Eleven, Mike and Dustin are ambushed by school bullies Troy and James. Troy holds Dustin at knifepoint and demands Mike make a suicidal jump into the lake where Will's body was discovered. Mike jumps but is levitated to safety by Eleven, who scares away the bullies. The trio then reconcile with a hug and head back to Mike's home. Lucas realizes agents from the laboratory are also heading to Mike's house.
7 7 "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub" The Duffer Brothers Justin Doble July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
Lucas warns Mike via walkie-talkie that government agents are en route. Mike, Dustin, and Eleven flee. Eleven telekinetically flips a van that blocks their path, and the kids escape. Lucas reconciles with Mike and Eleven. Joyce and Hopper are called to the police station because of Jonathan's assault. Jonathan and Nancy reveal their knowledge of the monster to Joyce and Hopper. The group contacts Mike and his friends and they rendezvous. They ask Eleven to search for Will and Barb, but her earlier feats have left her too weak to find them. To amplify Eleven's powers, they break into the middle school and build a sensory-deprivation tank. Eleven finds Barb's corpse with a slug-like creature crawling out of her mouth. With Joyce's help, she finds Will alive, hiding in the Upside Down "Castle Byers," his backyard fort. Hopper and Joyce break into Hawkins Laboratory but are apprehended by security guards. Nancy and Jonathan resolve to kill the monster and steal their hunting gear back from the police station. In the Upside Down, the monster breaks into the fort where Will is hiding.
8 8 "Chapter Eight: The Upside Down" The Duffer Brothers Story by : Paul Dichter
Teleplay by : The Duffer Brothers
July 15, 2016 (2016-07-15)
Hopper and Joyce enter the upside down where they find Will unconscious in the Upside-Down town library and revive him. Nancy and Jonathan booby-trap the Byers' home, then cut themselves to attract the monster with their blood. Steve arrives, intending to apologize to Jonathan, but the monster attacks. The monster springs the trap but escapes back to the Upside Down. Eleven and the boys hide in the middle school. Mike asks Eleven to a school dance, the Snow Ball, and kisses her. The military storms the school to re-capture Eleven, but she kills them and collapses. As Brenner cradles her, the monster kills him. The monster corners them in a classrom, but Eleven pins it against a wall. She disintegrates the monster, and vanishes; devastating Mike. Will is hospitalized and reunited with his family and friends. Hopper is reluctantly picked up by a black car. One month later, Nancy and Steve are back together, and both are friends with Jonathan. Hopper leaves Eggo waffles in a box in the woods. Will coughs up a slug-like creature and has a vision of the world as the Upside Down, but he hides this from his family.

Season 2 (2017)

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
9 1 "Chapter One: MADMAX" The Duffer Brothers The Duffer Brothers October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
On October 28, 1984 in Chicago, a girl named Kali and her gang use her psychic powers to escape the police. Her wrist tattoo marks her as "008." At the Hawkins arcade, Will has a vision of the Upside Down. Reporter Murray Bauman describes an elaborate conspiracy theory to Hopper. Hopper investigates a blight on Bob Merril's pumpkin patch. Mr. Clarke introduces a new girl named Maxine ("Max") to his class. At Hawkins Lab, Dr. Owens, Brenner's replacement, examines Will and tells Joyce that Will is experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder. Nancy and Steve have dinner with Barb's parents, who are selling their house to pay for Bauman's investigation into Barb's disappearance. Mike tries to contact with Eleven, still believing she is alive even 352 days after her disappearance. Dustin hears a noise from the trashcan outside his home, and Will has a vision of an enormous spider-like creature in the Upside Down. Hopper goes home to a cabin in the woods, where Eleven, revealed to be alive, accuses him of being late.
10 2 "Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak" The Duffer Brothers The Duffer Brothers October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
In a flashback, Eleven awakens in the Upside Down middle school, having just destroyed the monster at the end of the first season. After escaping the Upside Down, she goes to Mike's house. To avoid government agents, she hides in the woods. In the present, Eleven asks to go trick-or-treating, but Hopper says it's too risky. Hopper learns the blight has spread to pumpkin patches all over town. Nancy wants to tell Barb's parents about her death, but Steve insists it's too dangerous. At a Halloween party that evening, Nancy gets drunk and tells Steve she does not love him. Angered, Steve leaves, and asks Jonathan to take her home. Mike, Will, Dustin, Lucas, and Max go trick-or-treating. Will has a vision of a shadowy monster from the Upside Down trying to catch him. Mike admits to Will that he is still trying to contact Eleven. Eleven tries to contact Mike through the void but fails. Dustin finds a creature in his trash can.
11 3 "Chapter Three: The Pollywog" Shawn Levy Justin Doble October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
Dustin feeds the creature a 3 Musketeers chocolate bar and names it d'Artagnan ("Dart"). In a flashback, Hopper leaves food in the woods for Eleven. She approaches him and moves into his grandfather's hunting cabin. In the present, Hopper refuses to allow Eleven outside. Angry, she escapes and looks for Mike. Joyce's new boyfriend Bob Newby recounts a childhood nightmare to Will and encourages him to stand up to his fears. Nancy persuades Jonathan to help her tell Barb's parents the truth. Hopper confronts Owens with evidence that the pumpkin blight comes from the lab. Dustin brings Dart to school and shows it to Will, Mike, Lucas, and Max. Will realizes Dart is from the Upside Down. Dart molts and escapes. Eleven sees Mike and Max arguing and mistakes it for flirting. Jealous, she telekinetically makes Max fall off her skateboard. On a videotape Will made while trick-or-treating, Joyce discovers an image of the monster. Will finds Dart, triggering a vision of the Upside Down. Dustin recovers Dart. Following Bob's advice, Will confronts the monster, but it invades his body.
12 4 "Chapter Four: Will the Wise" Shawn Levy Paul Dichter October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
Joyce takes Will home. His temperature is strangely low, but he refuses a warm bath. Eleven returns to the cabin. She and Hopper fight, and Hopper grounds her. Will tells Joyce and Hopper that he is connected to the Shadow Monster. Unable to explain in words, he makes a vast number of scribbles. Joyce and Hopper piece them together into a map. Nancy and Jonathan are caught by lab agents. Owens shows them the gate to the Upside Down. He says it can be contained but not destroyed, admits Barb died, and allows Nancy and Jonathan to go free. Secretly, Nancy records his confession. Max's abusive older brother Billy warns her to stay away from Lucas. Eleven finds Hopper's notes on Hawkins Lab. Using her psychic powers, she contacts Terry Ives, who calls her "Jane." Dustin discovers Dart devouring his cat and realizes Dart is a young Demogorgon. Following Will's map, Hopper digs in Merril's field and finds a tunnel corrupted by the Upside Down.
13 5 "Chapter Five: Dig Dug" Andrew Stanton Jessie Nickson-Lopez October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
Vines trap Hopper in the infected tunnels. Will realizes Hopper is in danger. Lucas tells Max the truth about Will's disappearance last year, but she does not believe him. Jonathan and Nancy play Owens' confession to Bauman. The three agree to publicize a watered-down and more believable story about Barb dying from toxins released by the lab. Dustin traps Dart in his root cellar and recruits Steve to fight it. Owens and the lab scientists realize the soil from the infected pumpkin patches is part of a hive mind. Eleven hitchhikes to Terry's house. She telepathically communicates with Terry, seeing images of another child kept in Hawkins Lab and of Terry being crippled by forced shock therapy. Bob figures out Hopper's location, and he and Joyce enter the tunnels to rescue him. They are joined by scientists from Hawkins Lab. As the scientists burn the vines filling the tunnels, Will screams in agony and collapses.
14 6 "Chapter Six: The Spy" Andrew Stanton Kate Trefry October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
Will is rushed to the lab, where he cannot recognize Bob, Hopper, or Owens. Owens deduces that Will's mind is linked to the Upside Down, and speculates that burning the tunnels would be lethal to Will. He shows Hopper the lab basement, where an enormous gate to the Upside Down has been discovered under the floor. Dart escapes the root cellar. Nancy and Jonathan spend the night at Bauman's and admit their feelings for each other. Lucas offers to prove to Max that his story is true and sneaks her out of her house. Steve, Dustin, Lucas and Max set a trap for Dart at the junkyard. Max opens up to Lucas about Billy's anger over his father's remarriage to Max's mother. Dart, now the size of a large dog, arrives with a pack of adolescent Demogorgons ("Demodogs") and traps the four in a bus. Will announces he knows how to stop the Shadow Monster. Owens sends a team of soldiers into the tunnels, and the Demodogs leave the junkyard. Will apologizes, saying the Shadow Monster "made him do it." The Demodogs ambush the soldiers, slaughter them, and climb into the lab.
15 7 "Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister" Rebecca Thomas Justin Doble October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
In Chicago, Eleven locates Kali, who is the girl from Terry's memories. Kali can create illusions, and she leads a gang of outcasts who exact revenge on those who have hurt them. She teaches Eleven to channel her anger towards stronger powers. Eleven uses her powers to find Ray, the lab technician who performed shock therapy on Terry, and the gang breaks into his apartment. Ray claims Brenner is still alive, and he offers to lead Kali and Eleven to Brenner. They disbelieve him, and Kali tries to coax Eleven into killing Ray. When Eleven learns he has two daughters, she stops and prevents Kali from killing him. Back at their hideout, Kali conjures a vision of Brenner and demands that Eleven avenge their mother. Eleven visualizes Mike and Hopper and realizes they are in trouble. While Kali and her gang escape the police, Eleven returns to Hawkins.
16 8 "Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer" The Duffer Brothers The Duffer Brothers October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
The Demodogs overwhelm the lab. Mike convinces Joyce to sedate Will so that the Shadow Monster cannot track them. Mike, Will, Joyce, Hopper, Bob, and Owens shelter in the lab's security room. Dustin, Steve, Lucas, and Max track the Demodogs to the lab, where they regroup with Nancy and Jonathan. When the power goes out, Bob resets the circuit breakers so they can escape. Owens stays behind and uses the security cameras to guide the others out. Mike, Will, Joyce, and Hopper escape, but Bob is killed by the Demodogs. The group retreat to the Byers' house, where Dustin suggests that the Shadow Monster is a Mind Flayer. After disguising their location, they interrogate Will. Using Morse code, he taps out, "CLOSE GATE." The house phone rings, and Will realizes where he is. The Mind Flayer sends a Demodog to the house, but, to everyone's surprise, Eleven arrives and kills it.
17 9 "Chapter Nine: The Gate" The Duffer Brothers The Duffer Brothers October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
After finally reuniting with Mike, Eleven and Hopper head for the lab, where they find the gate guarded by Demodogs. Jonathan, Nancy, and Joyce take Will to Hopper's cabin and overheat him, forcing the Mind Flayer out. Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Max want to draw the Demodogs away from the gate, but Steve keeps them at the house for their own safety. Billy, forced by his abusive father to look for Max, arrives at the Byers house. He overpowers Steve in a fistfight, but Max sedates him, and the group leaves in Billy's car. They start a fire in the tunnels, but Dart blocks their return. Dustin feeds Dart a 3 Musketeers bar, and Dart allows them to pass. Eleven channels her anger into closing the gate, and as the gate closes, the remaining monsters in Hawkins die. One month later, Hawkins Lab has shut down. Barb is given a funeral, and Owens provides Hopper a birth certificate for Eleven, listing him as her father. The students, including Eleven, attend the school's winter dance, the Snow Ball. Max and Lucas kiss, as do Mike and Eleven. Nancy pities Dustin and dances with him. In the Upside Down, the Mind Flayer towers over the school.

Season 3

In April 2018, executive producer Shawn Levy stated that, as with the previous two seasons, the Duffer Brothers would direct the first two episodes, with Levy directing the third and fourth episodes. The other directors for the season have yet to be announced; however Levy confirmed that Andrew Stanton (who directed two episodes of the second season) would not be returning due to scheduling issues.[18]

Production

Development

Ross (left) and Matt Duffer, the creators of the series

Stranger Things was created by Matt and Ross Duffer, known professionally as the Duffer Brothers.[19] The two had completed writing and producing their 2015 film Hidden, which they had tried to emulate the style of M. Night Shyamalan, however, due to changes at Warner Bros., its distributor, the film did not see a wide release and the Duffer Brothers were unsure of their future.[20] To their surprise, television producer Donald De Line approached them, impressed with Hidden's script, and offered them the opportunity to work on episodes of Wayward Pines alongside Shyamalan. The brothers were mentored by Shyamalan during the episode's production, so that when they finished, they felt they were ready to produce their own television series.[21]

The Duffer Brothers prepared a script that would essentially be similar to the series' actual pilot episode, along with a 20-page pitch book to help shop the series around for a network.[22] They pitched the story to about fifteen[23] cable networks, all of which rejected the script on the basis that they felt a plot centered around children as leading characters would not work, asking them to make it a children's show or to drop the children and focus on Hopper's investigation in the paranormal.[21] In early 2015, Dan Cohen, the VP of 21 Laps Entertainment, brought the script to his colleague Shawn Levy. They subsequently invited the Duffer Brothers to their office and purchased the rights for the series, giving full authorship of it to the brothers. After reading the pilot, the streaming service Netflix purchased the whole season for an undisclosed amount;[24] the show was subsequently announced for a planned 2016 release by Netflix in early April 2015.[25] The Duffer Brothers stated that at the time they had pitched to Netflix, the service had already gotten recognized for its original programming, such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, with well-recognized producers behind them, and were ready to start giving upcoming producers like them a chance.[22] The brothers started to write out the series and brought Levy and Cohen in as executive producers to start casting and filming.[26]

"Montauk is an eight-hour sci-fi horror epic. Set in Long Island in 1980 and inspired by the supernatural classics of that era, we explore the crossroads where the ordinary meet the extraordinary...emotional, cinematic and rooted in character, Montauk is a love letter to the golden age of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King – a marriage of human drama and supernatural fear."

 — The Duffer Brothers' original pitch for Montauk[27]

 
The book cover the Duffer Brothers created to pitch Montauk, inspired by Stephen King book covers such as Firestarter

The series was originally known as Montauk, as the setting of the script was in Montauk, New York and nearby Long Island locations.[25][28] The brothers had chosen Montauk as it had further Spielberg ties with the film Jaws, where Montauk was used for the fictional setting of Amity Island.[29] After deciding to change the narrative of the series to take place in the fictional town of Hawkins instead, the brothers felt they could now do things to the town, such as placing it under quarantine, that they really could not envision with a real location.[29] With the change in location, they had to come up with a new title for the series under direction from Netflix's Ted Sarandos so that they could start marketing it to the public. The brothers started by using a copy of Stephen King's Firestarter novel to consider the title's font and appearance, and came up with a long list of potential alternatives. Stranger Things came about as it sounded similar to another King novel, Needful Things, though Matt noted they still had a "lot of heated arguments" over this final title.[30]

To pitch the series, the Duffer Brothers showcased images, footage and music from 1980s films such as E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, Hellraiser, Stand by Me, Firestarter, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Jaws, in order to establish the tone of the series.[27]

With the critical success of the first season after its release in July 2016, speculation on a possible second season was raised. The Duffer Brothers initially intended for Stranger Things to either be a standalone miniseries[27] or an anthology series.[31] They also considered the possibility of setting a potential second season (which they referred to as a "sequel") in the early 1990s and featuring an older version of the characters, along with all new characters, who are drawn back to Hawkins after supernatural events begin occurring again.[27][31] However, following the release of the first season, they realized that the likability of the characters – especially the children – was key to the series' success, and they decided to set the second season in 1984 and focus on the same characters.[31] By the end of July, the Duffer Brothers had outlined a plan for such a season if it was green-lit,[32] and Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings said in early August that the company "would be dumb not to" renew Stranger Things for a second season.[33] On August 31, 2016, Netflix announced it had renewed Stranger Things for a second season of nine episodes, to be released in 2017.[34] The Duffer Brothers revealed that the series had been renewed for a second season before the first premiered. Regarding the decision to wait more than a month after the first season premiered to announce the renewal, Matt Duffer said, "it actually ended up working because it had built up to this fever pitch. I guess that's what [Netflix] were intending to do all the time."[35]

The Duffer Brothers wrote the second season to make the combined first and second season feel like a complete work, but setting elements in place to go forward with additional seasons if they are green-lit.[36] While most of the story for the second season had been decided before the first season aired, the Duffer Brothers took in the audience reactions from the first season to adjust some of the details within the second season. They knew they would not have the same element of audience surprise as when the show aired anew, and were aware fans wanted to see certain elements, but Ross said "...the point is not to give everyone what they think they want. Because I don't think they really know what they want."[37] The Duffer Brothers felt that the second season should be treated more as a sequel rather than a continuation, and thus have opted to call the second Stranger Things 2. This approach had some trepidation from Netflix, since the company felt movie sequels typically have a bad reputation, but the Duffer Brothers pointed out that there had been many successful sequels that surpassed the original film, and felt confident with this name.[38] Despite revealing episode titles for the season in the announcement teaser in order "to provide some hint of where we were going in season two without giving anything away,"[39][35] Matt Duffer stated that some of the titles would change, since there were some things "we didn't want to put on there because we felt like it would give too much away,"[35] and because "people are smart on the fucking internet" with fan-created "videos analyzing the chapter titles... right on a lot" of how the titles related to the plot of the season.[40] In early October 2017, the Duffer Brothers revealed the final titles for the first six episodes of the season.[41]

Levy noted in November 2016 that he and the Duffer Brothers had already begun planning a potential third season, saying, "We are not gonna be caught off guard and we don't wanna be making stuff up like the day before we have to write it and make it, so we are definitely optimistic and we have started thinking ahead."[42] The Duffer Brothers anticipate having about four to five seasons to work with, but do want to "have a really finite ending" while the show is still at a height of success, according to Matt, rather than letting it draw out indefinitely.[36] In August 2017, the Duffer Brothers confirmed there would be a third season, with the likelihood of one more season following that, with Ross saying, "We're thinking it will be a four-season thing and then out".[20] However, executive producer Shawn Levy later suggested that either four or five total seasons were possibilities, claiming that "the truth is we're definitely going four seasons and there's very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely."[43] Matt Duffer later commented that no official decision has been made, claiming that "It's hard, like four seems short, five seems long. So I don't know what to do."[44] In December 2017, Netflix officially confirmed that they have greenlit the third season,[45] consisting of eight episodes. Levy also confirmed that a fourth season was "definitely happening" and that there was potential for a fifth season.[18]

Writing

The idea of Stranger Things started with how the brothers felt they could take the concept of the 2013 film Prisoners, detailing the moral struggles a father goes through when his daughter is kidnapped, and expand it out over eight or so hours in a serialized television approach. As they focused on the missing child aspect of the story, they wanted to introduce the idea of "childlike sensibilities" they could offer, and toyed around with the idea of a monster that could consume humans. The brothers thought the combination of these things "was the best thing ever". To introduce this monster into the narrative, they considered "bizarre experiments we had read about taking place in the Cold War" such as Project MKUltra, which gave a way to ground the monster's existence in science rather than something spiritual. This also helped them to decide on using 1983 as the time period, as it was a year before the film Red Dawn came out, which focused on Cold War paranoia.[21] Subsequently, they were able to use all their own personal inspirations from the 1980s, the decade they were born, as elements of the series,[21][46] crafting it in the realm of science fiction and horror.[47] The Duffer Brothers have cited as influence for the show (among others): Stephen King novels; films produced by Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Robert Zemeckis, George Lucas and Guillermo del Toro; films such as Alien and Stand by Me; Japanese anime such as Akira and Elfen Lied; and video games such as Silent Hill, The Last of Us,[30][48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][excessive citations] and Dark Souls.[56] The Duffer Brothers also believe that they may have brought influences from other works unintentionally, including Beyond the Black Rainbow and D.A.R.Y.L., discovered by reviewing fan feedback on the show.[29]

With Netflix as the platform, the Duffer Brothers were not limited to a typical 22-episode format, opting for the eight-episode approach. They had been concerned that a 22-episode season on broadcast television would be difficult to "tell a cinematic story" with that many episodes. Eight episodes allowed them to give time to characterization in addition to narrative development; if they had less time available, they would have had to remain committed to telling a horror film as soon as the monster was introduced and abandon the characterization.[22] Within the eight episodes, the brothers aimed to make the first season "feel like a big movie" with all the major plot lines completed so that "the audience feels satisfied", but left enough unresolved to indicate "there's a bigger mythology, and there's a lot of dangling threads at the end", something that could be explored in further seasons if Netflix opted to create more.[57]

Regarding writing for the children characters of the series, the Duffer Brothers considered themselves as outcasts from other students while in high school and thus found it easy to write for Mike and his friends, and particularly for Barb.[30] Joyce was fashioned after Richard Dreyfuss' character Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as she appears "absolutely bonkers" to everyone else as she tries to find Will.[58] Other characters, such as Billy in the second season, have more villainous attributes that are not necessarily obvious from the onset; Matt explained that they took further inspiration from Stephen King for these characters, as King "always has really great human villains" that may be more malicious than the supernatural evil.[4]

According to David Harbour, writing for the third season was still occurring in December 2017.[59] Levy said the season would be less about Will, saying, "We're not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He'll be dealing with stuff, but he won't be at rock bottom... We're [going to be] dealing with forces of evil that are new."[60]

Casting

 
The Duffer Brothers cast David Harbour as Chief Hopper believing this was his opportunity to have a lead character in a work.

In June 2015, it was announced that Winona Ryder and David Harbour had joined the series as Joyce and as the unnamed chief of police, respectively.[7] The Duffer Brothers' casting director Carmen Cuba had suggested Ryder for the role of Joyce, which the two were immediately drawn to because of her predominance in the films of the 1980s.[21] Levy believed Ryder could "wretch up the emotional urgency and yet find layers and nuance and different sides of [Joyce]". Ryder praised that the show's multiple storylines required her to act for Joyce as "she's out of her mind, but she's actually kind of onto something", and that the producers had faith she could pull off the difficult role.[61] The Duffer Brothers had been interested in Harbour before, who until Stranger Things primarily had smaller roles as villainous characters, and they felt that he had been "waiting too long for this opportunity" to play a lead, while Harbour himself was thrilled by the script and the chance to play "a broken, flawed, anti-hero character".[30][62]

Additional casting followed two months later with Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Millie Bobby Brown in an undisclosed role, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, Natalia Dyer as Nancy, and Charlie Heaton as Jonathan.[8] In September 2015, Cara Buono joined the cast as Karen,[9] followed by Matthew Modine as Martin Brenner a month later.[10] Additional cast who recur for the first season include Noah Schnapp as Will,[8][13] Shannon Purser as Barbara "Barb" Holland,[63] Joe Keery as Steve Harrington,[14][13] and Ross Partridge as Lonnie,[64] among others.

Actors auditioning for the children roles read lines from Stand By Me.[21] The Duffer Brothers estimated they went through about a thousand different child actors for the roles. They noted that Wolfhard was already "a movie buff" of the films from the 1980s period and easily filled the role, while they found Matarazzo's audition to be much more authentic than most of the other audition tapes, and selected him after a single viewing of his audition tape.[22] As casting was started immediately after Netflix greenlit the show, and prior to the scripts being fully completed, this allowed some of the actor's takes on the roles to reflect into the script. The casting of the young actors for Will and his friends had been done just after the first script was completed, and subsequent scripts incorporated aspects from these actors.[57] The brothers said Modine provided significant input on the character of Dr. Brenner, whom they had not really fleshed out before as they considered him the hardest character to write for given his limited appearances within the narrative.[58]

In October 2016, it was announced that Schnapp and Keery had been promoted to the main cast for the second season, after each recurring in the first season, and that Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery would join the main cast as Max and Billy, respectively.[13] Ryder, Harbour, Wolfhard, Brown, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, Dyer and Heaton also return for the season.[65] Sean Astin as Bob Newby and Paul Reiser as Sam Owens are also part of the main cast in the season.[15] Sean Astin’s character, Bob, was originally meant to be a smaller role, but Astin performed his role so well the Duffer Brothers ended up having Bob be a major character, as well as giving him a heroic death.[66] For Owens, the Duffer Brothers had referred to the character in their pitch to Netflix for the season as "Paul Reiser", and specifically alluded to Reiser's character Burke in Aliens, with Ross referencing James Cameron's casting choice for that film, saying, "[Cameron] thought people would inherently trust [Reiser] and it would be a twist". Reiser's son was a fan of Stranger Things, and gave his father an early appreciation of the series, so that by when the production called his agent about the role, Reiser was excited for the part.[67] Joining them in recurring roles are Linnea Berthelsen as Kali / Eight[68] and Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman.[69]

The third season sees Ryder, Harbour, Wolfhard, Brown, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, Dyer, Heaton, Buono, Schnapp, Sink, Keery and Montgomery return.[70] They are joined by Maya Hawke as Robin.[17]

For the third season, it was reported that the several of the cast members would be receiving pay raises. Ryder and Harbour were receiving an increase to $350,000 an episode from $150,000 and $80,000 respectively; Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, and Schnapp were receiving a pay increase to $200,000 an episodes and possibly around $250,000, a significant increase from the reported $20,000 they made in season one (later increased by $60,000); and Dyer, Heaton, and Keery would be receiving approximately $150,000 an episode. Brown's pay was not disclosed, but was estimated to be a bigger raise than her young counterparts. Some sources suggest she is at least making $250,000 and may be getting possibly between $300,000 and $350,000 per episode.[71][72][73]

Filming

The brothers had desired to film the series around the Long Island area to match the initial Montauk concept. However, with filming scheduled to take place in November 2015, it was difficult to shoot in Long Island in the cold weather, and the production started scouting locations in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area. The brothers, who grew up in North Carolina, found many places that reminded them of their own childhoods in that area, and felt the area would work well with the narrative shift to the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.[29]

The filming of the first season began in November 2015 and was extensively done in Atlanta, Georgia, with the Duffer Brothers and Levy handling the direction of individual episodes.[74] Jackson served as the basis of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.[75][76] Other shooting locations included the Georgia Mental Health Institute as the Hawkins National Laboratory site, Bellwood Quarry, Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge, Georgia, for the middle and high school scenes,[77] Emory University's Continuing Education Department, the former city hall in Douglasville, Georgia, Georgia International Horse Park, the probate court in Butts County, Georgia, Old East Point Library and East Point First Baptist Church in East Point, Georgia, Fayetteville, Georgia, Stone Mountain Park, Palmetto, Georgia, and Winston, Georgia.[78] Set work was done at Screen Gem Studios in Atlanta.[78] The series was filmed with a Red Dragon digital camera.[58] Filming for the first season concluded in early 2016.[75]

While filming, the brothers tried to capture shots that could be seen as homages to many of the 1980s references they recalled. Their goal was not necessarily to fill the work with these references, but instead make the series seem to the viewer as a 1980s film.[30] They spent little time reviewing those works and instead went by memory. Matt further recognized that some of their filming homages were not purposely done but were found to be very comparable, as highlighted by a fan-made video comparing the show to several 1980s works side-by-side.[21][79] Matt commented on the video that "Some were deliberate and some were subconscious."[21] The brothers recognized that many of the iconic scenes from these 1980s films, such as with Poltergeist, was about "taking a very ordinary object that people deal with every day, their television set, and imbuing it with something otherworldly", leading to the idea of using the Christmas light strings for Will to communicate with Joyce.[30] In order to help the cast get into the mood and their characters, the Duffer Brothers would play creepy music on set before filming.[80]

The brothers attributed much of the 1980s feel to set and costume designers and the soundtrack composers that helped to recreate the era for them.[21] Lynda Reiss, the head of props, had about a $220,000 budget, similar to most films, to acquire artifacts of the 1980s, using eBay and searching through flea markets and estate sales around the Atlanta area. The bulk of the props were original items from the 1980s with only a few pieces, such as the Dungeons & Dragons books made as replicas.[81] Costume designer Kimberly Adams-Galligan for the first season aimed for capturing authenticity of the clothes choices by the characters, such as reflecting that the Byers would likely use hand-me-down clothes compared to the other families; in this case, while the costume department did distress the outfits for all the characters, they spent more time for Will's clothes compared to Mike's. Frequently, they needed to create outfits for the kids themselves since many were still growing during the time of filming, and could not readily acquire period fashion across a range of sizes.[82] Director of photography Tim Ives shot the first season with Leica lens and the 6K Red Scarlet Dragon to "make sure that our images had the soft and round tones that are in '80s films"; this is achieved through digital image processing. Ives said that these cameras allow them to create an adaptable quality to the recorded film that is adaptable to a wide range of viewing experiences, including support for newer and future television technologies such as high dynamic range video that was just becoming adopted at the time of filming.[83]

Filming for the second season began on November 7, 2016,[42] once again in and around the Atlanta Metro area.[84][85] While parts of Season 2 were set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, these were actually filmed in downtown Atlanta, with skylines of Pittsburgh added in post-production.[86] Andrew Stanton, director of Pixar's Finding Nemo and WALL-E, directed the fifth and sixth episodes of the second season. Levy stated that Stanton was a big fan of the show and called up Levy, offering his directorial abilities for the show. Rebecca Thomas directed the seventh episode of the season.[87] Unlike the first season, which they were able to film without any real security issues, the heightened awareness of the show required the producers to take significant steps to keep the show's production in secret while filming the second season. They spoke to the production team of HBO's Game of Thrones for tips and advice for securing filming sites, and have adopted code names for the series and various parts to allow the actors to speak to others without revealing details of the show's plot.[88] Kim Wilcox took over for costumes in the second season, finding many of the same problems with designing for the child actors that were aging. Furthermore, she wanted to create the 80's aestetic but as reflected in a small rural town, with the trends of period slowly filtering into it rather that immediately jump on elements like neon colors.[82] The second season concluded filming on June 2, 2017.[89] Ives once again used Leica lens to film the season, while upgrading to the Red Weapon 8K S35 camera.[83]

Filming for the third season officially began on April 23, 2018.[73][18]

Visual effects

To create the aged effect for the series, a film grain was added over the footage, which was captured by scanning in film stock from the 1980s.[58] The Duffer Brothers wanted to scare the audience, but not to necessarily make the show violent or gory, following in line with how the 1980s Amblin Entertainment films drove the creation of the PG-13 movie rating. It was "much more about mood and atmosphere and suspense and dread than they are about gore", though they were not afraid to push into more scary elements, particularly towards the end of the first season.[58] The brothers had wanted to avoid any computer-generated effects for the monster and other parts of the series and stay with practical effects, so they created an animatronic to play the part of the demogorgon.[90][91] However, the six-month filming time left them little time to plan out and test practical effects rigs for some of the shots. They went with a middle ground of using constructed props including one for the monster whenever they could, but for other shots, such as when the monster bursts through a wall, they opted to use digital effects. Post-production on the first season was completed the week before it was released to Netflix.[21]

The title sequence uses closeups of the letters in the Stranger Things title with a red tint against a black background as they slide into place within the title. The sequence was created by the studio Imaginary Forces, formerly part of R/GA, led by creative director Michelle Doughtey.[92] Levy introduced the studio to the Duffer Brothers, who explained their vision of the 1980s-inspired show, which helped the studio to fix the concept the producers wanted. Later, but prior to filming, the producers sent Imaginary Forces the pilot script, the synth-heavy background music for the titles, as well as the various book covers from King and other authors that they had used to establish the title and imagery, and were looking for a similar approach for the show's titles, primarily using a typographical sequence. They took inspiration from several title sequences of works from the 1980s that were previously designed by Richard Greenberg under R/GA, such as Altered States and The Dead Zone. They also got input from Dan Perri, who worked on the title credits of several 1980s films. Various iterations included having letters vanish, to reflect the "missing" theme of the show, and having letters cast shadows on others, alluding to the mysteries, before settling into the sliding letters. The studio began working on the title sequence before filming, and took about a month off during the filming process to let the producers get immersed in the show and come back with more input. Initially they had been working with various fonts for the title and used close-ups of the best features of these fonts, but near the end the producers wanted to work with ITC Benguiat, requiring them to rework those shots. The final sequence is fully computer generated, but they took inspiration from testing some practical effects, such as using Kodalith masks as would have been done in the 1980s, to develop the appropriate filters for the rendering software. The individual episode title cards used a "fly through" approach, similar to the film Bullitt, which the producers had suggested to the studio.[93]

Music

The Stranger Things original soundtrack was composed by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of the electronic band Survive.[94] It makes extensive use of synthesizers in homage to 1980s artists and film composers including Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Goblin, John Carpenter, Giorgio Moroder, and Fabio Frizzi.[95]

According to Stein and Dixon, the Duffer Brothers had been fans of Survive's music, and used their song "Dirge" for the mock trailer that was used to sell the show to Netflix.[94][96] Once the show was green-lit, the Duffer Brothers contacted Survive around July 2015 to ask if they were still doing music; the two provided the production team with dozens of songs from their band's past to gain their interest, helping to land them the role.[94] Once aboard, the two worked with producers to select some of their older music to rework for the show, while developing new music, principally with character motifs.[96] The two had been hired before the casting process, so their motif demos were used and played over the actors' audition tapes, aiding in the casting selection.[96][97] The show's theme is based on an unused work Stein composed much earlier that ended up in the library of work they shared with the production staff, who thought that with some reworking would be good for the opening credits.[94]

In addition to original music, Stranger Things features period music from artists including The Clash, Joy Division, Toto, New Order, The Bangles, Foreigner, Echo and the Bunnymen, Peter Gabriel, and Corey Hart, as well as excerpts from Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, and Vangelis.[98][99] In particular, The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" was specifically picked to play at pivotal moments of the story, such as when Will is trying to communicate with Joyce from the Upside Down.[99]

Soundtracks

Stranger Things' original soundtrack, consisting of 75 songs from Stein and Dixon split across two volumes, was released by Lakeshore Records. Digital release and streaming options were released on August 10 and 19, 2016 for the two volumes, respectively, while retail versions were available on September 16 and 23, 2016.[100][99] Limited editions of the soundtrack on vinyl, in both individual and a boxed set, are set for release in July 2017.[101] A cassette version of the soundtrack, sold exclusively by Urban Outfitters, was released on July 14, 2017. The cassette packaging features a cardboard cover that emulates an old VHS sleeves, while the cassette case is made to look like a VHS tape.[102]

Both volumes were nominated individually for the Best Score Soundtrack Category for the 2017 Grammy Awards, though neither won.[103]

The soundtrack for the second season of Stranger Things was released digitally on October 20, 2017. The soundtrack, once again composed by Stein and Dixon, consists of 34 songs and was released by Lakeshore Records in the United States and Invada Records internationally. The soundtrack is intended to be released on physical formats, such as compact disc, vinyl, and cassette as well.[104] On the soundtrack's composition, Stein and Dixon together said that the score for the season introduces "new styles of composition, while still revisiting old themes when appropriate ... We've created new elements that are necessary to support the story, but still want to remain true to the sound of Season 1." The first track from the soundtrack, "Walkin' in Hawkins", was released on October 12.[105]

Release

The first season consisted of eight one-hour-long episodes which were released worldwide on Netflix on July 15, 2016,[106] in Ultra HD 4K. The second season, consisting of nine episodes, was released on October 27, 2017[107] in HDR.[108] A teaser for the second season, which also announced the release date, aired during Super Bowl LI.[109] The third season will once again consist of eight episodes.[18] It is not expected to be released until late 2018 or early 2019.[59][60][110]

Home media

The first season of Stranger Things was released on a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack exclusively to Target retailers on October 17, 2017, which includes a vintage VHS-inspired packaging.[111][112]

Reception

Winona Ryder (left) was nominated for the Golden Globe, Satellite and Screen Actors Guild Award, while Millie Bobby Brown (right) was nominated for the Emmy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for their work in the series.

Audience viewership

As Netflix does not reveal subscriber viewership numbers for any of their original series, Symphony Technology Group compiled data for the season based on people using software on their phones that measures television viewing by detecting a program's sound. According to Symphony, within the first 35 days of release, Stranger Things averaged ratings around 14.07 million adults between the ages 18–49 in the United States. This made it the third most-watched season of Netflix original content in the U.S. at the time behind the first season of Fuller House and fourth season of Orange Is the New Black.[113] In a September 2016 analysis, Netflix found that Stranger Things "hooked" viewers by the second episode of the first season, indicating that the second episode was "the first installment that led at least 70 percent of viewers who watched that episode to complete the entire first season of a show."[114]

In August 2017, the marketing analytics firm Jumpshot determined the season was the seventh-most viewed Netflix season in the first 30 days after it premiered, garnering slightly more than 20% of the viewers that the second season of Daredevil received, which was the most viewed season according to Jumpshot. Jumpshot, which "analyzes click-stream data from an online panel of more than 100 million consumers", looked at the viewing behavior and activity of the company's U.S. members, factoring in the relative number of U.S. Netflix viewers who watched at least one episode of the season.[115]

Critical response

Season Critical response
Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1 95% (73 reviews) 76 (34 reviews)
2 94% (123 reviews) 78 (33 reviews)

Season 1

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the first season an approval rating of 94% based on 72 reviews, and a weighted average rating of 7.96/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Exciting, heartbreaking, and sometimes scary, Stranger Things acts as an addictive homage to Spielberg films and vintage 1980s television."[116] Review aggregator Metacritic gave the first season a normalized score of 76 out of 100 based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[117]

IGN gave the score of 8 out of 10 and called the series "Great", saying "Stranger Things is an easy recommendation, offering viewers an atmospheric and endearing series that is a nostalgic throwback without feeling like a simple copy."[118] In a review in the San Francisco Chronicle Dave Wiegand wrote: "Stranger Things reminds us of a time marked by a kind of no-strings escapism. And as it does so, we find ourselves yearning for it because the Duffer Brothers have made it so irresistibly appealing. There may be other equally great shows to watch this summer, but I guarantee you won't have more fun watching any of them than you will watching Stranger Things."[119] Joshua Alston of The A.V. Club also reviewed it positively saying, "Balancing style and substance is always challenging for a series like Stranger Things, but the show is perfectly calibrated. It feels like watching a show produced during the era in which it's set, but with the craft of today's prestige television."[120] Reviewing for HitFix, Alan Sepinwall said, "Over the course of the eight hours, the story and characters take on enough life of their own so that the references don't feel self-indulgent, and so that the series can be appreciated even if you don't know the plot of E.T. or the title font of Stephen King's early novels (a huge influence on the show's own opening credits) by heart."[121]

Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker also applauded the series and wrote, "This is astoundingly efficient storytelling, eight hours that pass in a blink, with even minor characters getting sharp dialogue, dark humor, or moments of pathos."[122] Television critic Mary McNamara of Los Angeles Times said, "For the most part, and in absolute defiance of the odds, Stranger Things honors its source material in the best way possible: By telling a sweet 'n' scary story in which monsters are real but so are the transformative powers of love and fealty."[123] The Wall Street Journal's Brian Kelly said, "Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, brothers and the show's creators, have done their homework when it comes to '80s cinema. Whether you're a fan of John Carpenter's The Thing or The Goonies is more your speed, there's plenty to like in Stranger Things."[124]

In a negative review, cultural critic Grafton Tanner called the series "wish fulfillment" and "a window through which the present-shocked can gaze at a clichéd past."[125] Similarly, Marinna Guzy of The Establishment wrote: "When confronted with a story like Stranger Things, a recycled retelling of an old story being marketed as homage and good, clean nostalgia, one has to wonder whether or not studios and content creators like the Duffer Brothers ever ask themselves whether or not the story they are telling is the one that should be told. What purpose does Stranger Things serve beyond reinforcing the status quo in the media landscape and perpetuating the dangerous delusion that things were better way back when?"[126]

Season 2

On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has an approval rating of 94% based on 123 reviews, and an average rating of 7.79/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Stranger Things' slow-building sophomore season balances moments of humor and a nostalgic sweetness against a growing horror that's all the more effective thanks to the show's full-bodied characters and evocative tone."[127] On Metacritic, the second season has a normalized score of 78 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[128]

Commentary

 
Shannon Purser's performance as Barb received a great deal of attention from fans, and led to her being nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

Shortly after its release, Stranger Things gained a dedicated fanbase. One area of focus from these fans was the character of Barb, the nerdy friend and classmate of Nancy who is taken and killed by the monster early in the season.[129] According to actress Shannon Purser, Barb "wasn't supposed to be a big deal", and the Duffer Brothers had not gone into great detail about the character since the focus was on finding Will. However, many fans sympathized with the character, with Laura Bradley of Vanity Fair suggesting that these people found that Barb would be a similar misfit in society, and "looks more like someone you might actually meet in real life" compared to the other characters, particularly Nancy, in the series. Hashtags such as "#ImWithBarb" and "#JusticeforBarb" grew in popularity after the series' release, and several fan sites and forums were created to support her.[130] While Purser did not return for the second season, the Duffer Brothers used the real-life "Justice for Barb" movement as inspiration for narrative at the start of the second season, with Nancy addressing the fact "that no one ever cares about" Barb.[16] Purser and several media outlets took her nomination as Barb for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards as achieving "Justice for Barb", highlighting how well her character was received.[131][132][133]

Another impact of the series has been an increase demand for Eggo waffles, as they are shown to be Eleven's favorite food in several episodes and are seen as a representation of the show.[134] The Kellogg Company, which manufactures Eggo, had not been part of the production prior to the first season's release, but recognized the market impact of the series. It provided a vintage 1980s Eggo television advertisement for Netflix to use in its Super Bowl LI commercial, and is looking to become more involved with cross-promotion.[135]

Accolades

Other media

Beyond Stranger Things

 
Logo for the aftershow

With the release of the second season of the series, Netflix also released Beyond Stranger Things, an aftershow hosted by Jim Rash. The guests of the aftershow are composed of cast and crew from the series, including the Duffer Brothers and the series' stars, to discuss the development and behind-the-scenes production of the series and its larger mythology. Unlike previous aftershows created by Embassy Row, such as Talking Dead and Talking Bad, Beyond Stranger Things is intended to be watched after a screening of the entire current season.[136]

No. Title Guests Video guests Original release date
1 "Mind Blown" Shawn Levy, the Duffer Brothers, Finn Wolfhard, and Millie Bobby Brown David Harbour October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
2 "Mad for Max" Shawn Levy, the Duffer Brothers, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, and Sadie Sink None October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
3 "Unlikely Allies" Shawn Levy, the Duffer Brothers, Gaten Matarazzo, and Joe Keery None October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
4 "Truth in Hawkins" Joe Keery, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, and Brett Gelman David Harbour and Shannon Purser October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
5 "The AV Club" Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp, Randy Havens, and Bill Nye Sean Astin October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
6 "The New Class" Sadie Sink, Brett Gelman, Dacre Montgomery, and Linnea Berthelsen Sean Astin and Paul Reiser October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)
7 "Closing the Gate" Shawn Levy, the Duffer Brothers, Millie Bobby Brown, Noah Schnapp, and Natalia Dyer David Harbour, Sean Astin, and Eddie Tsang October 27, 2017 (2017-10-27)

Print

Penguin Random House partnered with Netflix to release a series of books related to Stranger Things, starting in late 2018. This includes a companion book to the series, Stranger Things: World Turned Upside Down: The Official Behind-The-Scenes Companion, a children's book that offers "advice, wisdom, and warnings" from Stranger Things, and a prequel novel penned by Gwenda Bond focused on Eleven's mother. Additional books for adults and young readers are expected to follow.[137]

Dark Horse Comics announced a partnership with Netflix for "a multi-year publishing line" of stories set in the Stranger Things world. The first title would be a four-issue miniseries written by Jodie Houser and interior art by Stefani Martino. The story would be set in between the events of season 1, showing Will's perspective throughout his time in the Upside Down. The first issue of the miniseries would be set to come out on September 26.[138]

Video games

Mobile game

Netflix and BonusXP developed a free mobile game tie-in for Stranger Things, released to iOS and Android devices on October 4, 2017. The game uses a retro-pixel style of art, similar to games for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game is loosely based on the Stranger Things story after season one, with the player starting as Chief of Police Jim Hopper looking for the missing boys. Once these characters are found, they become playable and have special abilities that allow the player to access more areas in the game.[139][140] BonusXP had less than a year to complete the game. The team decided to make the game in a similar style to The Legend of Zelda because it "was a perfect match because both [Stranger Things and Zelda] are about exploration, and it's kind of a mysterious fit that fit the mood of the show," according to BonusXP president Dave Pottinger. The map of Hawkins in the game was based on a Google street view map of Jackson, Georgia where the series is filmed. In order to help keep the game a secret, BonusXP did not hire game testers for their quality assurance, instead having family members from the design team provide feedback; this process helped create the two difficulty levels in the game.[141] Completing the game gives players a clip from the Season 2 premiere episode of the show.[142] The game was downloaded 3 million times in the first week, becoming a top download and receiving critical praise. With the release of season two, an update to the game added Max as a playable character, and a release for the Amazon Fire TV, which included controller support.[141] The game was nominated for "Mobile Game" at the 14th British Academy Games Awards.[143][144]

PlayStation VR game

Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced that it is working on a PlayStation 4-exclusive game, based on Stranger Things, for their PlayStation VR peripheral. The company has since released a teaser showing the Christmas-lights-on-a-wall scenes.[145]

Telltale game

In June 2018, Netflix announced a partnership with Telltale Games to bring their adventure games to the Netflix service. Alongside this announcement, a new Telltale-created Stranger Things game was announced.[146]

Others

United States Representative David Cicilline compared the state of the nation during the presidency of Donald Trump to that of Stranger Things during a speech given in Congress on February 16, 2017, using a sign "Trump Things" in the same format as the title card of the show and saying "Like the main characters in Stranger Things, we are now stuck in the Upside Down".[147]

As part of its release on Netflix on April 14, 2017, the cast of the rebooted version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on the first part of "Chapter 1" of Stranger Things.[148] Google used augmented reality (AR) "stickers" of Stranger Things characters to introduce its ARCore technology announced alongside its Pixel 2 phone in October 2017.[149] Sesame Street created a young audience-appropriate spoof of Stranger Things, called Sharing Things, released in November 2017; it featured Cookie Monster as the "Cookiegorgon", Grover as Lucas, Ernie as Dustin, and included several nods to the narrative of the second season.[150]

Lawsuit

In April 2018, filmmaker Charlie Kessler filed a lawsuit against the Duffer Brothers, claiming that they stole his idea behind his short film Montauk for Stranger Things. Kessler's Montauk featured a similar premise of a missing boy, a nearby military base doing otherworldy experiments, and a monster from another dimension. Kessler has directed the film and debuted it at the 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival. During the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, he pitched his film to the Duffer Brothers and later gave them "the script, ideas, story and film" for a larger film idea he called The Montauk Project for their review. Kessler contended that the Duffer Brothers used his ideas to device the premise for Stranger Things without appropriate compensation and is seeking monetary damages.[151] The Duffer Brothers' lawyer stated that the Duffer Brothers never saw Kessler's film nor spoke to him regarding it, and that Kessler had no input into their concepts for Stranger Things.[152]

Journalists have noted that the idea of supernatural events around Montauk had originated due to urban legend of the Montauk Project, which came to light from the 1992 book The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time.[153][154][155]

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