Stranger Things: Episode 1 Review

I hope y’all had a fun and safe Fourth of July! Other than fireworks and eating bbq, the other reason I was excited for the fourth was the season 3 release of Netflix Original Stranger Things. These recaps may have some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Chapter 1: “Suzie, Do You Copy?”

For our first episode, the gang is in the midst of summer of 1985. Mike, Lucas, Max, and Will sneak into a movie (ah, youth) and then, the entire town experiences an unexplained blackout. Immediately, this feels like a Stranger Things episode. The quintessential weird phenomena happening in the town Hawkins that starts off a bigger and more intriguing mystery. It only lasts a few seconds, it seems, and everything comes back on with no one the wiser.

The title pulls itself from Dustin’s story. While at camp, Dustin meets Suzie, a genius who is “hotter than Phoebe Cates”. While trying to reach Suzie via a new radio transmitter he built called Cerebro, (I see you, X-Men reference!) he inadvertently picks up on a Russian interference. The episode continues to one of the new places we haven’t seen in Stranger Things before: THE MALL. Starcourt mall is a new addition and is causing a bit of a debate among the town. People love the novelty of it, but it’s starting to put the mom-and-pop shops out of business. Even I loved its shiny-newness and made me want to go to the mall. But then I remembered how many stores in the mall have closed recently and changed my mind.

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Once we’ve been introduced to the mall (and according to the trailer and my viewing of the first three episodes, this is going to be a prime location), we see Steve and Robin, a new character at Scoops Ahoy!, an ice cream shop in said mall. Dustin wastes no time in telling Steve all about his radio and the Russian message he heard. One thing I appreciated about this interaction was that Robin makes a joke when Dustin shows up at Scoops Ahoy!, saying his “children” are here, playing off the previous season’s joke among fans that Steve was like a mother to the younger group.

Not everything happens at this mall, though. We still see some of the town and the homes of the characters. Joyce is trying to get back to normalcy after the death of her boyfriend Bob (Sean Astin). The show had a really sweet nod to Bob in the beginning. Will had drawn a picture of Bob as a superhero which had made its way onto the family’s fridge.

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Speaking of Joyce, she is still working at a local store downtown which is currently suffering at the hands of the Starcourt mall. It’s here where we see Hopper and Joyce interacting for the first time this season. (Ah, I ship them so much!) Per the last season, we saw Hopper make the decision to adopt El as his own, and in this season, it looks like Hopper is struggling with raising a teenage daughter, despite the fact that he was already a father before. El and Will have been making out as much as they can which is understandable since they’re hormonal teenagers. Hopper seeks out Joyce’s help in child-rearing and setting boundaries, but in true Hopper fashion, he doesn’t really take this advice to heart. He tries but ends up forcing Will away from El, who in turn is upset about this turn of events. This will definitely have repercussions further down the line, which begs the question: is this particular storyline too predictable? Only time will tell.

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Making our way through the characters, Nancy and Jonathan are both working at The Hawkins Post, a local newspaper, after high school. It’s nice to see Jonathan use his photography skills for something good instead of being creepy with it. Nancy’s storyline is one most of us have seen before. She’s trying to have her ideas heard in a male-dominated workplace, but they constantly brush her aside. (long-haired blonde douchebag, I’m looking at you!) She longs to cover an important story and seems to get her first taste when the newspaper receives a call about diseased rats. See, these rats have been acting strange and exploding into a pile of familiar red goo after a while. Gross. Nancy decides to take the story for herself (YOU GO NANCY!) and figure out why there are so many missing supplies at nearby farms and how they are related to the rats.

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Billy. Billy, Billy, Billy. With the new season, the story focuses on Billy’s character and his interactions with the upside down instead of Will. Poor kid, Will really needs a break from that place. Billy being Billy, he is still a total bully who isn’t quite worthy of character redemption just yet. After making plans to meet Mrs Wheeler (YES, MIKE’S MOM!) at a cheap motel nearby, something hits his windshield and he’s forced to pull over at a nearby abandoned warehouse. The episode ends with a cliffhanger in the hopes of enticing you to binge-watch the entire season. This was a solid beginning to the season, and it gives you just enough to be intrigued but doesn’t give away the entire mystery.

Episode Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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