Stranger Things: From Masterpiece to your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Dru Clay

     In July, 2016, Netflix introduced one of the most unique shows to have ever premiered on a streaming service – the horror hit that has since become an icon amongst streaming exclusives, Stranger Things. This Duffer brothers creation was one of the first shows exclusive to streaming services, releasing all eight of its original episodes on Netflix at the time of release. In the years since, Stranger Things has received two more seasons and worldwide fanfare. Since the days of its release, however, critics have noticed a subtle yet apparent decline in the quality of the show. 

     The Duffer brothers struck gold in 2016 at the height of eighties nostalgia and avant garde horror productions. The original season of Stranger Things is an amazing experience to this day. It contained eight episodes of rich content, filled with amazing and relatable characters, an intriguing horror plot, and subtle instances of visual storytelling. It is hard to criticize any element of the original season, however that quickly changes. In late 2017, the greatly anticipated Stranger Things 2 was released. It was a hit at first, however since the hype died down and more critical eyes could complete their analyses many faults were easily discovered. 

     One might notice that each season of Stranger Things isn’t marketed as ‘a season’. Rather, subsequent seasons have been numbered similar to films. This is for the reason that each season of Stranger Things is like an eight hour film – or at least, that is the idea. After all, the show does not release episodically, rather having an entire season’s worth of episodes released at once. This worked excellently in the days of season one, where the plot was thick and expertly planned out in the way a film is. Problems began rearing their heads with Stranger Things 2, however. Many fans noted that this edition of the show felt much more episodic, and moreover it confirmed what most people wanted from the show was not going to happen – the series was not an anthology.

     Stranger Things 2 feels rushed at its best. The characters and performances are still as amazing as they’ve always been. If anything, one of the few good aspects of the later two seasons are the characters. The problems with the second season’s pacing spilled over into season three, where they become much more pronounced. At season three, Stranger Things no longer feels like an eight hour movie meant to be watched in one or two sittings, but instead like any regular tv show. This doesn’t mean the series has gone completely off the rails, however its once unique qualities have become watered down and distilled so much that they are barely recognizable. The only part of season three that can be compared to the original masterpiece is the emotional death of a main character at the end. This is a change that has already been reverted in just the marketing for Stranger Things 4

     Although Stranger Things was once a great and unique horror IP, it has since been unfortunately boiled down to a regular television show filled with contrivance and a more broad focus on fan service rather than the story that it used to so masterfully craft. Does that mean that Stranger Things is unenjoyable, however? Not at all. It is still appealing to many people, as exemplified by the strong anticipation for Stranger Things 4. Stranger Things is simply no longer as unique as it once was, and in an effort to appeal to a wider audience it has watered itself down. In light of season four’s disappointing reversion of the previous season’s ending is the biggest speed bump on what was once the road to greatness and a potential return to form for Stranger Things 4, although as we grow nearer to the release date it looks as if Stranger Things isn’t getting any better.