Stranger Things: Afterthoughts

I finished Stranger Things yesterday, and this post is going to be straight-up spoilery.

I liked this show a lot, I hope it gets picked up for a second season. But when I try to conjure specific thoughts, the only things I'm getting are some really vivid negatives.

Three major characters are abducted into the Upside Down in the series. Will, whose disappearance drives the whole plot of the show; Barbara, whose disappearance drives Nancy's involvement; and Eleven, who sacrifices herself in killing the monster, implied to have been taken out of the world.

Three major characters are abducted into the Upside Down. One comes back, one is dead, and one is lost, apparently forever.

These characters got fridged: their experiences were not aspects of their own plot, they were events for other people to deal with and develop around. And of those three characters shoved in the fridge, the boy got defrosted, and the two girls are both outright gone.

Barbara in particular is the really blatant one. It's almost like the writers realized near the end of pre-production that they had forgotten to give Nancy a motive to get involved, so they tacked her in. Considered in that light -- that Nancy was always intended as a major character and would always have been part of the plot -- the only way that Barbara ever affects the plot is by getting abducted. I mean, for christ's sake, we never even get a scene of anyone telling Barbara's mother that she's really missing.

The effect Will's absence has on the town is the whole plot of the show. The effect Barbara's absence has is to motivate one other character to go be a badass monster hunter.

And when we get to the bit where we see Will get saved, there's a bit where El announces Barbara to be "gone," a bit where Nancy cries, and a bit where Joyce and Hopper see her corpse. Nothing else. No casseroles brought to Barbara's mom, no follow-up in the epilogue.

So, Barbara got the shortest available end of the stick. But what about El? Her death was the completion of a story arc, wasn't it? /rhetoricalQuestion #shittytransitions

Not really. El's story arc had two major elements: finding people to love and trust, and finding out who she really is. Neither of those are satisfied by her death, because while self-sacrifice was always a part of her character, it was part of her horrible past that she ought to have been overcoming: her feeling that she was expected to sacrifice so much of herself that she disintegrated was what the bad guys had done to her. Feeling like she deserved to have a place in the world is what she should have earned.

El had a mom out there, who needed her to come back as much as El needed a safe and loving home. If there were to be a noble sacrifice at the end, it should have been Mike understanding that El needed to go home. Epilogue: Mike and El laying in beds, talking over radio, El having significantly improved in expressing herself fluidly with speech.

The loose ends left by El disappearing, and by Barbara being killed, could easily have been dealt with by just not doing either of those things. Will was obviously being kept alive by that creepy wall thing, why not Barbara too? And El disintegrating with the monster made just about no sense in the first place.

It felt rushed, and it felt like the writers just didn't think too critically about the way they were telling their story. It was a bummer, and it took away from what was otherwise a really incredible show.