Netflix dropped all eight episodes of the first season of Stranger Things on July 15. So, like a space demon created in a laboratory swallowing up helpless teenagers, we binged and recapped every single episode from the season. There are two recaps per page, so feel free to dig in and read along while you watch. We’ll be updating as we watch, so be sure to check back and refresh.
“Chapter One: The Vanishing Of Will Byers”
Stranger Things really sets its ’80s sci-fi/Stephen King vibe right off the bat. The series premiere opens on a laboratory isolated in the woods in Hawkins, Indiana, in 1983. A man in a lab coat runs down a dark hallway, frantically pushing buttons for the elevator. As the elevator arrives he seems to be safe, but as the doors are about to close something growls above him. He’s pulled up and we never see him again.
Meanwhile, four middle-schoolers, Michael, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, are playing a fantasy RPG in their basement. They want to play just a bit longer, but it’s time for them to go home Michael’s mom insists. That sends Will and Dustin biking home. They decide to race and, as Will pulls away, he finds his way into the same area as the laboratory and crashes his bike.
He hears something in the distance and scrambles home, but something’s still chasing him. He holes up in a shed in the backyard and loads a gun to fight off whatever’s coming for him, but it’s not enough. The lights flicker, a growl is heard, and Will disappears. That’s the setup for the rest of the series. Will Byers vanishes during a night of many power outages across Hawkins. His mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), can’t find him the next morning, and neither can his older brother, Jonathan.
Joyce goes to Police Chief Hopper, who seems to have his own issues with pill-popping and general ennui, but he doesn’t seem too worried. This is Hawkins after all, a quiet, sleepy town. Hopper’s first instinct is to question Joyce’s ex-husband Lonny, but she insists Will wouldn’t run away to him. Not a chance.
Things get weirder when a young girl wearing a hospital gown, complete with a shaved head, wanders into Benny’s Diner. Benny feeds her and tries to make conversation, but she’s elusive. She has a tattoo of the number 11 on her arm, and says that’s her name. There’s more to her than Benny knows though: She seems to stop a fan from spinning just by using her mind. I think we’ve got a lab experiment on our hands.
Anyway, Benny calls social services to come pick her up, but the people who show up clearly aren’t there to help. They’re some sort of shady government organization, and Eleven, as she’s called, is part of their experiments or something. The woman who shows up kills Benny and a number of agents go after Eleven, but she escapes.
Feeling helpless, and with the police’s search not finding anything, the boys set out to find Will on their own. While Michael’s high school-aged sister Nancy is undertaking a secret romance in her bedroom with a rather annoying dude named Steven, Michael’s out with his friends searching through the woods with flashlights, looking for his friend.
In the final moments the action really picks up. Not only do the boys stumble upon Eleven in the woods, Joyce gets a creepy, static call on her phone. She says she can hear Will breathing, but it’s hard to confirm. There’s static, some growling, and then the lights flicker and the phone surges with electricity, burning Joyce. Stranger Things is just getting started, but it’s damn compelling right off the bat.
Be sure to read The Duffer Brothers’ blog for “Chapter 1,” where they talk about casting the perfect kids and Winona Ryder.
“Chapter Two: The Weirdo On Maple Street”
After finding Eleven in the woods, Michael brings her back to his house to sleep. Lucas thinks it’s a terrible idea and that they should tell his mom right away, but as Michael points out, that’ll just get them all grounded because they weren’t supposed to be out at night looking for Will.
The next day Michael tries to get Eleven to sneak out and go to the front door to make it look like she stumbled upon the house, and that way his mom can help. Eleven doesn’t want help though. She tells Michael that “bad people” are after her, and that telling an adult will only make things worse.
Meanwhile, Joyce tells Chief Hopper about the creepy call, and while he’s not sure of her story, he admits it’s weird. From there Joyce heads to her workplace to buy a new phone and demand two weeks pay in advance from her boss. Her boss is reluctant at first, but since her kid’s missing and all, he shows a little sympathy and gives in.
Back at Michael’s house Eleven sees a picture of the boys and points to Will. She knows him; perhaps she saw him in the woods before he vanished. Just before Michael can ask more questions though his mom comes home. He hides Eleven in the closet, which freaks her out; we get a flashback to her being dragged into a dark cell in the Hawkins laboratory. Michael quickly comes to comfort her though, and it’s clear that Eleven trusts him. Lucas learns to trust her too, as she shows off the powers she has, closing the door to Michael’s bedroom with her mind while Lucas and Dustin look on in astonishment.
Eventually the episode builds to a climax where we learn a little more about Will and see another monster attack/abduction. The cops find a drainpipe in the woods that leads to the laboratory, and they think Will may have crawled through. It’s possible, as Eleven uses the boys’ D&D set to show them that Will is hiding from some sort of monster. Then, to confirm that something really strange is going on, we see Joyce get another crazy call and the walls of her house move and take on some weird shapes. All of this happens while Barb, Nancy’s friend who’s not too pleased to be the fifth wheel at Steven’s “house party,” is taken by the monster/alien thing after Nancy leaves her to get it on with Steven. Kids are missing, cooks are dead in restaurants, and nobody knows what’s going on. Stranger things, indeed.
NEXT: Chapters Three and Four