Standout performances bring Netflix original series ‘Stranger Things’ to life

(Illustration by Amarelis Morales)

As modern TV shows move away from traditional cable networks in favor of streaming websites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, the shows continue to increase in quality. Netflix’s original sci-fi thriller “Stranger Things” is no exception.

“Stranger Things” premiered on July 15 and gradually amassed quite the following without much in the way of traditional advertising. Instead, Netflix relied on word-of-mouth advertising through social media. And it worked.

The show revolves around the disappearance and search for Will Byers (Noah Schapp), a 12-year-old-boy from the fictional town of Hawkins, IN.

Will’s three best friends conduct their own search for Will. During their investigation, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin, respectively) meet a strange girl with a shaved head and psychic abilities named Eleven.

The boys believe that the appearance of the girl, who speaks in one-word answers, loves Eggo waffles, and has a tattoo of the number 11 on her arm, is connected to Will’s disappearance.

The boys’ characters discover more about each other and themselves as they face the mysteries separating them from their friend. The young actors’ performances, which could have easily been reduced to caricatures, add a surprising amount of depth and innocence to the show.

Especially notable is Millie Bobby Brown’s performance as Eleven. The 12-year-old actor delivers her performance with the skill and maturity of a seasoned veteran.

Winona Ryder’s all-out performance as Joyce Byers, Will’s mother, signals something of a comeback for her career, and Natalia Dyer, who plays Mike’s older sister, seems prime to become Hollywood’s next it-girl.

However, the performances would be nothing without a strong script. Matt and Ross Duffers’ writing shifts from colorfully quirky to incredibly dark often in the span of a single episode, reminiscent of other cult shows like “Twin Peaks.”

The visual effects in “Stranger Things” are also impressive.

The darker notes of the show often come from the plot’s otherworldly elements and leave a lasting visual impact.

In the end, “Stranger Things” will endure as a classic series not because of its journey into darker dimensions, but because of the complex, human characters that inhabit its world. Its well-written characters and performances give “Stranger Things” a refreshing missing element from other sci-fi mystery shows — hope.