Summer sensation Stranger Things is the sci-fi show you never knew you needed. Set in 1983 in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the Netflix original drama is truly for audiences of all ages. Those who lived through the eighties will enjoy certain throwbacks like Dungeons & Dragons and Eggo waffles while younger audience members will be compelled by the eclectic cast of characters.
Creators Matt and Ross Duffer manage to handle surreal subject matter with surprising vigor. Just as the characters become increasingly convinced of the existence of monsters and alternate dimensions, so do viewers. The show is brought to life by a phenomenal ensemble cast of actors, both children and adults:
Will Byers (Noah Schnapp)
The series begins with Will disappearing into thin air after getting sidetracked on a bike ride home. Though he only has a handful of appearances over the course of the season, he is central to the plot. The love his mother Joyce and his friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) have for and their ensuing quest to find him propels the storyline forward.
Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder)
No strange, sci-fi show set in the eighties is complete without Winona Ryder. Her iconic roles include Lydia Deetz in Tim Burton’s BeetleJuice, Veronica Sawyer in Heathers and Kim Boggs in Edward Scissor Hands. After a long hiatus from television, Ryder returns to a main role in Stranger Things as the unhinged, panicked Joyce Byers.
After her son, Will, goes missing, she refuses to give up the search, resorting to strange tactics like using Christmas lights to communicate with him. Joyce faces doubt from law enforcement and even her oldest son, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), a misunderstood loner, fears she’s losing her mind.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)
Eleven, a girl with telekinetic powers and a big heart, is with doubt the best young character on the show and 12-year-old Brown’s performance is of a caliber unparalleled by most kids her age. Also known as El, she escapes from the Hawkins Research Lab the same night Will disappears and soon befriends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, though not without complications. Having spent her entire life in the lab as a guinea pig for sadistic scientist Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), Eleven has a difficult time adjusting to life on the outside.
Mike becomes Eleven’s closest friend. Unbeknownst to his mother, he lets her sleep in his basement, so she can hide from Brenner and his lab minions, who ruthlessly pursue her throughout the series. Mike supports her even when Lucas and occasionally Dustin fear where her loyalty lies.
Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour)
Hopper is a surprisingly multi-dimensional character and Harbour delivers a compelling performance. He begins the series as a rather apathetic and numb character, bored of his role as police chief of a small town life but hesitant to start over somewhere new. By throwing himself into Will’s case, he finds a renewed purpose in life and becomes a key support for Joyce.
Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer)
Nancy, Mike’s older sister, starts the series as the typical girl next door who falls for the bad boy. In this case, that boy is Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), a self-centered, manipulative but rather attractive in an ’80s kind of way jerk. However, after the disappearance of her best friend Barb (Shannon Purser), Nancy becomes determined to get to the bottom of what the hell’s going on and, in doing so, shows an inner strength that neither she nor viewers were previously aware of.
Dustin Henderson and Lucas Sinclair
Dustin and Lucas round out gang with Will and Mike that later grows to include Eleven. Though largely polar opposites – with Lucas more serious and Dustin the laid-back joker – they are both equally driven to find Will. Lucas and Dustin are not as quick as Mike to welcome El into their gang, in awe of but also wary of her powers. Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, previously starred as Gavroche in the Broadway of revival Les Mis.
Barb is Nancy’s best friend – that is until Nancy drags her to a party at Steve’s house and leaves her behind. Things don’t end well for Barb. Even though her time on the show is brief, Barb has become a popular character. Her disappearance seems to be one of the biggest cliffhangers that hopefully season two answers.
As the series progresses, the character discover that a “faceless” monster seems to be somehow connected to Will’s and Barb’s disapperances.In order to understand this strange creature, the boys name it after a character from their beloved board game, Dungeons & Dragons. But unlike their plastic game piece, this monster is literally horrifying, like Predator meets Voldemort.