Chapter One: “The Vanishing of Will Byers”
It is November 6th, 1983 in Hawkins, Indiana– a small, sleepy suburb of Indianapolis. It’s clearly a town that doesn’t see much action… but that’s not the case anymore. At the US Department of Energy’s National Laboratory (that just so happens to be located in Hawkins), something has escaped. Something big and scary and likes to eat people in elevators. Uh oh.
But first, let’s meet our cast of characters: Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard, which may be the coolest and/or most pornstar-esque name for a child that I’ve ever heard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo, who broke my heart as Gavroche in the Broadway “Les Miserables” revival a year and change ago), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin, who I don’t know yet but is from NYC so represent), and Will Byers (Noah Schnapp, who is the voice of Charlie Brown, GOOD GRIEF!) are a group of middle-school-age boys that are so delightfully nerdy that they’re content to spend ten plus hours in Mike’s basement playing “Dungeons & Dragons”. Mike also has a teenaged older sister, Nancy (Natalia Dyer), who seems to be neck-deep in teenager attitude and obnoxiousness.
After a night of D&D awesomeness, Will takes a shortcut through the National Laboratory property on his bike ride home, which turns out to be a huge mistake. He nearly runs into a tall, monster-y looking thing, and it chases him back to his empty house.
Unable to call 911 for help because the phone goes all static-y and screechy, Will hides in the shed in his backyard. He loads up a shotgun in the shed and waits, but the monster-y thing total has the sneak-up-behind-you skills going for it: he attacks and they both DISAPPEAR INTO THIN AIR.
The next morning, Jim Hopper (David Harbour, who has the epitome of “dad bod” and that’s not a bad thing), the chief of police in Hawkins, is having a rough time. He’s hungover, his apartment is a mess, and has a big ol’ sip of beer in the morning, which is TV language for “alcohol problems”. Nevertheless, he gets to work, where no one seems too surprised about the state he’s in. But Joyce Byers (WINONA RYDER, EVERYBODY) is already in his office, and she’s a wreck: her son, Will, is missing. Both she and her elder son, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) got home late the night before after working, and didn’t realize he wasn’t home until that morning. Hopper suggests that maybe it’s Joyce’s ex-husband, Lonnie, since he’s totally a douchebag– Joyce doesn’t think so, but she agrees to contact him.
Meanwhile, the Laboratory has been quarantined. We meet Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), and he’s investigating the monstery-thing. Putting on protective gear, he goes to an underground level in the laboratory with all this dust in the air and these squishy, mucus-y things on the wall that look super gross. Actually, in one room, there’s a TON of the squishy mucusy stuff that seems to lead to somewhere through the wall, but there’s something more important— someone ELSE has escaped, and they need to find her immediately.
Elsewhere in town, Hopper starts to investigate Will’s disappearance. He brings Mike, Dustin, and Lucas in for questioning (taking them away from their AV Club fun-times with the school’s science teacher to do so– booooo!), but also warns them not to go looking for their friend.
Also elsewhere in town, a young girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with a shaved head and in nothing but hospital gown, makes her way out of the woods to a small restaurant. She sneaks into the kitchen to try and steal some food, but the owner, Benny, catches her. He’s pissed at first, but he’s a nice dude, so he ends up feeding her. The girl is RAVENOUS, and while she eats, Benny tries to get some information out of her. She doesn’t talk much, but using food to bribe her, he does learn one thing: her name is apparently Eleven. The number is even branded onto her wrist. Benny is concerned that she’s been abused, so he calls social services to come get her.
Oh, and no big deal or anything, but while Benny’s on the phone, the girl becomes annoyed at a noisy fan in restaurant, so she shuts it off. WITH HER MIND. Call Professor X, guys, we’ve got a telekinetic!
Meanwhile, Joyce and Jonathan are searching the woods around their house for Will. Joyce checks the makeshift fort that Will built there, dubbed “Castle Byer”, but he’s nowhere to be found. She’s also unable to get in touch with Will’s father, and it’s clear that she’s on the edge of a breakdown.
The police are also searching the woods, but near the laboratory. When they find Will’s abandoned bike, Hopper starts to finally realize that something might really be wrong. He brings Will’s bike to Joyce and searches the house, including the shed in the backyard, which seems to be having some power issues, and there looks like there might’ve been a scuffle. He finally calls for a search party, and they head out into the night to look for Will. Jonathan and Joyce stay at home, feeling guilty and terrified. When the phone rings, Joyce picks up in a hurry. She hears Will’s breathing and freaks out, but after hearing lots of static and even some growling, the phone shorts out completely. JOYCE IS NOT OKAY, YOU GUYS.
Oh, PS: it’s revealed that Hopper’s daughter died a few years ago. Standard Cop Backstory, ACTIVATE!
Back at the Wheeler’s, both Nancy and Mike are completely ignoring their parents’ authority: Nancy’s new boyfriend, Steve (Joe Keery), sneaks into her room to do some “studying” (though, surprisingly, she DOES mostly study. Good girl, Nancy. School first, business time later), and Mike meets up with both Dustin and Lucas to search for Will.
At Benny’s restaurant, a social services lady arrives to see the girl. But whoops, she’s actually NOT social services: turns out that the Laboratory has been screening the town’s calls, and Benny’s call about the girl was intercepted. The woman shoots Benny and kills him. The girl watches it happen and tries to escape out the back, but is blocked by two laboratory guys with guns. She takes them out with her awesome mind powers, and runs off into the woods, where she finds Mike, Dustin, and Lucas.
But is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship? We’ll have to wait and see…
Random Notes from Shannon’s Brain
- So the font in the opening credits TOTALLY reminds me of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” Book Series font, and the episodes are called “chapters”. That gives me great joy.
- SO MUCH NOSTALGIA. Banana seats on the bicycles, Trapper Keepers, Karate Kid shirts (a movie which I still haven’t seen but we won’t talk about that), using walkie talkies to talk to your friends instead of cellphones, Schlitz beer! I am in 80’s heaven.
- When the boys get bulled at school, I just wanted to hug them and be like, “Don’t worry guys. Nerds win in the end. It’ll be okay.”
- Seriously, I LIKE Nancy. She’s still in annoying teenager mode, clearly, but girl has her priorities straight and that’s rare in a teenage girl.
- Can we also appreciate Dustin’s logic and reasoning skills? Maybe everyone should listen to Dustin more.
- CAN PEOPLE JUST START PAYING ATTENTION TO DOGS IN SCI-FI MOVIES/SHOWS? THEY ALWAYS KNOW WHAT’S UP.
- I mean, if Winona just summoned Beetlejuice, he’d have this whole thing worked out in a MINUTE. Beetlejuice gets shit done.
- Secret Confession: I have ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A DUNGEON MASTER, but I have never played D&D in my life. I think I’d be pretty good, no?
- Wheeler sort of seems like a human fart, does he not? Also, what’s up with Mike and Nancy’s younger sister? She’s a weird kid.
- So is the monster thing an ALIEN? A DEMON? I’m confused.
- We used to live in an apartment with a really low shower head in our bathroom shower. Chris felt very sympathetic towards Hopper and his annoyingly low shower head.
Are you guys loving “Stranger Things” as much I am? Let me know in the comments!