Title: Stranger Things Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Text Type: Television programme
Created by: The Duffer Brothers
Released: On Netflix, July 15 2016
For not being much of a science fiction fan, Stranger Things, the brainchild of the Duffer brothers Matt and Ross, has blown me away and it’s safe to say that it is probably the best television programme that I have ever watched. The first chapter of the show; “The Vanishing of Will Byers,” plays a fundamental and pivotal role in the series as it gives the audience a moderate insight on how the plot will develop at the same time as it leaves viewers curious and desperate for more information, more or less forcing them to watch the next episode.
The pilot opens with an establishing shot of Hawkins National Laboratory U.S. Department of Energy at night time and it is revealed to the audience that the episode takes place on November the 6th, 1993, in Hawkins, Indiana. Inside the lab, the viewer witnesses a scientist frantically running from an inhuman creature currently unknown by the audience who abducts the scientist, making him vanish like smoke into the air. We are then shifted to the other side of Hawkins where a group of four schoolboys playing a board game inside the a classic American ‘80s home. When the boys separate, returning to their homes to sleep before the school day the next day, Will sees something terrifying as he bikes home in the darkness of the night – he is chased home by a supernatural creature and when he returns home to an empty house, terrified, he vanishes, evaporates, right in front of the viewer’s eyes, without a trace of how or why. This event will become the pivot of the television programme as surrounding characters unravel the mystery of Will Byer’s disappearance. It becomes apparent that something very strange is happening in Hawkins, and that something supernatural is lurking around in the laboratory and the small town.
It is important to note that the second scene of the boys playing the boardgame opens with one of the boys, Mike, stating “Something is coming, something hungry for blood. A shadow grows on the wall behind you, swallowing you in darkness. It is almost here.” The instant reaction of the audience is that this sentence relates to the creature that captured the scientist in the lab – however it is soon revealed that it is only related to the board game that the boys are playing – Dungeons and Dragons. What is currently unknown at this stage, is that this quote by one of the school boys, Mike, echoes the development of the episode, and acts as a clue of what is to come. Even though Mike has no clue of it, what he said is bound to be true – there is in fact something coming, something hungry for blood and it’s almost here, a clever technique used by the creators of the show to captivate the interest of the audience, giving traces of what is to come.
As the town of Hawkins, a town where is is said that “nothing ever happens” wakes up to a missing Will Byers, dramatic irony keeps the audience (and myself) interested as the town tries to piece together Will’s whereabouts – an investigation that the audience lies one step ahead in because of their awareness that the vanishing of Will was due to paranormal causes – a fact that surrounding characters will have to find out on their own.
When Joyce Byers, Will’s mother played by Winona Ryder, discovers that her son was not in his bed in the morning, she assumes that he never came home the previous night while she was working late. In a meeting with the Hawkins Police Department, Chief Hopper tells Joyce “99 out of a hundred times a kid goes missing, the kid is with a parent or a relative” implying that Will is not far away and that she needs to stop worrying. Frustrated, Joyce argues back questioning: “What about the other time? You said 99 out of 100. What about the other time, the one? The one!” Joyce leaves the office in worry, demanding for Hopper to find her son. This scene acts as a perfect example of dramatic irony that is displayed throughout the first episode, as while the nature of Will’s disappearance of the characters in Stranger Things still remains a clueless mystery, the viewers know that his vanishing involves stranger things, than Hopper suggests.
As the episode progresses, the audience gets further insight into the events taking place within Hawkins Lab. The viewers learn that a girl, who not much is known about so far has escaped from the lab, and this girl is being hunted by the scientists who work within the lab. The girl encounters the audience throughout the episode and we learn that she has supernatural powers through the ability to move things with the force of her mind. As the matter of Will’s disappearance becomes more serious and the pilot reaches its end, the girl struggles to hide from the people in the laboratory who are chasing her. The pilot is concluded by Joyce receiving an unclear phone call from Will, where a monstrous sound of some sort of demon can be heard in the background, who ends up ending the call, and by Will’s three friends, Mike, Lucas and Dusten who have started their own investigation to find Will find the girl hiding in the forest in the middle of the night. These two events, bring an end to the pilot and makes the audience question; who is the girl from the laboratory? Do her superpowers have a relationship with the paranormality of Will’s abduction? And if they do – can she help Mike, Dustan and Lucas find Will? And last but not least – who on earth was the monster on the other end of Joyce’s phone call?
Aside from how impressed I am with the Duffer Brothers’ ability to captivate the attention of millions of people including me with their extremely well thought-through and detailed pilot using techniques in such high quantities that I can not include them all in this response, another aspect of the pilot of Stranger Things, “The Vanishing of Will Byers” is the extremely well-thought-through, detailed and imaginative setting of the show – teleporting you to the early ‘80s. The creators of the show have thrown in hundreds of minor details throughout the episode, such as clothing and architecture, colours, cars, music accurate to the era, all adult characters having a cigarette between their lips at all times, along with other staples from the ‘80s such as comics and walkie-talkies, used to emphasise the setting, making me truly feel that I have been sucked into another decade.
Overall, my first impression of the television programme Stranger Things created by the Duffer brothers was the pilot of the show “The Vanishing of Will Byers” – an episode that fully gripped my attention and interest due to the detailed setting and the perfect amount of insight into the developing plot, leaving me also investigating what happened to Will through the clues that the creators of the show provide, and without any doubt forcing me to watch the next episode, resulting in me binge watching the entire show in one night.