Deconstructing Stranger Things

I used to think I hated horror. Then I saw Stranger Things and, no matter how many times I watch it, my heart pounds and I squeal with fear even though I know what’s going to happen. It’s a show that made it out of the underground scene and into the mainstream eye because of it’s innovation, nerdiness, and killer stories. The setting is fun, the world well-thought-out, and the villain other-worldly scary. Not to mention the great characters and numerous sub-plots weaving together to satisfy and upset you all at once. 

The Duffer Brothers have created a masterwork if I’ve ever seen one. And they did it again in season 2. I can’t wait to see what else they come up with. For now, here’s a look at Stranger Things 2 episode 5: Dig Dug because it has a separate sub-plot that fulfills all of the commandments and still moves the story along in a way I think is easy to analyze. Though I do suggest analyzing each season and episode for yourself. 

Oh, and here’s your warning: Spoilers Ahead. Proceed with caution. 

1. What is the Global Genre?

Stranger Things is a long form, arch-plot, science fiction, drama that turns on life and death. This episode is, obviously, a short-form portion of the overall story. The external content genre is horror because there is a single victim (despite the multiple characters) pitted against a supernatural, scientifically explained monster intent on annihilation. 

The value shifts from life to unconsciousness to death, and finally, to the negation of the negation where death would be a mercy. In this case, it happens to Hopper, but it’s overall focused on Will.  

2. What are the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes?

Obligatory Scenes:

The monster attacking Will in the previous episode started the inciting incident of this episode which threw Hopper onto the path of trying to uncover the vines and potentially save Will. In the following episode, the doctor praises the monster by talking about the hive mind. Hopper is the victim in this scene (and Will follows shortly after, though his alliance shifts). The victim is at the mercy of the monster when Hopper is overtaken by the monster and close to death in the underground. Death would be a mercy in this case. Finally, the false ending is when he is saved, but Will is “burned” by the soldiers attacking the monster. 

Conventions:

There is no way to reason with the monster. Will tried in a previous episode and got himself infested with it to become part of the hive mind. Stranger Things is set in an ordinary setting with science fiction elements. The tunnels act as a labyrinth. There’s perpetual discomfort because you never know where the monster is, who is on the character’s side, and what might attack. The monster’s power is progressively revealed. In the first season, the demogorgon was the villain and now it’s a bigger monster and the multiple demogorgons it controls. The viewers empathize with Will and Hopper while experiencing the power of the monster through them. 

3. What it the POV/Narrative Device?

The show follows the characters through multiple sub-plots. Will is the main victim in both seasons, though others are also in danger. The end of this episode sets up the story for the next one. It’s a cliffhanger per say, but not in the traditional sense because it’s ending at the inciting incident rather than at the crisis. 

4. What are the Objects of Desire?

 Will wants to be left alone. His friends and family want that for him. He needs to figure out how to use his gifts to save the town. 

5. What is the Controlling Idea/Theme?

Life is preserved when the protagonist outwits or overpowers the antagonist. In this case: life is preserved when people come together to overpower the antagonist. 

6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff? 

Hopper makes his way to Joyce after dealing with Eleven, he figures out that Will is drawing vines and goes to investigate. 

He gets stuck in the tunnel and time is running out to find him. 

Will uses his ability to spy on the monster to save Hopper only to find out his connection with the monster is deeper than anyone thought. 

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