Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Straying from the Party Line: The Dangling Dramatic Question in Stranger Things

Is “Stranger Things” a series or a miniseries? In many ways, this feels more like the first hour of a miniseries than the first hour of a series.
  • The premise is not established by midway through the pilot.
  • The premise does not lend itself easily to mini-goals that can be solved within each episode.
  • The dramatic question for this episode is not answered at the end of the pilot (What happened to Will?)
Indeed, I feel strongly that it should be a miniseries, and shouldn’t have a second season, but that ship has already sailed, so we’ll see how well they pull it off.

Of course, many of these things could also be said about the show this one most closely resembles: “Twin Peaks”. I’ve always felt that show should have been a miniseries as well, and utterly failed to sustain itself as soon as Laura Palmer’s killer was found. I’d be interested to know if any of you disagree with that. I’ve never heard anyone make a strong case otherwise.

I would say that this is the price to be paid for not answering the dramatic question at the end of the pilot: you establish that dramatic question as the driver for the whole show, and the show has to end when it’s answered.

It seems to me that this was intended to be a miniseries until its huge success. The show just tied up too many loose ends at the end of the season. Mike and Eleven’s story felt like it had come to a natural and permanent conclusion. The boys were not ready to begin life as adventurers or demon fighters: One huge thing had happened to them and that was always going to be the big thing that happened to them. The teens’ story was even more finished and I have very little interest in seeing them again. Only Hopper seems like he has another season in him, and that’s a stretch.

What about you? Are you eager to see a second season? Can it possibly be as good as the first? Can it still involve the kids, the teens and the same adults, or should it jettison some of the old cast in favor of new faces?


James Kennedy said...

I have a big theory about the second season of Stranger Things. We'll discuss it on the podcast!

Jesse Baruffi said...

I 100% agree with you that Stranger Things should have ended with the first season, or at best been an anthology with new characters, setting, and story.

I can understand the desire to keep giving work to the charming, talented child actors on the show. But really, standard for the era sequel-bait ending aside, the plot was tied up, the character arcs were completed, and there's nothing new to be said. I enjoyed the series while watching it, but keeping it ongoing in this way has basically killed my interest in it.

Paul Worthington said...

For both Twin Peaks and to a lesser extent Stranger Things, I believe they could have /might yet worked as ongoing series, but there were serious structural weaknesses. TP in particular should have set up the ongoing story more before it resolved the Laura murder mystery. (The show's creators were forced to reveal that earlier than they wanted.)

Interestingly, we should see new Twin Peaks before we see s2 of Stranger Things.

Unknown said...

So, now I'm curious to know what everyone thought of ST2. I have to admit I hugely enjoyed it.