Series / Stranger Things

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Some doors can't be closed.
"Science is neat... But I'm afraid it's not very forgiving."
Mr. Clarke

Stranger Things is a Netflix Original Series created by the Duffer Brothers which debuted on July 15, 2016. Taking place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in The '80s, the series tells the story of the disappearance of a young boy named Will, and the supernatural events surrounding it. It is inspired by Amblin Entertainment movies such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist, and The Goonies, the works of Stephen King, and 1980's Horror, Science Fiction and Coming of Age stories. It stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Matthew Modine, and is the breakout role for Millie Brown. While Netflix remains adamant about not making the viewing numbers for its shows public, it has been released that this is one of the most successful in their history.

A second season has been announced, and will consist of nine episodes. The series' Super Bowl 2017 ad revealed the release date of the season to be around Halloween 2017, and it was further narrowed down to October 27, 2017. A third was approved before its release, with the show planned to end after a fourth or fifth season (most likely the former).

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.

Stranger Tropes:

  • Abuse Mistake: When Steve sees Nancy's bandaged hand after she and Jonathan cut themselves to lure the monster, he initially thinks Jonathan has been beating her.
  • Abusive Parents: "Papa" put Eleven through questionable parenting techniques...
  • Adult Fear: The show is full of this, and not just for the adult characters. Specifically:
    • Losing a child, either to disease or disappearance.
    • Trying your hardest to find/recover your missing child only for everyone, including your family, to dismiss you as crazy.
    • Having your marriage fall apart.
    • Having to raise your children without the support (financial or otherwise) from their other parent, and ultimately having to rely on one of your children to make ends meet.
    • A Government Conspiracy unaccountable to anyone, which abducts your child for unethical experiments.
    • Knowing that something out of the ordinary is happening and everyone you try to talk to automatically doesn't believe you either because you're a distraught parent or "just a kid". Very insulting either way, especially when you're right.
    • Most works involving missing children typically emphasize the effects of the disappearance's effects on their family, the parents particularly. Stranger Things demonstrates that a missing child's friends are affected, too, and that the disappearance or death of a friend could be an Adult Fear for children, too.
    • Again, for the children, especially Mike, particularly in Chapter 1: having an adult-sized problem (Will's disappearance), with your family not seeming to give a crap about it. Nancy experiences this as well after Barb's disappearance, being the only one (including the police, her mother, and Barb's own mother) who seems to care about her.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played straight initially.
    • Mike's parents seeing as their son was hiding his esper girlfriend in their basement for weeks without ever even noticing.
    • It comes to a natural conclusion in the Season Finale to Season 1: it's not the trained government soldiers that can damage the Demogorgon, but three teenagers with improvised weapons. The Demogorgon easily defeats said soldiers, but is brought down by Eleven with help from Mike, Lucas, and Dustin instead. The trope does zigzag a bit due to the two aforementioned competent adults in the cast, Joyce and Hopper, who are the ones to enter the Upside Down and save Will.
  • Almost Kiss: Between Mike and Eleven in the seventh episode, before Dustin interrupts them.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Flashlights used in various nighttime searches produce very modern blue-white beams of light. Ironically, they'd have been a lot less noticeable if they hadn't been in use next to period-correct devices which produce beams of light in a visibly much redder spectrum. Probably necessary to allow for minimal additional lighting.
      • The boys' bike headlights used orange gels to correct this. They were left in place for daylight scenes and can be plainly seen behind the lenses throughout.
      • Many cars seen in the background of scenes came out well after 1983; a 1988 Volvo 240 can be seen in a parking lot in Episode 4, and behind it a 1997-2002 Subaru Forester is parked. The government cars are 1983-1986 LTD Crown Victorias, and the Hawkins Power vans have 1986 and 1992 Chevy Van models alongside the period-appropriate 1983 vans.
    • Jonathan, in a flashback scene, has put The Smiths on a mixtape for Will. An American living in the sticks in 1983 would likely not have heard of them until they released their first album the following year, but more to the point, during the time of the flashback, they wouldn't even have released their first single. This is also true of his liking Joy Division. Their albums had been issued stateside, but they never made an impact outside of the UK, making this more plausible.
    • The version of "Nocturnal Me" by Echo & the Bunnymen used at the end of the fifth episode wouldn't be recorded until early 1984.
    • Moby's "When It's Cold I'd Like to Die" is used as background music for one scene in episode 8, although the album it's on wouldn't be released until early 1995.
    • The Military Police officers stationed at Hawkins National Laboratory carry the Beretta 92FS as their sidearm. The Beretta first entered into service in 1985 (though the 92 series was first developed in 1975), whereas the show is set in 1983. However, the government agents carry the Colt M1911, which was standard issue for the military at the time.
    • When the kids learn that Eleven can tune a walkie-talkie to a frequency that lets them hear Will, Lucas says that the walkie is just picking up a baby monitor's noise. Baby monitors weren't commonly used at that time; the first Fisher-Price baby monitor came out in 1985.
    • The periodic table shown in the science classroom contains elements that would not be synthesized, let alone named, until ten or more years after the show's setting. Example 
    • The government agents' weapon of choice appears to be the Heckler & Koch MP5k, which is period accurate, that gun came out in 1976. What isn't are the MP5k-PDWs (the ones with folding stocks) that didn't come out until 1991. Some MP 5 Ks even have stocks from the Heckler & Koch UMP 45; the UMP 45 didn't come out until 1999.
    • Mr. Clarke's enthusiasm for The Thing (1982) is an interesting case; while he loves it in much the same way that modern fans do, even gushing over the special effects, it got a very frosty reception from science-fiction audiences at the time of its release, with many seeing it as a cheap gross-out substitute for the original. It wouldn't be universally recognized as a horror classic for at least another decade, making him very ahead of the curve.
  • Ankle Drag: Happens to poor Barb as she tries to crawl out of the pool to escape the monster.
  • Answer Cut: When Nancy asks where they are going to get 1,500 pounds of salt, the scene cuts to them driving up to Hawkins Middle School where the de-icing salt is stored.
  • Anticlimax: Joyce and Hopper gear up and descend into the Upside-Down, prepared to face off against the monster to save Will and protect the younger members of the cast from danger. Unfortunately, while they do so, the monster is in their world attacking said youths.
  • Arc Words:
    • More like arc song really, but "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by The Clash shows up often through the series. Most notably Will sings it to himself while trapped in the Upside-Down, and it gets broadcast over the record player when Will makes contact with Joyce the second time.
    • "Friends don't lie." Mike tells Eleven this when he is explaining friendship to her, and she repeats this throughout the series when she catches Mike trying to hide awkward truths from her.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Joyce discovers Lonnie's plan to cash in on Will's death with a wrongful death lawsuit, his justifications seem entirely plausible and consistent with being a caring father: paying for Jonathan's college, for instance. However, Joyce lays bare the speciousness of his explanations by asking the name of Jonathan's dream school — which Lonnie cannot answer.
  • Artistic License: Isolation tanks used for sensory deprivation involve more of the "deprivation" part, though for the purpose used on Eleven, she does require stimulus to gain reassurance and be pulled back to reality.
  • Batman in My Basement: Played straight as an arrow. Mike hides Eleven in his basement both because They Would Cut You Up and because he thinks she can help them find Will.
  • Batter Up: Jonathan hammers nails into a baseball bat to combat the Demogorgon, though Steve is the one who makes use of it.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Hopper attempts this to distract the state trooper guarding Will's "body" in the morgue. When the cop proves too savvy and it doesn't work, he ends up just knocking him out.
    State Trooper: Sir, you can't be back here!
    Chief Jim Hopper: Hey, I just got off the phone with O'Bannon. He needs you back at the station, something about an emergency.
    State Trooper: What the hell are you talking about? I don't work with an "O'Bannon".
    Chief Jim Hopper: Oh did I say O'Bannon? I meant... uh...
    State Trooper: (vacant, hostile staring)
    Chief Jim Hopper: *sighs* (punch)
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Eleven when bullies force Mike to jump off a cliff.
    • And Steve when Jonathan and Nancy are fighting the Demogorgon.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Happens between Mike and Eleven in the final episode of first season.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Both Nancy and Jonathan tell Steve to shut up when the latter freaks out after seen the Demogorgon for the first time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 1. The Demogorgon is dead; it seemed to take Eleven with it, but she's implied to be alive since Hopper was bringing Eggos to a dead drop in the woods. Nancy chose Steve over Jonathan, but they're all friends. Will is safe, but the monster did something to him so that he's vomiting slugs and having visions of the Upside-Down. Hopper exposed the Hawkins "Department of Energy" research to the public, but appears to have made a deal with some Men in Black. Also, Mike succeeded in saving Will, but Nancy was too late for Barbara.
  • Blown Across the Room: Eleven is capable of doing this to anyone with her psychic powers. Lucas, Mike and the Demogorgon all get their share of it.
  • Bluff the Impostor: That's how Hopper proves his suspicion that the man who found Will was just a puppet.
    Hopper: So that quarry, that's, uh that's state-run, where they found the boy, huh?
    Man: Yeah.
    Hopper: Yeah, well, that's funny. 'Cause, you know, I know for a fact that it's run by the Sattler Company.
  • Book Ends: Begins and ends with the boys playing D&D.
    • Alternatively/more specifically, begins with Will telling Mike the Demogorgon got him in the game when everyone thought he was safe, and ends with the revelation that the Demogorgon actually did get Will when everyone thought he was safe.
  • Boom, Headshot:
    • In the first episode, this is the fate of Benny, the diner owner.
    • Played with in the final episode of Season 1, when the monster opens its maw, and it looks like the wrist rocket (not a slingshot) throws it across the room. It was actually Eleven who did it.
  • Brick Joke: When Mike shows Eleven the La-Z-Boy, he says, "This is where my father sleeps." In the final episode of Season 1, we see his father passed out on the chair.
  • The Bully: Troy and James, who regularly terrorize the gang.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The orderlies at the facility where Eleven was experimented on. They may not have known the details, but they should've known and seen enough to know that manhandling Eleven might be a bad idea.
  • Call-Back: Joyce flees her home and gets into her car when the Demogorgon almost breaches the walls. But she looks back at the house and realizes that she can't leave Will. In the final episode, Steve also runs to his car and almost leaves Jonathan and Nancy to fend for themselves, but looks back to the house at the last moment and realizes he can't leave Nancy, either.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believes Joyce when she claims Will is alive. Justified, because she's talking to him through flickering lightbulbs.
  • Chase Scene: A particularly memorable one in "The Bathtub" in which Dr. Brenner and his agents chase after the kids.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Hopper mentions to one of his officers early on that falling into the quarry from the top would break every bone in your body, as you would hit the water at such a speed it would be like cement. This is one of the things that leads him to believe something isn't right when he sees Will's intact and unscathed "corpse" in the morgue.
    • The Wrist-Rocket – not slingshot – is introduced early and gets some use in the final episode of Season 1.
    • Steve sings into a baseball bat while trying to woo back Nancy. He later uses the bat to rescue her.
    • Mr. Clarke's ham radio is introduced early on and is used by Eleven in a later episode.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Chief Hopper's police uniform is tan, whereas the other officers in Hawkins Police Dept wear blue shirts and black pants.
  • Conditional Powers: A couple of examples:
    • Eleven is extremely powerful, but she seems to be limited by her bodily limits. This is usually manifested by bruising and ruptures in her mucosal capillaries, causing either nose or ear canal bleeding. She faints whenever she overexerts herself.
    • The Demogorgon is extremely attracted to the scent of blood and only attacks actively bleeding victims outside its dimension; in some cases he will transcend the barrier if he gets even the tiniest whiff of blood. One of the reasons it doesn't immediately kill Will is because he's not bleeding.
  • Cool Car: Apart from the usual 1970s/early 1980s Oldsmobiles, Ford Pintos and Chevy Blazers that the people of Hawkins drive, Steve Harrington drives (what is implied to be his father's) 1982 BMW 733i E23, which would have cost around $33,000 new in 1983 (around $80,000 adjusted for inflation today). A 1982 BMW E30 320i (a car which cost $13,000 new in 1983) can be seen pulling into Hawkins Middle School and is seen parked in front of the library in a later episode
    • Lonnie's 1971 Oldsmobile 442, as well.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Officially, the Hawkins National Laboratory is a research centre run by the Department of Energy, which leads most people to assume it is fairly uninteresting (Dustin initially thinks they "design lightbulbs or something"). However, it becomes clear the research they do, such as using Eleven's telekinesis and mind reading to access alternate dimensions and monitor Soviet officials, involves multiple higher-ranking government agencies than the DOE. It has military police (US Army) providing security, and the badge that Connie Frazier shows to the Wheeler's suggests she works for the NSA, which could also explain the phone bugging (not exactly within the Dept of Energy's remit). The entire venture also likely has CIA backing.
    • The government field agents use vans marked "Hawkins Water & Power" to drive around town and carry out surveillance without getting too much attention.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Hopper instructs Joyce on how to perform CPR on Will when they find him in the Upside-Down. It doesn't work and Hopper, in an act of desperation, simply pounds on his chest while shouting "Come on, breathe, dammit!", which, of course, works.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Eleven in "the bathtub".
  • Darkness Equals Death: The monster's arrival is usually signaled by all nearby lights flickering rapidly and then turning off.
  • Dark World: The Upside-Down where Will is trapped, which is filled with toxic fog and covered in Meat Moss.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Some due to taking place in 1983.
    • Bullying and casual homophobia, two things which are greatly looked down upon today, are generally treated as a non-issue here.
    • Joyce smokes around her kids, and Hopper smokes on the job when dealing with the public. Smoking in most public places wouldn't be outlawed until the late 90s.
    • Two teenagers buying gasoline, bear traps, nails, sledge hammers and revolver ammunition doesn't get much more than a weird look from the hardware store clerk. Post-Columbine, he'd most likely jump to the conclusion that they were planning to terrorize their school.
  • Disappeared Dad: One of many thematic references to Spielberg.
    • Will and Jonathan's father Lonnie. He's been living in Indianapolis for some time and makes little effort to stay in touch. During one flashback, Joyce is heard yelling at him for breaking a promise to take Will to a baseball game over the phone and we soon learn that he only wanted to because he wanted Will to be a "normal" kid. He shows up only after Will's apparent death, and then Joyce finds out he's trying to cash in with a lawsuit.
    • Mike's father is in the picture, but is generally depicted as a useless dolt whose wife picks up all of the slack for him.
    • There's also no mention of whether or not anyone even known who Eleven's father may be, and Dr. Brenner is far from a proper surrogate.
  • Downer Beginning: Episode 3 starts with Barbara being killed.
  • Downer Ending: Again, Episode 3. The police pull what is thought to be Will's body out of the lake, and an enraged Mike yells at Eleven, asking why she lied to them and said that Will was alive, and then leaves when Eleven can't give any answers.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • Hopper isn't amused when Powell cracks a joke about Joyce's Sanity Slippage.
    • Mike tells off his bullies for laughing at Will's memorial assembly, which Eleven manages to stop from escalating into a fist fight.
  • Dug Too Deep: When Brenner forced Eleven to make contact with the Demogorgon, opening the gate in the process.
  • The '80s: The first season takes place during November 1983.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: In Episode 1 the Demogorgon rises behind Will in the barn. Then Will turns around and freezes like a Deer in the Headlights.
  • Enter Stage Window: Steve enters and leaves Nancy's room via the window.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Episode 8 does this. Nearly the entire scene in the school when the kids are being chased by the monster and the Hawkins men is while the lights are constantly and rapidly flickering.
  • Everyone Can See It: Anyone who spends any amount of time with Mike and Eleven will clearly see that each is head-over-heels for the other.
  • Everytown, America: Hawkins, Indiana, an anonymous, small Midwestern town.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Troy's mother just so happens to bring him into the police station in time for Hopper to overhear him deliver a vital piece of plot when he needs it most — this is somewhat justified as the events in question are all happening at the same time. Hopper would have heard about it later anyway.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Seems to be a part of the Demogorgon's M.O.
  • Faking the Dead: The government plants a dummy of Will to make everyone believe he drowned. They're careful not to let anyone get any close looks at it.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: Invoked. The body of "Will" found at the quarry is almost life-like and close to the real deal, enough to pass off as a real body at first glance; remarkable work from the scrubs at the Hawkins facility, considering they had less than a day to prepare it. It even had Will's exact clothes to boot. It's identified as fake by Joyce and later confirmed to be an extremely detailed doll by Hopper.
  • First Love: Mike and El, obviously. It's almost a foregone conclusion.
  • Flashback Echo: Eleven and Hooper's dark backstories are gradually revealed through flashbacks triggered by events similar to their traumatic experiences.
  • Flatline: A dramatic moment when Hopper's Littlest Cancer Patient daughter dies in her hospital bed on a flatline sound.
  • Flies Equals Evil: In Episode 2, when Hopper arrives at Benny's diner, the sound of flies can be heard which immediately cues the audience into what's gonna come.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The tabletop game the boys are playing at the start of Season 1 foreshadows what's gonna happen later.
      Mike: Something is coming, something hungry for blood - the Demogorgon.
      • When they boys part, Will admits that the Demogorgon "got him". The real monster gets him on his ride home.
    • In an early episode, Hopper tells an officer that a fall from the local cliff would be fatal, despite there being a lake on the bottom, due to sheer height. Mike later goes over the edge.
    • In the first episode, the boys get excited about how far the signal on Mr. Clarke's ham radio can reach. The radio is later used by Eleven to reach a place farther away than they ever thought.
    • After a big fight in the group, Dustin recalls a D&D session where the party split up and they were picked off by trolls one by one. Sure enough, both Lucas and Dustin and Mike end up in trouble in two separate situations.
  • Freak Lab Accident: It's implied that Eleven's psychic powers were caused by drug experiments done on her mother during her pregnancy.
  • Freak-Out:
    • The boys do this when Eleven, who really has No Social Skills, tries to change her clothes right in front of them.
    • Nancy gets a mild one in the shower after her encounter with the monster in the upside down.
    • Eleven has a proper one when she sees Barb's body.
    • Steve, when he shows up at the Byers home at the moment Nancy and Jonathan are setting up a trap for the Demogorgon. He then crumbles down and escapes when they tell him that it will appear again. He puts himself together and returns to save both Nancy and Jonathan.
  • Free-Range Children: A good portion of the early episodes has the various middle school and high school characters slipping away from their homes, skipping school and staying out later than they'd promised, though this does typically land them in hot water when they get home. Justified in that it was several years after this before media-fueled fear of kidnapping and strangers caused parents to more closely monitor where kids went in their free time.
  • Funny Background Event: Several, mostly courtesy of Lucas and Dustin. Examples include Dustin disgustedly wiping his hand on his shirt after Lucas demonstrates a spit swear to Eleven and both of their expressions when Mike blurts out that Eleven looks pretty.
    • When Mike instructs his friends to "look sad" if anyone at school sees them, Lucas and Dustin make exaggerated crying expressions to show Eleven what he means. She immediately mimics them.
  • Gaslighting: What the government can't conveniently murder or sequester, they'll subject to this.
  • Genre Roulette: Switches between horror, sci-fi, and conspiracy thriller. Usually, the genre depends on the characters being followed. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas's plotlines are more sci-fi/horror, Jonathan and Nancy are more horror, and Hopper and Joyce are investigating a conspiracy.
  • Genre Throwback: To Steven Spielberg's early 1980s output, particularly E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and to Stephen King's novels of the same era.
  • The Glomp: After Will is saved from the Upside-Down, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin give their friend a huge hug for surviving.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: It was already bad when the facility was torturing children to spy on Russia, but bringing a monster of unspeakable horror into the world is on a whole worse level.
  • Government Conspiracy: All the shenanigans on the show are the result of dangerous experiments conducted in a government facility near Hawkins. When the consequences of those experiments start spilling over into the town, the government does everything in its power to cover things up.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Nancy and Jonathan bring a bat and a revolver respectively to kill the monster. Initially, they try practicing with the weapons they picked, but trade when Nancy proves to be the better shot.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Nancy's mother uses her hairpin to open Nancy's room after her knocking remains unanswered.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Played with. As Hopper is being interrogated by the agents, they demand to know who he is working with. Hopper answers that he is working alone, but he is also savvy enough to attempt a bluff by telling them that he has shared all the information he has with a journalist.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At the end of Season 1, Eleven manages to kill the Demogorgon, but seemingly disintegrates in the process.
  • Heroic Second Wind: During the first season's climax, Eleven is completely exhausted after fighting off the military goons and has to be carried away by Dustin. But when the Demogorgon shows up and threatens her friends, she gets up again to kick more ass.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Hopper is a more insightful, conniving, and caring person than he lets on.
    • Steve is more caring and brave than he shows at first, finally revealing the person Nancy sees in him.
    • Most of Lucas' behavior is focused on his concerns about the safety of his closest friends.
    • Played with in the case of Terry Ives. Though catatonic, Ives' concern hinges on the notion that her daughter is still alive, which she considers a fact. The experimentation done on her raises the question of how much she is aware of what transpired and to what degree the experimentation affected her too.
  • History Repeats: Jonathan accuses Nancy of repeating her parents' story, which is something he says that most teens do.
  • Homage: Many that are not explicit shout-outs:
    • An inversion of the E.T. flying-bike shot, where rather than make the bikes fly, Eleven just launches a van over them instead.
    • The X-Files fans were delighted to find similarities between scenes: when Hopper and Joyce save Will from The Upside-Down, it bears a striking resemblance to a similar scene in the 1998 movie Fight the Future. Near the end of the final episode of Season 1, Will coughs up a miniature of whatever had been pulled from his throat in the Upside-Down, a scene that is almost frame-by-frame a copy of a scene from Season 2's "The Host." The Duffer Brothers have said in interviews that they were fans of the series during its original run, though it was not credited as having a direct impact on Stranger Things.
    • The alien slug coughed up by Will could be an homage to Night of the Creeps.
    • Eleven's origin story is very similar to Firestarter. One character even explicitly likens the experiments Eleven's mom took part in to something out of a Stephen King novel.
      • Also, young girl (possibly) born by a woman involved with a top-secret research lab, raised from birth to be a weapon, and subjected to brutal torture and abuse by her keepers who are willing and able to kill anyone in their way to get her back. Eleven? Or X-23?
    • The show's title typography is very reminiscent of the way Stephen King's name used to be presented on his book covers.
    • The monster's mouth is reminiscent of both the eggs from Alien and the mouths of the sandworms from Dune.
    • A group of geeky, ostracized middle school kids, joined by some teenagers (including one kid's protective big brother), discovers a secret beneath the surface of their seemingly quiet hometown, while (most) adults remain blissfully ignorant of what's going on... The premise of the series was clearly inspired by The Goonies, and the main protagonist kid in both works is even named Michael. One could also interpret that description to apply to It.
    • A bullied boy befriended by a girl with paranormal abilities in 1983 seems reminiscent of Let the Right One In by way of its Americanized version, Let Me In. Troy's Sadistic Choice to Mike and Dustin is reminiscent of the bullies' Sadistic Choice to Oskar/Owen in the pool; Eleven's Big Damn Heroes moment is a Lighter and Softer version of Eli/Abby's rescue of Oskar/Owen. Notably, Eleven's cover story is that of a cousin from Sweden, the original setting of Let the Right One In. Also, the same actress plays the mother of Owen and Mike.
    • The overarching plot of a missing child being trapped in another dimension, who is nevertheless able to contact his family goes all the way back to "Little Girl Lost", an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959). Also to Poltergeist, a movie mentioned in Episode 1 that also includes the dimensionally lost child communicating through electronics.
    • Hopper's Properly Paranoid scene is lifted straight out of Coppola's The Conversation.
    • When Will says he's sure his Christmas present is an Atari, Joyce responds with "An A-what-i?"
    • There are quite a few references to Stephen King throughout the series, including one notable scene of the kids traveling along train tracks. A government experiment that opens a rift to another dimension that lets human-hungry monsters into our world also brings to mind the Stephen King story (and film) The Mist.
    • A girl named Nancy sets booby traps for a supernatural killer she intends to lure into our world and then set on fire.
    • The writers apparently also took inspiration from videogames such as Silent Hill and The Last of Us. The Upside Down's foggy and creepy design shares a lot of similarities to Silent Hill settings, while the spores in the air and fungus growing around the Upside Down's entrances is reminiscent of the cordyceps fungus in The Last Of Us. One of the biggest similarities would be how, just like Joel, Chief Hopper is a divorced, gruff man still occasionally haunted by the death of his daughter. Named Sarah. Also, both Joel and Hopper have scenes where they fight their way through a hospital to reach an elevator, the pursuers close on their heels.
    • The simple visual explanation in Chapter Five for the Upside-Down takes the "move across dimensions like a pencil punching through a folded piece of paper" used in Event Horizon.
    • A pack of preteens investigating an underground portal to another dimension, accidentally opened by one of their friends? Could be inspired by Gravity Falls.
  • How Many Fingers?: Dustin does this after he and Mike revive an unconcious Lucas.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The sixth episode stresses that while the monster is a deadly and frightful being, it's still little more than an animal. Humans on the other hand, can be downright EVIL.
  • I Am a Monster: When Lucas accuses Eleven of being the monster, she attacks him and runs away. She takes off her wig and uses her powers more aggressively to steal food. She even says it verbatim when confessing that she opened the portal to the Upside-Down.
  • I Can Explain: The boys try to explain why they're breaking into the AV room instead of the memorial assembly for Will:
    Mike: We're just...you know...
    Lucas: Upset.
    Dustin: Yeah, definitely upset.
    Mike: We need some alone time.
    Dustin: To...cry.
  • If We Get Through This...: In Episode 8, Mike tells Eleven twice how she can move in with him and his family after the monster has been dealt with, and they'll have a normal life together. The second time he tells her this is while she's drained of her powers and the Demogorgon is coming for them. Soon after, Eleven sacrifices herself to kill it.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: In episode 7, Nancy and Mike agree to start being honest with each other, then instantly lie to each other about their feelings for Jonathan and Eleven, respectively.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Apparently Jonathan attended, as when he takes a revolver out for the first time in preparation to face the monster, he misses every shot he takes at the cans he's set up.
    • Actually justified, in that an inexperienced shooter with a handgun can't reliably hit a person beyond thirty feet away, let alone a tin can at the distance Jonathan was trying. It turns out Nancy has more Improbable Aiming Skills than him.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Agent Frazier seems to specialize in this. She first impersonates a social services worker to gain access into Benny's Diner and kill him whilst searching for El, then a member of the County Education Board to get Mr. Clarke to give her the names of the boys under the guise of starting a county-wide AV club. She also flashes NSA credentials to the Wheelers before a small army of agents descend on their house to search it, but given the nature of the operations the government is running, it wouldn't be hard to believe she actually does work for the NSA.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: It's impressive enough that the scrubs at the Hawkins facility made a life-like replica of Will's body down to the clothes he was wearing in what amounted to less than a day and they had the authority of denying the local coroner to examine it thoroughly, but the circumstances in which they framed the "death" couldn't impede Joyce as Will's mom from identifying it personally; however, she knew Will's birthmarks, and recognized it as a fake almost immediately.
    • Hopper later dissects the body himself and confirms that it's an extremely well-made doll.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The helmets of the safety suits at Hawkins Lab have lights that illuminate the wearer's face.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Barb is attacked by a strange monster while Nancy and Steve have sex.
  • Ironic Echo: In the second episode, Mike explains the concept of a promise to Eleven as "something that you can't break", and Eleven later promises that she's okay when he finds her crying. In the Season 1 finale, Mike and Eleven promise each other that she'll be okay and have a life with Mike and his family. That promise is quickly broken.
  • Irony: In Episode 7, Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven decide to trust Hopper not to give their location to the government, reasoning, "Why would the chief betray us?" In the next episode, Hopper does exactly that.
  • It's All About Me: Steve's self-absorbed reaction to Nancy's concern about Barb echoes Nancy's own self-absorbed reaction to Mike's concern about Will in the first episode.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Since she opened the gate to the Upside-Down and made first contact with the monster, Eleven feels personally responsible for the havoc it wreaks.
    • Nancy feels responsible for what happened to Barb because she left her alone to have sex with Steve.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Hopper utilizes it in Episode 4 after the state police officer who'd "found" Will's body - which was way too intact for it to have fallen from the cliffs - lies to his face regarding the jurisdiction of the quarry.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Breaking the camera was perhaps harsh, but Steve and his friends were right to call Jonathan out on taking pictures of the party.
    • Sure, Lonnie is a deadbeat dad trying to cash in on his son's apparent death, but he is right: that gorge is ridiculously unsafe. It's just a sheer dead drop over the side into the water around a hundred feet down. Later, we see Mike nearly fall in too. Even if Will really wasn't killed there, someone likely would be.
  • Jump Scare: How Episode 7 ends, with the monster breaking into Will's fort in the Upside Down.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Invoked when the state police "find" Will's body in the quarry. They refuse the local police access to even see the body close up, and have the local coroner sent home so someone "from state" can perform the autopsy. When asked, the trooper who called it in claimed the quarry was state-owned, when it was actually a privately owned one (thus under Hawkins PD jurisdiction), something Hopper knew prior to asking him, which confirms his suspicions of foul play and a cover up.
  • Karma Houdini: Although Brenner is killed by the Demogorgon (Maybe. Word of God is not so clear-cut), the organization which created Eleven and caused the entire mess in the first place ultimately escapes justice for their actions.
  • Kick the Dog: Dr. Brenner and his cronies establish early on that they are not a benevolent government agency when they kill Benny (the diner owner who takes good care of Eleven) after he's already convinced that the social services are there to routinely take some stray girl from him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Eleven displays telepathic powers, possibly for the first time, when she refuses to harm a cat and is dragged by two Red Shirt Mooks into a small closet-like space for punishment; instead of the cat, it's her tormentors who die when she panics at the thought of being trapped. It's also not hard to take immense satisfaction when she offs Frazier and her team during the climax, no matter how far it crosses into Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Benny.
  • Kill It with Fire: Combined with a bear trap as part of Jonathan and Nancy's second plan to kill the monster. It doesn't take, but it hurts the creature badly enough that it retreats back to the Upside Down. Unfortunately, it regenerates quickly enough to be seemingly no worse for wear when it shows up again.
  • Kubrick Stare: Eleven does several of these throughout the series usually before using her psychic powers.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Because of her androgynous appearance, Eleven is briefly mistaken for a boy in the first episode. This later leads to her case getting mixed up with Will's during Hopper's investigation.
  • Left Hanging: A significant number of questions are left unanswered (lampshaded in the boys' final D&D game). Which (if any) are Sequel Hooks is yet to be seen.
  • Lightswitch Surprise: In Episode 3, when Nancy returns home late from the party, her mother is waiting in the corridor to berate her.
  • Like Brother and Sister: When Mike tells Eleven that he wants her to stay with his family and that Nancy would be like a sister, Eleven asks if Mike would be like her brother which he vehemently objects to.
  • Little "No": Eleven does several of these, but does an especially badass one in Episode 2 when she telekinetically slams the door shut as Lucas tries to leave.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: In his flashbacks Hopper's daughter is depicted with no hair in her hospital bed during chemo. Some characters suspect Eleven also be an example.
  • Lock and Load Montage:
    • Lucas gets one when he sets out to save Will on his own.
    • Nancy and Jonathan preparing to fight the Demogorgon at the Byers' house in "The Upside-Down".
  • Madness Mantra: After Eleven finds Barb's dead body in the Upside-Down she can only repeat the word "Gone!" until Joyce calms her down.
  • Makeover Montage: A short one in "The Body" in which the boys disguise Eleven as a normal middle school girl, complete with a blonde wig and pretty pink dress.
  • Match Cut: In "The Flea and the Acrobat", someone hammering a nail is used to segue into Mike poking a hole into a paper to illustrate the titular "flea/acrobat" metaphor.
  • Meat Moss: Seems to be prevalent in The Upside-Down and around its portals.
  • Mercy Kill: Jonathan and Nancy find a deer in the woods that has been hit by a car. As they decide what to do and screw up the courage to shoot the poor thing, the Demogorgon makes the decision for them and drags it off to feed.
  • Mind over Matter: Eleven's telekinetic powers can do anything from closing doors and turning fans to flipping vans and crumbling brains.
  • Missed Him by That Much:
    • The boys ask Eleven to take them to where Will is hiding; when she leads them to Will's house, they try explain the concept of being at home vs hiding. Meanwhile, inside, Joyce is trying desperately to communicate with her son trapped in the Upside-Down. If the boys had only walked inside...
    • Nancy is looking for Barb and the one person who might be able to explain where she is is hiding in the basement.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: When Nancy and Jonathan come back from the encounter with the Demogorgon in the woods, Steve catches them in an apparent compromising position.
  • Monster Delay: Fitting, given the show's prominent Spielberg influence.
  • Montage Out: Episode 3 ends with Peter Gabriel's cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" playing over images of Mike and Joyce in different locations dealing with the news about Will's death.
  • The Mourning After: Some examples:
    • Played with in the following case. Eleven leads the boys to the quarry to find Will's body, much to the contrary to what she's been telling them so far. In grief and anger, the boys accuse her of misleading them. She then tinkers with Mike's walkie-talkie to show him that Will is indeed alive, which they later confirm by using their teacher's ham radio. They spend the following couple of chapters pretending they are grieving to their parents and schoolmates.
    • In Barbara's case, while mostly everything that happened is covered in the end, it's still not known whether her death was indeed reported. Most of the protagonists are aware of her fate in the end, but any mentions of anything else related to her are left out, including whether she had a funeral or a vigil like Will had at school.
    • In the epilogue, Mike is shown to be still grieving El's sacrifice, though unbeknownst to him, she might still be alive.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: The show's multifaceted topics make it appeal to adults and kids likewise.
  • Mysterious Past: Hopper, big time. Aside from a brief mention that he used to work in "the big city", and that he and his wife separated after the death of their daughter, nothing concrete is revealed. However, given his combat and infiltration skills, connections to reporters with the New York Times, and his ability to parlay with the government agents to negotiate the safety of the boys and ensure he doesn't end up getting tied up as a loose end (he is seen to still be alive and have his job a month later), one can speculate he may have also worked for the government prior to relocating to Hawkins.
  • Neck Snap: Eleven kills a security guard this way.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: A recurring theme. The boys are very courageous, clever, and good at keeping a cool head, but their heroics are often cut short either by just how dangerous the Demogorgon is or by Eleven overshadowing them. Examples range from the first episode's Cold Open—Will makes his way through a classic horror movie monster encounter without making a single one of the stereotypical blunders always made in such situations, but is defeated anyway by just how outside-context his opponent is—to the final battle of the first-season finale, when Lucas is about to make use of Attack Its Weak Point, but Eleven comes to and takes on the Demogorgon personally before we see how that would have gone.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: In Episode 2, Hopper is called to Benny's diner. Instead of informing him about the nature of the investigation, the operator just says "I think you need to get there right away".
  • Never Suicide: Benny the diner owner is murdered by government spooks and made to look like he shot himself.
  • Newscaster Cameo: The anchorwoman in the pilot episode is a real anchor for ll Alive, the local NBC affiliate in Atlanta where the show is filmed.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: While there is no Hawkins nor Roane County in Indiana, there is a Roane County, Tennessee, which is home to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex, two secluded government facilities that were integral parts of the top secret "Manhattan Project" that developed the first atomic bombs during World War II. Y-12 was a highly secure nuclear weapons production facility in the Reagan Era (and still is to some degree), and both Y-12 and ORNL were and are operated under the aegis of the Department of Energy. However, it's doubtful that psychic children and dimensional portals were ever on the agenda at either.
    • There's a reference to a mental hospital called Pennhurst. There might not be a Pennhurst in Indiana, but there was one in Pennsylvania, which was shut down in the late '80s for mistreatment of patients.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Poor Benny the diner owner tries to help out a lost girl and ends up shot in the head for his trouble.
    • Likewise, Nancy's best friend Barbara, who agrees to party with Steve and his friends to make sure Nancy doesn't get too drunk and gets dragged into the Upside-Down, suffering a horrific death... eventually.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
    • Hopper delivers one to a flunky of the "Department of Energy."
    • Jonathan gives an epic one to Steve for making fun of his mother and implying that he killed his brother. His rage eventually becomes so primal that he continues to pound Steve's face as he's being pulled off of him by police... and then punches a cop just so he can continue punching Steve.
  • No Name Given:
    • The names of the other agencies working alongside the Department of Energy and Army are never explicitly mentioned, but it can be assumed due to the consistent references to MKUltra that the CIA plays at least some role in the operation. Its also suggested the NSA is in cahoots as well, given that the houses close to the site are bugged, and Connie Frazier is briefly seen with what appears to be an NSA badge.
    • The monster is never given an official name by the government or the scientists. Its only (unofficial) name, "the Demogorgon", is given to it by the kids, which is a reference to a monster in Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Nothing but Hits:
    • "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by The Clash, which figures heavily into the plot, was released a year before the events of the show. Besides that, a few Eighties standards are heard, including "Africa" by Toto, "Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles, "I Melt with You" by Modern English, and "Waiting for a Girl Like You" by Foreigner.
    • Notable aversions: Episode 5 ends with "Nocturnal Me" by Echo & the Bunnymen, which is from the same album as the far better known "The Killing Moon." Lesser-known songs by both Joy Division and New Order are also used in the series.
    • Averted and played straight within the same sequence in Episode 1: When Eleven sneaks into the diner, Jefferson Airplane can be heard as Source Music (probably meant to give the owner, Benny, some characterization as a former hippie). "She Has Funny Cars" from Surrealistic Pillow is heard first, and only a while later do we hear the much better known "White Rabbit" from the same album.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: According to Hopper, the worst thing that had happened in his four years of working in Hawkins was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie's head because it thought her hair was a nest. Also, the last time when somebody was missing was in Summer 1923 and the last time that somebody commited suicide was in October 1961.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The show makes fantastic use of this trope. The Demogorgon isn't clearly seen until very late in the first season.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Nancy when she sees the Demogorgon.
    • Mike when he notices a car coming in "The Upside-Down" and runs outside only to realize that it's not Nancy and Jonathan – it's the bad guys.
    • Also in "The Upside-Down" when the lights start flickering and everyone collectively realizes the Demogorgon is about to break through the wall.
    Mike: Blood.
    Lucas: What?
    Mike: Blood!
  • One of Us: In-universe example: the boys' chemistry teacher, who is an RPG geek as well.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with James Hopper, one of the protagonists, and James, the Mook of The Bully Troy. Given that Hopper is almost uniquely referred to on a Last-Name Basis, and James is only in a few scenes and has little characterisation out of being another annoying dickhead that the protagonists have to deal with and drawing the line at forcing Mike to jump off a cliff, it's not particularly noticeable.
  • On Three: In Episode 8, Jonathan and Nancy decide to cut their palms "on three" to draw the Demogorgon. Jonathan starts counting to two but then stops to ask Nancy if she really wants to do this. But she shouts "three" upon both cut their palms.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Pretty much all of the parents beside Joyce.
  • Parents Know Their Children: This is one of Joyce's most prominent character traits, and key to the strength of Winona Ryder's performance. Joyce has a thorough and timely understanding of her son's social life. She deduces that the drawing wasn't created by Will by asking the exact right question, "was it good?" and shows pride of her son's artistic talent. She remembers where his birthmarks are. Most importantly, her motherly intuition leads her to the conclusion, despite knowing full well just how crazy it sounds, that Will is communicating from the Upside-Down through flickering the lights and playing the Clash, knowing it's one of Will's favorite songs.
  • Parrot Exposition: Given her limited grasp of the English language from being held captive in the Hawkins National Lab for most of her life, Eleven often responds to the boys' statements with this.
  • Period Piece: The whole season shows a remarkably faithful recreation of the 1980's down to the most minute details. The series as a whole is a collection of tropes of 80's sci-fi.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Nancy is introduced lying on her bed and talking on her bedroom phone in a classic invocation of this trope.
  • Planning with Props: At the scrap yard, Lucas explains where he found the lab by using branches and a tin can.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: In Episode 5, Lucas and Eleven have a fall out which makes the former decide to go and look for Will all by himself and the latter to leave the group until her Big Damn Hero return at the end of Episode 6.
  • Plummet Perspective: When Mike steps towards the edge of the quarry, a small rock plummets down.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Played with and somewhat justified. The kids, Nancy and Jonathan, and Joyce and Hopper keep their findings to themselves, for various reasons:
    • Mike, Lucas, and Dustin hide Eleven's existence because they want to find Will and believe she's key to the mystery. Eleven's fear of The Conspiracy helps contribute to their reluctance to tell others the truth.
      • Although Eleven knows exactly what happened to Will, and even where to find him, her difficulties expressing herself clearly lead to her being unable to explain in anything more than vague concepts. For example, when initially asked by the boys where Will is, her response is to turn their D&D board upside down to explain the alternate world. It only takes a Eureka Moment from Mike later on before they piece together her meaning. It's also not helped in the least that for all her power, she's nonetheless a very scared, confused, and traumatized young girl, and it takes most of the first season before she's even able to say that she's the one who made the Demogorgon aware of the real world.
    • Nancy and Mike haven't been close for years and have no reason to share the information. They have a bonding moment when they team up and agree to avoid keeping secrets. Then immediately lie about how they feel about their respective Love Interests.
    • Joyce, at first, is very vocal about her belief in Will's survival. Hopper is usually much more subtle about his investigations, especially after alerting The Conspiracy, but he immediately subverts the trope and tells Joyce what he's uncovered when he's convinced she's right.
    • Lonnie convinces Jonathan that telling Joyce his suspicions about the Demogorgon would only hurt an already traumatized Joyce. She calls him out on it later and he quickly admits his mistake.
    • Completely averted once everyone is gathered together in "The Bathtub" where they all make sure everyone knows the situation.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Eleven's powers are used to spy on Russians and ultimately communicate with the creature and open the portal between the Upside Down and their reality.
  • Properly Paranoid: After Chief Hopper awakens from being drugged after seeing too much inside the Hawkins Lab, he immediately looks for surveillance equipment in his trailer and eventually finds it.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Eleven gets them whenever she uses her telekinesis. This becomes a plot point when it's used to prove that she's been using her powers.
  • Puppy Love: Mike and Eleven, who are both around twelve years old, and clearly crushing hard on the other.
  • Putting on the Reich: A variant. Eleven's serial number is tattooed on her left forearm, right where the Nazis put it on people in the camps. She's also essentially a government slave and used as a human test subject in completely unethical, illegal ways, which the Nazis did as well. Not to mention her "owners" tactics in trying to retrieve Eleven once she escapes easily put them into Nazi territory.
  • Raster Vision: Appears on the period-correct TV screens.
  • Reality-Breaking Paradox: The gate. Mr. Clarke points out that though science recognizes that there could be ways to alter the laws of physics, doing so anywhere near anything anyone cares about would be... irresponsible.
    "Well, if it did, I… I think we’d know. It would disrupt gravity, the magnetic field, our environment. Heck, it might even swallow us whole. Science is neat... But I'm afraid it's not very forgiving."
  • Reality Ensues:
    • When Eleven sees Barb's body, she freaks out and needs to be comforted by Joyce. This shows us that, super-powered or not, she's still a kid with a very human reaction to seeing a dead body.
    • When Eleven attempts to get changed in front of the boys, the After Show commentators initially expect the boys to perv at her; instead, being kids, they act their age and freak out.
    • Additionally, the boys, particularly Lucas, are initially reluctant to look for Will or keep Eleven's secret. They need to be talked into the former by Mike; later, Eleven's telekinesis stops Lucas from exposing her to Mike's mom.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Department of Energy's foot soldiers are essentially only there to be slaughtered by Eleven or the Demogorgon.
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: The boys pretend Eleven is Mike's cousin from Sweden when they try to get into the AV Room.
  • Retraux: The title sequence and synth-heavy soundtrack are a pitch-perfect '80s throwback, very much emulating John Carpenter's style. It can be jarring to see modern CGI against the carefully researched early '80s look.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: A zippo is tossed on a pool of gas to burn the monster in the final episode of Season 1.
  • Sarcastic Confession: The hardware store clerk raises an eyebrow at the weapons Nancy and Jonathan are buying. When he asks what they are up to, Nancy point blank tells him they are going monster hunting. He makes the sale.
  • Science Is Bad: Invoked. The boys' teacher tells them that even when science is neat, it's rather unforgiving. The show makes a point in showing both sides of the coin: the cold-hearted and dehumanizing aspect of scientific research, and the wondrous world of scientific pursuit.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The can, in this case, is an alternate dimension with at least one, but possibly multiple monsters inside it. Interestingly, there was never an apparent seal; the monster simply wasn't aware of our world. Until we became aware of it.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the first season, a few loose-ends remain:
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: In order to sneak Eleven into the school, Mike dresses her up complete with wig. Though he already likes her, a smitten Mike, and then his friends, freely admit that she is indeed a very pretty girl.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Although "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" aren't used, in "The Bathtub", when the three groups join up, Mike and Nancy ask each other if they like their new opposite-sex friends. In keeping with this trope, Nancy calmly says that it's not like that, foreshadowing the fact that she and Jonathan remain friends in the end; Mike denies it a bit more vehemently, and ends up kissing Eleven in the next episode.
    Nancy: Do you like Eleven?
    Mike: What?! Ew, no, gross!
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Shrine to the Fallen:
    • Terry Ives kept the room of her daughter Jane the way she decorated it 12 years earlier.
    • In the epilogue to Season 1 we see that Mike kept Eleven's Blanket Fort in the basement the way she left it.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Heard in Episode 3 when Eleven kills a security guard via telekinetic Neck Snap. Again when she breaks Troy's arm at the quarry.
    • The closed-captioning makes frequent use of "squelch(ing/ed)".
  • Sinister Surveillance: Most of the houses close to Hawkins National Laboratory are illegally bugged, with a small group of analysts constantly listening in on the goings on. Makes sense, considering it is implied the NSA is working alongside the Department of Energy (and other agencies) in the operation of the experiments.
  • Slut-Shaming: Done to Nancy by Tommy and Carol, with the connivance, at least, of Steve, after Steve finds Nancy with Jonathan.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: In the first episode, Mike's mother tries to referee her kids around the dinner table while his father silently eats without helping. As the dinner disintegrates, the mother pointedly asks the father if he's enjoying the chicken.
  • Softer And Slower Cover: Peter Gabriel's rendition of David Bowie's "Heroes" at the end of Episode 3.
  • Soft Water: Deputy Callahan brings it up when retelling a story from a local who claims to have taken a dive into the water at the bottom of the quarry from the top of the cliff on a bet. Chief Hopper immediately calls bullshit, informing Callahan that from that height he would've broken every single bone in his body upon hitting the water. This is a handy factoid when Will's "body" is found in it - intact.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" is sometimes used to this effect, especially in Episode 2 when Joyce finds it blaring from Jon's room shortly before the lights go out and the monster appears.
    • Episode 3 opens with Foreigner's romantic "Waiting for a Girl Like You" playing over Nancy and Steve making out while Barb in the Upside Down is being chased by the Demogorgon.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The main characters mistakenly know Dungeons & Dragons villain Demogorgon as "the Demogorgon", and it's this name they give to the antagonist.
  • Spit Shake: Lucas and an unwilling Dustin demonstrate this to Eleven to teach her the meaning of an unbreakable promise.
  • Spotting the Thread: One reason why Hopper is a Reasonable Authority Figure — when he sees something amiss, he doesn't write it off as just a coincidence until he's investigated it fully.
    • He sees Will's "abandoned" bike? He knows the kid's running, as even a kid in pain would walk the bike home. He sees a dent in the wall the shape of a doorknob lock? He notices that the rest of the house is too well-maintained for it to be a normal occurrence, meaning the door was opened forcibly from the outside. He sees a half-empty box of rifle rounds next to a gun rack but no gun? He knows that someone loaded the rifle but was unable to fire it.
    • The lab people think they've quieted Hopper by showing video of the night in question that shows all normal. However, Hopper knows something is wrong because the video has a clear sky but the actual night had a torrential downpour in the area.
    • When Will's "body" is found in the quarry, he knows it's is a fake - because a fall from the cliffs around it should have pulped it.
    • He instantly realizes that the state trooper who found the "body" is part of the conspiracy when the trooper lies to his face regarding the jurisdiction of the quarry.
  • Standard Snippet: In Episode 3, "Holly, Jolly," the TV shows a clip of President Ronald Reagan saying "Today, Syria has become a home for sev-". A simple search reveals that to have come from his address to the nation on Lebanon and Grenada from October 27, 1983. Depending on the writers' attention to detail, this could be an exact date or a "close enough" bit of stock footage.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Dungeons & Dragons games the boys play are short on details, and have details a little off (such as referring to him as "the" Demogorgon) and glossing over roleplay elements like rewarding the quest. The boys also seem to think 10 hours is a full campaign, when long campaigns have been known to take decades in real life. Their behavior is consistent with young players, however.
  • Tap on the Head: Hopper knocks a state police officer out in two punches when investigating Will's body.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Take one look at the heat the bad guys brought for a bunch of twelve-year-olds. Possibly justified in that they initially try to stop Eleven with an absurd amount of manpower, and that proves completely inadequate. They then escalate to a much larger force, which also fails completely.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Nancy faces this "dilemma" when Jonathan spends the night in her room. He offers to sleep on the ground but eventually she invites him to come into the bed.
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: When Eleven opens a portal into the Upside Down, several of these are created elsewhere, such as in the Byers' house.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Tommy and Carol are implied to have been the ones who pushed Steve from a decent guy with a bit of an attitude to an outright bully.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Eleven is really into Eggos.
  • Trapped in Another World: The story arc of Season 1. Will gets trapped in the Upside Down dimension by the Demogorgon but is nevertheless able to communicate with his family and friends via Christmas lights and Eleven's psychic powers. Eventually, Hopper and Joyce come to his rescue in the season's finale.
  • True Companions: Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, with Eleven being welcomed into the group first by Mike, then Dustin, and finally Lucas.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The show juggles the plotlines of Will's mother and brother, his friends, Nancy, and the town's sheriff before intertwining them all by the Season 1 finale.
  • The Unfair Sex: Benny roughly grabs and threatens Eleven when he sees "him" stealing food, but his entire demeanor changes when he realizes that she's female. He even gives her free food.
    • Though it's possible that he changes his demeanor just because he got a better look at her state (covered in dirt, scared, and wearing a hospital gown).
  • Unreadably Fast Text:
    • Although it is never openly stated which government agency Connie Frazier works for, the credentials she presents to the Wheeler parents before getting agents to search their house shows she works for the NSA.
    • The Season 1 finale has 4 articles pinned to a corkboard regarding the events of the season, all of which are quite detailed.
  • Van in Black: The Men in Black operate out of white vans, while pretending to be checking the power lines and street lights.
  • Villainous Rescue: The Demogorgon arrives to attack the government goons, allowing the heroes to escape, at least for a short while.
  • Wait Here: In Episode 7 Hopper decides to follow Eleven's clue and go to Will's fort in the woods by himself but Joyce protests so he grudgingly let's her tag along.
  • Weapon Twirling: Steven twirls his bat while pounding on the Demogorgon.
  • Weirder Than Usual: Verbatim in Episode 5, when Lucas asks Dustin if he thinks El is acting weird.
  • Why Don't You Marry It?: Quoted by Lucas in Episode 3 when he gives Mike a bad time for his liking of Eleven.
  • Working the Same Case: Three distinct groups of people (the kids, the sheriff, and Nancy and Johnny) all run around independently trying to figure out what is going on until converging for the Season 1 finale. Each group ends up ‘specializing’ in a certain area of the investigation. The kids do the most research into the science and idea of The Upside-Down, Nancy and Johnny are mostly dealing with understanding the Demogorgon, and Joyce and Hopper are largely dealing with Eleven's origins.
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