Series / Stranger Things

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Some doors can't be closed.

Eleven: What is "friend"?
Lucas: A friend is...
Mike: A friend is someone you'd do anything for.
Dustin: You lend them your cool stuff, like comic books and trading cards.
Mike: And they never break a promise.
Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street

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, the investigation into said disappearance and an attempted rescue mission by his friends, and the supernatural events surrounding the town itself. Along the way, the kids and teenagers of the town affected by Will's disappearance have to adjust to the hardships that come with growing up, while the adults have to confront their worst fears.

The show is inspired by Amblin Entertainment movies such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist, and The Goonies, the works of Stephen King, and 1980s 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.

Netflix released the second season – Stranger Things 2, according to the credits – on October 27, 2017. As with the previous season, Netflix released the episodes simultaneously. A third was approved before its release. The show is planned to end after a fourth or fifth season (most likely the former). Netflix has also produced a Retraux video game that serves as a bridge between the first and second seasons. It is free to download.

Character tropes go on the Characters Sheet.


Stranger Tropes:

  • The '80s: Season 1 takes place during late November 1983; Season 2 is set in October-November 1984. The series itself is a Love Letter to 80's related nostalgia.
  • '80s Hair: A rare example where it's most notably pronounced on the boys instead of the girls. Steve in season two is ashamed to admit that he uses Farrah Fawcett-brand hairspray to get his luscious mane. Dustin uses it to get a similar hairstyle for the school dance during the finale.
  • Actionized Sequel: In keeping with the Alien vibe of the first season, the second season climaxes with scores of Demodogs overrunning the HAL building, à la Aliens.
  • 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.
    • Yet another one for the children, specifically Mike (but could apply to anyone): Having the person you fell in love with completely disappear for nearly a year without knowing whether or not they are alive, and on the flip side being forced to stay away from the one you love and only being able to watch as they slowly fall apart over your disappearance.
  • Adults Are Useless: Zig-zagged.
    • Mike and Nancy's parents are a straight example. Their son hides his esper girlfriend in their basement for almost a week without them ever even noticing. This carries over to season 2, as the Wheelers spend the last few episodes blissfully unaware of where their kids are and simply assume they're with their friends somewhere. Considering the town has a habit of disappearing children, you'd think they would be more concerned.
    • 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 it is brought down by Eleven with help from Mike, Lucas, and Dustin instead.
    • On the other hand, Joyce and Hopper are the competent adults in the cast; they're the ones who enter the Upside Down and save Will. Season two also adds Bob and Dr. Owens, who prove very useful in the home stretch.
  • Alien Invasion: The Mind Flayer wishes to conquer our dimension by using an army of Demogorgons, and spread its influence until Earth becomes another post-apocalyptic toxic wasteland, just like its home in the Upside Down.
  • All There in the Script: "The Upside-Down" was actually referred to as "The Nether" in the screenplays for the first season, although the former is used much more often both by fans and in the show itself.
  • Alternate History: Subtle, but the show takes place in a world where the government's Project MKUltra (or an offshoot thereof) produced results. It's used to justify the extradimensional conceit of the plot.
  • An Adventurer Is You: Mike is the leader, Will is caught up in other dimensions, Dustin geeks out on exotic knowledge, Lucas has his "wrist rocket," and Eleven has actual psychic abilities.
    Mike: I'm our Paladin, Will's our Cleric, Dustin's our Bard, Lucas is our Ranger, and El's our Mage.
  • 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, it gets broadcast over the record player when Will makes contact with Joyce the second time, and the "interrogation" scene in Season 2 is partially set to it.
    • The "Rule of Law" is very important to the Party, referenced frequently in Season One. Its principles, especially "friends don't lie," are present in Season 2, and it's mentioned again in "The Spy".
    • "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 (and later Hopper) trying to hide awkward truths from her.
  • 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.
    • Specific details of Dungeons & Dragons are fudged for simplicity or storytelling. However, the show does show its work by featuring specific and sometimes obscure aspects of the game.note 
  • Batman in My Basement: Played straight as an arrow. Mike hides Eleven in a Blanket Fort built in the basement of his house both because They Would Cut You Up and because he thinks she can help them find Will.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The secret knock that Hopper teaches Eleven is Morse Code for "us."
  • Billions of Buttons: The console in Hawkins Lab opposing the glassed-in portal to the Upside-Down has a very high button-count. They flash brightly and incoherently when an alarm condition occurs.
  • 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.
    • Season 2 ends on a happier note, but with too much loss to be considered a Happy Ending. On the plus side: Will is freed of the Mind Flayer's influence, and Eleven is able to close the Gate between Hawkins and the Upside-Down. Nancy was able to reveal the Lab's role in Barbara's death, if not the exact circumstances; forcing the government to shut down the lab and the experiments, and allowing the Hollands some closure. Dr. Owens provides a fake birth certificate to Hopper claiming Eleven is his daughter "Jane Hopper," allowing Eleven a chance for a normal life and able to be with Mike. Max is accepted into the group and undergoes a Relationship Upgrade with Lucas, which Dustin accepts, while Nancy and Jonathan are happy together with Steve's acceptance. On the down side, Bob and a lot of (mostly) innocent people died at the Lab when the "Demodogs" overran the building. Also, Eight is still out there and wants revenge for what happened to her. Worst of all, while trapped in the Upside-Down, the Mind Flayer is still alive, and the closing shot of "The Gate" makes it clear that it wants revenge on the kids for thwarting its plans to invade our dimension.
  • Black and White Morality: This seems to be how morality is portrayed in the first season. In the second season, the characters become more developed and human, making it more White and Grey Morality.
  • Book Ends:
    • Season 1 begins and ends with D&D. Specifically, it 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.
    • In the last episode of season 1, Mike asks Eleven to go with him to the Snow Ball. In the last episode of season 2, she does!
  • 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.
  • Cat Scare: A bunch of them, especially in the first few episodes of season 2, given that the true threat takes a while to emerge.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Season 1:
      • The rifle used in Season 2 is briefly seen in the pilot, while Will is looking for a place to hide in the shed.
      • 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, though it proves completely ineffective.
      • 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 Department wear blue shirts and black pants.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: The show's title is derived from the phrase "Stranger things have happened".
  • Contrived Coincidence: Evidently, season 2 pretty much runs on this.
    • Overall, the story takes place one year after season 1, yet all the subplots somehow happens at the exact same time. Will is possessed by the Mind Flayer, Dustin finds a baby Demogorgon (presumably the same Will threw up a year before), Nancy and Jonathan attempt to take down's Hawkin's lab and Eleven becomes restless at hiding and runs away. Some of this behavior (particularly Nancy, Jonathan, and Eleven) can be partially explained by the "Anniversary Effect" making them feel restless/guilty, but it still coincides with the supernatural happenings.
    • There's also a smaller one where the first day Eleven decides to go to Hawkin's school to try and see Mike happens at the exact same time he happens to be alone with Max and giving the latter a smile at her skateboarding skills that serves to make Eleven jealous and decide not to see him after all.
  • 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 also got a 1971 Oldsmobile 442. And then, of course, is Billy's ridiculous '79 Camaro in Season 2.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front:
    • Officially, the Hawkins National Laboratory is a research center 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 Wheelers 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 (what with the whole thing being an offshoot of the classic MKULTRA experiments.
    • The government field agents use vans marked "Hawkins Water & Power" to drive around town and carry out surveillance without getting too much attention.
  • Covers Always Lie: The teaser poster for Season 2 shows all four of the boys coming face-to-face with the Mind Flayer. In the show, Will is the only one in the group who actually sees it.
  • Creator Cameo: Executive producer and director Shawn Levy makes an appearance as a morgue attendant in Season 1.
  • Creator In-Joke:
    • The series contains several references to the Duffer Brothers' home state of North Carolina, particularly the Durham area where they grew up. Examples include the Eno River, Jordan Lake, roads named "Mt. Sinai", "Cornwallis", and "Kerley", and a neighborhood named "Loch Nora", after the real Lochn’ora neighborhood.
    • Dustin fakes a phone call regarding the missing cat with a Mr. McCorkle, the name of the Duffers' childhood next-door neighbor.
  • Dance Party Ending: Season 2 ends with all of the kids dancing at the Snow Ball.
  • 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 the early 1980s.
    • Bullying and casual homophobia, two things which are greatly looked down upon today, are generally treated as a non-issue here. The homophobia is even toned down from how prevalent it was in the '80s.
    • 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, and smoking around your kids would be insane at the time of the show's release in 2016-17, but ask any person who lived through the 80s and they'll tell you parents did that all the time.
      • In general there's a lot of smoking, and Hop even kind of nudges Joyce back into the habit in S2. Today the amount of smoking would be weird and Hop would be an asshole for that, but this was all completely de rigeur for 1983-4.
    • Two teenagers buying gasoline, bear traps, nails, sledgehammers, and revolver ammunition doesn't get much more than a weird look from the hardware store clerk, and Nancy can even get away with snarking (or not) about going "monster hunting" with it all. Post-Columbine, he'd most likely jump to the conclusion that they were planning to terrorize their school. Nancy's comment would make it a one-way trip to juvi hall!
    • The kids being able to wander as much as they do can seem like this in the 21st century. The kids stay over at each others houses regularly, are often out with fairly flimsy excuses, and in S2 disappear for a while, and while the parents are somewhat concerned they don't generally get too worried. Today, some of this might well lead to less friendly neighbors calling social services on damn near everyone, but in the 80s and earlier decades, suburban kids absolutely had that much freedom to roam.
  • 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 knows who Eleven's father may be, and Dr. Brenner is far from a proper surrogate. Although a bit of framing in S2 does imply that, with Brenner around, El's dad may be closer than first thought...
    • We never see Dustin's dad despite seeing his mom in season 2.
    • Averted with Lucas's dad, who seems on the ball... in his way. Played for laughs, as the Sinclairs clearly have a stable Nuclear Family otherwise.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Will's description of being attacked by the Mind Flayer in "Will the Wise" sounds uncomfortably close to a description of sexual assault, and in general a lot of his early struggles and treatments have parallels with a child recovering from abuse. It's only really late in S2, episode 6 that it takes a fairly hard turn away from this and into The Exorcist instead.
  • Enter Stage Window: Steve enters and leaves Nancy's room via the window.
  • Escaped from the Lab: Eleven escaped from Hawkins Laboratory where experiments were being performed on her.
  • 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. Season 2 also has this for Nancy and Jonathan.
  • Everytown, America: Hawkins, Indiana, an anonymous, small Midwestern town where nothing ever happens.
  • Filk Song: Upside Down, courtesy of Miracle of Sound
  • First-Episode Spoiler: For the Season 2 premier, the fact that El is still alive and in Hopper's care, as strongly hinted in the season 1 finale, is confirmed.
  • First Love: Between Mike and Eleven, who are around twelve and obviously experiencing attraction to each other for the first time. It's almost a foregone conclusion. Later, Lucas and Max in Season 2.
  • Flashback Echo: Eleven and Hopper's dark backstories are gradually revealed through flashbacks triggered by events similar to their traumatic experiences.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The tabletop game the boys are playing at the start of Season 1 foreshadows what's going to happen later. Mike intones, "Something is coming, something hungry for blood – the Demogorgon!" In both the game and in real, Will tries to attack the Demogorgon, but "it gets him."
    • 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.
    • The boys are playing Dragon's Lair in the first episode of Season Two. Dustin loses, and Lucas smugly says that Princess Daphne is still his. Guess who gets together with Max.
    • At the start of Season Two, Will has a discussion with his mother where he mentions that wizards can't always outwit their enemies, and have to resort to spells such as Fireball to defeat them. At the end of Season Two, Joyce ends up using fire to drive the Mind Flayer out of Will after previous attempts to outsmart it went horribly wrong.
  • Friend Versus Lover: One of the big conflicts of season 1 is Eleven unwittingly getting in the way of Mike and Lucas' friendship.
  • Freak Lab Accident: It's implied that Eleven's psychic powers were caused by drug experiments done on her mother during her pregnancy.
  • Free-Range Children: Zigzagged. 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. (This is 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.) On the other hand, you also have instances like the kids having to sneak out of their houses because they've been forbidden from going out while Will is missing, and Joyce driving Will to the arcade in season 2 while repeatedly confirming plans for getting home.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Doubles as an In-Joke. In the final Episode of Season 2, there is a montage of the kids getting ready for the Snowball Dance. There is a moment when Jonathan is filming Joyce teaching Will how to dance. The time on his Camcorder says 7:04 PM; 7 + 4 = 11.
    • Also in Season 2, during Episode 6, Hopper takes time to sit in his car and try to contact Eleven on the CB Radio back at their cabin. If you look at the first shot of said radio, the channel they communicate on is channel 11.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Dustin disgustedly wiping his hand on his shirt after Lucas demonstrates a spit swear to Eleven.
    • Dustin and Lucas's 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 the target of their ire to this, such as when they attempt to convince Terry Ives that her daughter was stillborn.
  • Genre Roulette: Switches between horror, sci-fi, and conspiracy thriller. Usually, the genre depends on the characters being followed.
    • In season 1, 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.
    • Switched around in season 2. Jonathan and Nancy take up the conspiracy angle with exposing Hawkins lab, Hopper and Joyce participate in the sci-fi horror as they struggle to understand what's going on with Will, while Dustin, Mike, and Lucas get the conventional horror plot.
  • 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. There seems to be some towards John Carpenter's early-'80s output as well.
  • Genre Savvy: The Party repeatedly draws inspiration and guidance on how to deal with supernatural elements and monsters by using their knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons. They turn to other media like Star Wars when it comes to the adventure elements.
  • 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 start spilling over into the town, the government does everything in its power to cover things up.
  • Guns Are Useless: Played very straight in both seasons; close-range assault rifle fire seems to do no damage at all to either the demigorgon or the demidogs. But somehow a nail-studded baseball bat wielded by a teenager is highly effective.
    • Averted in the Season 2 finale, when Hopper fends off the demidogs while Eleven closes the gate. Although maybe those bullets were just knocking the demidogs down and not actually wounding them.
  • Hellgate: It turns out that Dr. Brenner and Eleven unwittingly opened one prior to the story when he made her make contact with the Demogorgon. It's located in the underground Hawkins Lab and allows malevolent alien forces to seep into our dimension, so the cast has to close it.
  • 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:
    • The show's title typography was heavily inspired by the way Stephen King's name used to be presented on his book covers.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 inspired by The Goonies, and the main protagonist kid in both works is even named Michael.
    • 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 are confirmed to have also taken inspiration from videogames such as the Silent Hill series and The Last of Us. The Upside-Down's foggy and creepy design shares a lot of similarities to Silent Hill's Otherworld, 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 Sara. 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.
    • At the climax battle in season 2, Eleven pushes her psychic powers to the point her eyes turns dark and she starts levitating, a very similar scene to when Jean Grey from X-Men summons her "phoenix" form.
    • The black void dimension that Eleven enters while using her powers resembles the alien chamber in Under the Skin.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The helmets of the safety suits at Hawkins Lab have lights that illuminate the wearer's face.
  • Instant Sedation: Used several times to put Will out after the shadow monster inhabits him and on Billy in a confrontation at the Byers' house. Though it's somewhat justified in both cases: Will is still just a child, and Billy almost manages to shake it off before succumbing.
  • It's Always Spring: A consequence of Georgia doubling for Indiana is that all of the trees still have their leaves as late as November. It's most pronounced in the season two finale, which has an epilogue set in mid-December yet still has trees covered in leaves and characters dressed for early autumn.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Part of the reason Eleven never made contact with Mike and his friends since her disappearance is because it would have put them in massive danger, even though her staying away is emotional torment for both her and Mike. When she finally returns, it's because Hawkins needs to be saved from the invasion of the Upside-Down.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Invoked when the State Police "find" Will's "body" in the quarry. They refuse to give the local police access to even see the body close up, and even have the local coroner sent home so someone "from state" can perform the autopsy. To test his theory, Hopper strikes up a conversation with the trooper who called it in. He claims the quarry was state-owned, and Hopper agrees, only to then immediately reveal the quarry is actually privately owned, and makes the trooper confirm his suspicions of foul play and a cover-up.
  • 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.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the more effective ways to dispatch the creatures and growths of the Upside Down. A milder version is used to exercise the Mind Flayer out of Will.
  • 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.
  • 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 Sara is depicted with no hair in her hospital bed during chemo. Some characters suspect Eleven to also be an example, but that's not the case.
  • Love Triangle: Season 2 has three:
    • The Steve, Jonathan, and Nancy triangle from season 1 continues with Nancy and Jonathan getting together while Steve accepts it.
    • Joyce is dating Bob but still having tension with Hopper. It ends with Bob dying to protect Joyce, Hopper, Mike, and Will. Joyce is mourning Bob as Hopper helps her grieve.
    • When Max moves in, both Dustin and Lucas get crushes on her. Max chooses Lucas, and Dustin accepts.
  • Madness Mantra: Terry Ives, Eleven/Jane's natural mother, is in a permanent, semi-catatonic state, endlessly repeating the refrain "Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow. Three to the right, four to the left. 450." It turns out that this apparent nonsense is linked to her memories of losing Jane to the researchers at Hawkins Lab, and her desperate attempts to get her back. It is all that she has left of her daughter.
  • Meat Moss: Seems to be prevalent in The Upside-Down and around its portals.
  • Mind over Matter: Eleven's telekinetic powers can do anything from closing doors and turning fans to flipping vans and crumbling brains.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot:
    • In Season 1, a missing boy leads the main characters to a secretive government conspiracy involving psychic children, a mysteriously decaying otherworld, and an Eldritch Abomination that wants to devour the world.
    • In Season 2, a bad pumpkin crop that local farmers attribute to sabotage reveals a powerful Eldritch Abomination is beginning to cross the threshold into our world.
  • Missing Child: The first season revolves around, but really is mostly just framed by, family and friends trying to find 12-year-old Will Byers who went missing.
  • Monster Delay: The show makes fantastic use of this trope. The Demogorgon isn't clearly seen until very late in the first season. Fitting, given the show's prominent Spielberg influence.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: The show's multifaceted topics make it appeal to adults and kids likewise.
  • 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.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Although the government officials in season two are much more moral and heroic than Dr. Brenner, they're still directly responsible for the events of the second season by constantly incinerating the Meat Moss creeping out of the gateway, which in turn causes the Upside-Down to retreat the other way and form a labyrinthine network of tunnels in the ground under Hawkins.
  • 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 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. It's 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: Zig-zagged.
    • "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, "Waiting for a Girl Like You" by Foreigner, and "Time after Time" by Cyndi Lauper.
    • 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.
    • A noticeable zigzag is in the first episode: 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: Hawkins is an anonymous, sleepy small town, so its residents are unlikely to believe the supernatural Government Conspiracy. This is why Hopper is skeptical of Joyce's suspicions at first. This is even mentioned in the season 2 finale, where a reporter says she spoke to residents who believed they "lived in a safe town where nothing ever happens."
    Hopper: "This is Hawkins. You wanna know the worst thing that’s ever happened here in the four years I’ve been working here? The worst thing was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie's head because it thought that her hair was a nest."
  • 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.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Pretty much all of the parents beside Joyce are completely unaware of the supernatural happenings of Hawkins.
  • Period Piece: The whole season shows a remarkably faithful re-creation of the 1980s down to the most minute details. The series as a whole is a collection of tropes of '80s sci-fi.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Played with and somewhat justified.
    • In the first season, 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 and confusing visual metaphors. 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 in chapter 7 and he quickly admits his mistake.
      • However, the trope is completely averted when everyone is gathered together in "The Bathtub". They all make sure everyone knows the situation.
    • In season 2, the characters are quicker to approach each other with their findings, but there are still some failures.
      • Hopper keeping the fact that Eleven is not only still alive but living with him a secret from everyone, ostensibly for her protection (but he later acknowledges there were some of his own issues at play).
      • Dustin doesn't tell the rest of the team that he'd found Dart and seen him grow into a Demogorgon right away. He gets called out on it.
      • Hopper leaves Will, Mike and Joyce to go search for the tunnels without telling them (or anyone else) anything, so when he gets caught, they have to use Will's powers to track him down.
      • Joyce leaves absolutely no message behind for Jonathan when he comes home, so when he sees the government's Polaroid film cartridge, he assumes they've been kidnapped by the agency when they are actually willingly working together, leaving Jonathan and Nancy to storm the building.
      • Dustin is unable to reach anybody on their walkies because everybody has left them behind, (Will is sick, Mike is helping Will, and Lucas is talking to Max) so he can't warn anybody about Dart, and ultimately has to recruit Steve instead.
  • 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.
  • Present Day Past:
    • 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. 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. See here.
    • 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.
    • 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, as that gun came out in 1976. What isn't are the MP5k-PDWs (the ones with folding stocks), which didn't come out until 1991. Some MP5Ks even have stocks from the Heckler & Koch UMP45; the UMP45 didn't come out until 1999.
    • Max labels the gang as "stalkers," for following her around. This use of the word wouldn't come about until the early 1990s.
  • Product Placement: Pretty common, though sometimes measured with some Biting-the-Hand Humor. Some of it also contributes to period flavor, as a couple of the examples have faded into the background in ensuing decades or are even on the way to extinction entirely (like the Radio Shack example).
    • Eggo brand toaster waffles are Eleven's Trademark Favorite Food. However, Hopper frequently admonishes her for eating too many Eggos and not "real food."
    • The Coke can Eleven crunches in her flashback while she watches a Coke commercial at Mike's home. (Incidentally, nearly the entire commercial is shown!)
    • Dustin tries to befriend a demodog by feeding it 3 Musketeers bars and even names it "Dart" after D'Artagnan of the The Three Musketeers. However, Lucas states that 3 Musketeers bars suck because they're "just nougat," while Dustin defends them.
    • Dinner at the Holland family's house consists of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which the diners all comment on. However, the dinner is portrayed as very awkward for a variety of reasons.
    • Bob works at Radio Shack, which is mentioned several times. Nancy purchases a cassette recorder from Radio Shack, and the branded bag is seen in multiple scenes.
    • The cars can also count to some degree; Billy's '79 Chevy Camaro, in particular, is nearly a character unto itself with how much screen time it gets. The only thing getting in the way is that (background anachronisms noted above aside) all the cars are period-accurate and so had been out of production for decades when the show aired. It's really product placement for used car dealerships, if anything.
  • Psychic Children: Invoked by the government, who kidnapped children and experimented on them so that they'd develop psychic powers. Eleven/Jane and Kali are two such examples.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Eleven gets them when she uses her powers. It's revealed that this is true for others with powers — Kali gets them and so does Terry Ives when communicating with Jane. In fact, Eleven spends a lot of time with red stage paint on her upper lip.
  • Puppy Love: Mike and Eleven, who are both around twelve years old, and clearly crushing hard on the other. Season 2 introduces Max, who becomes this with Lucas.
  • 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 Ensues: 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.
  • 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.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The Byers' house fits this twice. In the first season, when Joyce fills it with Christmas lights to communicate with Will, and in the second season, all the walls are covered with Will's drawings of the Mind Flayer's tunnels. Played with, as while other people doubt Joyce's sanity because of it (especially in the first season) and her own history of anxiety doesn't help, it manages to serve its purpose both times.
  • Running Gag:
    • Dustin's Insistent Terminology over naming the Demodogs.
    • Dustin creeping people out by making that cat purring sound.
    • Dustin swearing, and an adult calling him out over his language.
    • Mike wincing when his mother takes pictures of him.
    • Mike's father being asleep or equally useless in any given situation.
    • Lucas's Annoying Younger Sibling cutting him down with surprisingly insightful criticism.
    • Bob getting excited about something lame.
  • 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:
    • While season 2 cleans up most of the loose ends from season 1, it leaves a few loose ends of its own:
      • Most importantly, the Mind Flayer is still alive and is seemingly keeping an eye on the protagonists.
      • Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan exorcise the Mind Flayer's "virus" mist from Will, but it is not seen to be destroyed and instead flies off into the night.
      • Kali is still out there, abusing her psychic abilities for personal gain and revenge, and may have an issue with Eleven after the latter fled in chapter 7.
      • Finally, Dr. Brenner may still be alive, if the scientist tracked down by Kali and Eleven is to be believed.
  • Shown Their Work: The show features specific and sometimes obscure aspects of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition as well as invents others for narrative purposes.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Shrine to the Fallen:
    • Although Eleven is not dead at the beginning of series two, Mike keeps her Blanket Fort in the basement exactly as she left it, because it is never too late to hope for her return.
    • Terry Ives also left the room intact that she created for Jane/Eleven. There's a heartwarming scene in season 2 where Eleven comes to visit the place that was meant to be the center of her childhood.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: The series breaks from its usual Two Lines, No Waiting story telling style in chapter 7 and 8 of the second season which happen at the same time.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Stranger Things is very much like a fun '80s Steven Spielberg film. With that said, you can expect this series to be more idealistic.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: The title sequence is made to look like it has scratches in the film stock, as if it's a well-worn VHS or film reel from the 1980s.
  • 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.
  • The "The" Title: The Duffer Brothers like this trope. All but one episode of season 1 and half the episodes of season 2 start with "The" in the title.
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: When Eleven opens a portal into the Upside Down, several of these are created elsewhere, such as in the Byerses' house.
  • 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. Their group is referred to as "the party" starting in Season 2. The same season also adds Max, who is welcomed at first by Lucas and Dustin, who both harbor crushes on her; accepted by Will, who doesn't really care either way; and eventually by Mike once El returns. The teens aren't really included in "the party," although Dustin does befriend Steve.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: The second season juggles the Joyce/Will lab plot, the Nancy/Jonathan conspiracy plot, and the Dustin/Lucas Dart plot, but takes some time every episode to showcase Eleven's solo departure and adventure of self-discovery through her mother and Kali. All of these converge again by the finale.
  • 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.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Nancy and Jonathan clearly have this going on through the first half of season 2 until it finally comes to a head in episode 6 as they engage in a passionate kiss and end up in bed.
  • Van in Black: The Men in Black from Hawkins Lab operate out of white vans, while pretending to be checking the power lines and streetlights. However, the effect is ruined when four of them show up at once in convoy and speed around chasing children on bikes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Troy and James don't return for season 2, and what happened to them after Troy tries to rat out Eleven is never remarked on. According to the creators, Troy and James are older than the Party, thus it's possible they've moved into high school by season 2.
    • In season 2, Dustin evicts his tortoise from his tank to make room for his new pet Dart. The tortoise is never seen again or even confirmed as one of Dart's victims.
    • In the season 2 finale, Dustin gets Steve to help him stuff a dead Demodog into Joyce Byers' freezer, calling it a major scientific discovery, and it's never mentioned again.
    • Didn't the Byerses have a dog?
  • White Void Room: Inverted. Eleven is able to enter a dimension that resembles a Black Void Room, invoking Chiaroscuro.
  • Working the Same Case: Three distinct groups of people (the kids, the sheriff, and Nancy and Jonathan) all run around independently trying to figure out what is going on, before 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 Jonathan are mostly dealing with understanding the Demogorgon, and Joyce and Hopper are largely dealing with Eleven's origins, i.e. the Government Conspiracy that is Hawkins National Laboratory.
  • World of Snark: Everyone in Hawkins seems to have a knack for making snarky comments.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/StrangerThings