Follow TV Tropes

Following

Series / Stranger Things

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/stranger_things_1.png

El: 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.
Advertisement:

Stranger Things is a Netflix original series created by the Duffer Brothers which debuted on July 15, 2016. It features an ensemble cast including Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Noah Schnapp, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, Maya Hawke, Brett Gelman, Matthew Modine and Paul Reiser.

Taking place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in The '80s, the series tells the story of the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), 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.

Advertisement:

The show takes great influence from 1980s horror, sci-fi and coming-of-age stories, more specifically the works of Stephen King and John Carpenter alongside Amblin Entertainment movies such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist, and The Goonies. In designing the series, the Duffer Brothers aimed to incorporate all three genres (alongside the investigative drama) and the pop culture of the decade.

Netflix renewed the series for a second season just over a month after its debut; the season, officially titled Stranger Things 2, was released on October 27, 2017. A third season, similarly titled Stranger Things 3, was released on July 4, 2019. The fourth season, Stranger Things 4, was released in two "volumes"; the first installment (consisting of the first 7 episodes) was released on May 27, 2022, with the second installment (consisting of the final 2 episodes) coming out five weeks later on July 1. The Duffers have also confirmed that the forthcoming Stranger Things 5, which does not have a set airdate, will be the show's final season, although spin-off projects after the completion of the final season are in development, including a new live-action series and a stage play to be directed by Stephen Daldry.

Advertisement:

The series has led to a franchise, with an ever-growing number of media including tie-in novels, comics and video games.


Stranger Tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    #-F 
  • '70s Hair: Downplayed in the first two seasons, where a number of characters sport hairstyles befitting the late-70s and early-80s. By Season 3, this was totally done away with.
  • The '70s: Season 2 has flashbacks of Terry at the lab sometime during the 1970s with her wearing period-appropriate attire. Flashbacks to the 70s with Dr. Brenner were very careful with the style of his suits to match the era.
  • The '80s: Season 1 takes place in November 1983. Season 2 is set in October-November 1984. Season 3 is set during Summer 1985, surrounding the July 4th Celebrations. Season 4 takes place during spring of 1986. 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 2 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. Season 3 rectifies this imbalance with Nancy adding some volume, curls, and bangs to her hair, as well as with Heather and an expanded role for Karen Wheeler. By Season 4, Karen's perm and headband combo is everything that was terrible about the 80s.
    • The girls at the dance, who reject Dustin, have a pretty good hair farm between them, and it explodes when we see them again at the mall in S3.
    • Billy sports an 80s mullet.
    • Angela and her crew of popular mean girls in California all sport very poofy, teased hairdos. The roller rink scene is spectacularly Eighties.
    • Lucas, of all people, as of Season 4, has a high flattop reminiscent of Theo Huxtable from the same time period, rather than the close cut he favored in previous seasons.
  • Absent Animal Companion: The Byers' dog Chester disappears between Seasons 1 and 2. Noah Schnapp stated that he died between seasons.
  • 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. Season three ramps it up even further as characters get into gun battles with the Russian spies infiltrating Hawkins, culminating in the Mind Flayer creating a Flesh Golem the size of a house that goes on a rampage through the Starcourt Mall.
  • Adults Are Useless: Zig-zagged.
    • Mike and Nancy's parents are a straight example. Mike hides Eleven in their basement for almost a week without his parents ever even noticing. They only find out due to Brenner informing them. 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 most competent adults in the entire cast; they're the ones who enter the Upside Down and save Will as well as unearth the Russian plot and save the kids again. Season 2 also adds Bob and Dr. Owens, who prove very useful in the home stretch. Season 3 adds Murray Bauman and Alexei.
  • 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.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Multiple characters have learned time and time again that they shouldn't lie to Eleven, as she takes everyone at their word and thus takes being lied to very seriously.
  • Alien Invasion: From Season 2 onward. 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. Subverted in Season 4, where it's revealed that the Mind Flayer is the puppet of Vecna aka Henry Creel, who is the one wishing to exterminate humanity.
  • 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 concept of the plot.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The use of Vecna as the name for the villain of season 4 which takes place in 1986, with specific characterisation nodding to the choice, is actually a huge anachronism. Vecna, though a prominent villain in D&D lore, didn't get introduced in-proper until 1990; beforehand, he was referenced in the descriptions for two items (his hand and his eye), but only as a powerful lich that was betrayed and defeated long ago.
    • The 1979 flashbacks in Season 4 show Eleven playing Plinko, which was created for The Price Is Right and made its debut in 1983.
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: Downplayed. Most of the soundtrack is from the 80s, but the show isn't too strict about when in the 80s a song came out:
    • In Season 1, set in 1983:
      • The Bangles' cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter", which plays at the end of episode 2, didn't come out until 1987.
      • The version of "Nocturnal Me" by Echo & the Bunnymen used at the end of the fifth episode wouldn't be recorded until early 1984.
      • New Order's "Elegia", used during Will's funeral, wouldn't be released until 1985.
      • In episode 6, the radio in Steve's car plays "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart, which wasn't released until January of 1984.
      • "When It's Cold I'd Like To Die" by Moby, which plays over Will's rescue, was released in 1995. The same song plays in the fourth season as well, which being set in 1986 is still anachronistic.
    • "Just Another Day" by Oingo Boingo was released on October 28, 1985, but was used in the premiere episode of Season 2, which, funnily enough, takes place on October 28, 1984.
    • Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight" is used in Season 3 (set in 1985), but was released in the UK in 1986, and not until January of 1987 in the US.
    • "Play With Me" by Extreme, used during a Season 4 montage set in 1986, wasn't released until 1989.
    • Peter Gabriel's cover of "Heroes" by David Bowie is used multiple times in the show. While Bowie released "Heroes" in 1977, Gabriel didn't cover it until 2010.
  • Another Dimension: The Upside Down is a classic illustration of the "6D" take on alternate dimensions — a world "up" from our reality.
  • 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 1. 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.
  • Armies Are Evil: By season four, the U.S. Army is openly deploying uniformed soldiers to search houses without a warrant, torture people and conduct armed raids without concern for civilian casualties.
  • 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.
    • In the Season 3 finale's climax, Dustin and his girlfriend Suzie sing a duet and harmonize almost perfectly over the ham radios. The problem? Said ham radios cannot send AND receive transmissions at the same time. Realistically, either person would only be broadcasting to themselves and neither would hear the other. That said, any others on the same channel would hear both, albeit probably out of tune/desynced (unless they were REALLY good at keeping pace with the song). However these are custom built super radios so it's not unreasonable to assume that Dustin and Suzie built them to do this specifically to let them sing a duet.
  • Artistic License – History: Soviet uniformed operatives working in the continental United States, with a reach that includes research facilities, was something unthinkable during the Cold War, especially under Reagan's presidency.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Dustin repeatedly claims that compasses should point to "true north". In fact, compasses point to magnetic north. He does say magnetic north a few times, so it could be that he is using the terms interchangeably In-Universe, as expected of a kid his age.
  • Ascended Meme: The show finaly acknowledged in Season 4 Steve the Mom.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: A literal Pyrrhic Victory, but one no less. Vecna/Henry despite being weakened significantly by the fiery attack the heroes incite him to achieves his goal of taking four victims—though Max is Not Quite Dead—and connecting the portals to open the huge gateway in Hawkins so that he can attack once strong enough again to do so.
  • 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. Impressively, he manages to hide this from his parents for nearly a week. Ted and Karen only find out because when the Lab tracks Eleven to the Wheelers' house, Brenner just opts to tell them Eleven is dangerous to Mike after he realizes they don't know anything.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Common for couples prior to hooking up.
    • Max is very belligerent with the party before hooking up with Lucas. She continues to mildly have it with Lucas in Season 3 and inspires some between Mike and Eleven as well.
    • Hopper and Joyce bicker endlessly throughout Season 3 until Murray lampshades the trope, telling them that Everyone Can See It and to just admit their feelings for each other already. Even Alexei senses the attraction in spite of the language barrier.
    • Subverted with Steve and Robin, who squabble with each other throughout the early parts of season 3, while Dustin keeps telling Steve to hook up with Robin, to Steve's disgust. Ultimately they become Fire-Forged Friends, and Steve expresses his feelings for Robin, only for Robin to reveal that she's gay. They remain platonic friends in the end.
  • Betty and Veronica: The Love Triangle between Nancy, Steve, and Jonathan in the first two seasons. Steve is the Big Man on Campus and a Jerk Jock (later mellowing into a Jerk with a Heart of Gold), while Jonathan is a shy, soft-spoken loner who's the frequent target of bullying. The contrast becomes less pronounced later on as Steve takes a level in kindness while Jonathan becomes more confident and assertive. However, the love triangle is awakened again in season four, as Nancy spends the entiriety of her season arc with Steve, and it becomes obvious they still have feelings for each other largely due to Steve's personality shift and Jonathan's absenteeism. While Nancy reunites with Jonathan in the last episode and things on the surface go back to normal, there are hints that Nancy and Steve's feelings have once again been rekindled, and it may be a subplot of season 5.
  • Bickering Couple, Peaceful Couple: Mike and Eleven have their issues, but they're far less volatile than Max and Lucas.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Eleven has a few of these, disappearing to whereabouts unknown (whether to her friends or the audience as well), but then turning up to save the day just as those she cares about are in imminent danger of dying.
    • On the adult side, Hopper has these moments too. He goes from just sleepwalking through his role as the town's police chief in the early half of season one to being involved in the resolutions of the main climax in all four seasons. A big moment is in season two, when he and Eleven go in by themselves to close the door to the upside down, with Hopper providing cover fire while Eleven uses her powers to shut the opening. In the fourth season, after being helped to escape from an escape-proof Russian prison by Joyce and Murray, Hopper says they need to GO BACK and fight the creatures from the upside down that are present at the Russian prison in order to give the kids in Hawkins all the assistance they can give them in fighting Vecna. He even ends up behedding a Demogorgon with a sword.
    • Murray gets some serious love in season four, using his newfound karate abilities to good use twice, and using a flamethrower to roast creatures from the Upside Down to aid Joyce and Hopper.
  • Bilingual Bonus (unintentional): To German ears, "Vecna" sounds like "weg/nah", meaning "away/near", which neatly describes Vecna's location in the Upside Down.
  • 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. Max is able to stand up to Billy, gets 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. Dr. Owens provides a fake birth certificate to Hopper claiming Eleven is his daughter "Jane Hopper," allowing Eleven a chance to have a normal life and be with Mike. On the downside, 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 now 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.
    • Season 3's ending definitely qualifies. On the bright side, the Mind Flayer has been defeated once more, the Soviet plot to open up the Gate underneath Starcourt has been foiled, Mike and Eleven have mended their relationship, admitting they love each other, and all of the Party's somewhat strained friendships have been repaired. On the more bitter side, Billy and some other 30 people are dead, Hopper is gone, and Eleven has lost her powers. The Byers family moves out of Hawkins, taking Eleven with them. Even The Stinger is a mixed bag, with a hint of possibility at Hopper's survival as a prisoner in the Soviet Union (later confirmed), but also confirmation that the Soviets have succeeded in capturing a live Demogorgon, not considering the implications that the Soviets have successfully opened the Gate once to do so.
    • Season 4 ends on the darkest cliffhanger so far, despite the happy notes. Hop is back with El, Joyce and Hopper finally admit their feelings for each other, and the other significant couples (Mike and Eleven, Jonathan and Nancy, and Max and Lucas) are all reunited either physically or emotionally. However, Nancy and Jonathan are having significant relationship issues that neither wants to admit, Colonel Sullivan still wants Eleven gone, Dr. Owens is nowhere to be found, Eddie is dead, Jason was too far gone and dies as a result after a fight with Lucas, and Max is in a coma after almost being clinically killed by Vecna, who was not only the Mindflayer the whole time but who also proceeds to unleash a massive supernatural earthquake on Hawkins which devastates the town and kills countless people. Oh, and on top of all of that, at the end, Will senses Vecna as "snow" begins to fall in Hawkins, despite it being March and not that cold out... it's the Upside Down merging with the real world.
  • 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 Morality Kitchen Sink.
  • Bland-Name Product: Murray can be seen drinking "Slotichnaya" vodka a few times in Season 2. However, most products shown on the show are real, such as Schlitz beer. Come Season 3, many of the shops in Starcourt are real (though many of the companies have since folded), except the ones where sufficient action takes place.
  • Blended Family Drama: Played for Drama. Billy and Max are new stepsiblings through the marriage of Billy's father to Max's mother, but it's explicitly an unhealthy and unhappy dynamic. Not only are things strained from their move to a small town in Indiana, but Billy is controlling and verbally abusive to Max because his father is physically abusive, while Max's mother doesn't intervene...and that's before the Big Bad takes advantage of Billy's vulnerability.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead:
    • The main teenage/child characters in Season 3: Robin is blonde, Eleven and Nancy and Erica are brunettes, and Max is a redhead.
    • If counting just the older teens: Robin (Blonde), Nancy (Brunette), Barb (Redhead).
    • In the first part of Season 4, there is Robin (blonde) , Nancy (brunette) and Max (redhead) forming the Hawkins teen group with Steve, Dustin, Lucas and later Eddie.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The first season had its moments of violence and blood, but toed the line as to how graphic it could be and relied more on the Gory Discretion Shot. The second season ramps things up a little bit, particularly with the death of Bob, showing a pack of demodogs chewing on his corpse. The third season racks up the gore to TV-MA levels, involving humans melting into a blob of fluid, muscle and bone, as well as some very grisly deaths (one involving a character being literally mulched by a spinning drill machine). Of course, the opening scene of season four ups the ante yet again with the depiction of the aftermath of some sort of massacre at Hawkins Lab, seemingly at Eleven's hands, which leaves behind the blood soaked corpses of the majority of Eleven's "siblings".
  • Body Horror: The last few episodes of Season 3 are chock full of it. It starts with hundreds of rats contorting in agony before exploding into twitching blobs. By the end, an unknown number of still-living humans spontaneously dissolve into a soup of goo and body parts to form a mini Elditch Abomination. Looking closely at the final product will reveal specific parts, such as hands and bones.
  • 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!
    • The first and last episode of Season 1 both begin with the same "Pan from the Sky" Beginning shot from the night sky onto Hawkins Lab.
    • Season 3 begins and ends inside a Russian Black Site, with the opening scene showing their attempts to open their own doorway into the Upside Down. The Stinger shows that they were successful.
  • Bound and Gagged: Well, mostly Bound. Season 4 sees the entire female regular cast tied up at some point, two of them twice!
  • The Cassandra:
    • No one believes Joyce when she claims Will is alive. Justified, because she's talking to him through flickering lightbulbs and Christmas lights.
    • Nancy and Jonathan defy when they plan to expose Hawkins Lab due to the danger they wrought upon them earlier. They settle on a gas leak, far from reality but much more believable.
    • Even earlier, nobody believed Terry Ives that her daughter, Jane, was still alive.
    • In Season 3, nobody believes Nancy about the missing fertilizer, even before her boss gets Flayed and has a good reason for trying to shut down her operation.
  • 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.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In Season 4, a Freddy Krueger standee can be spotted at the video store that Steve and Robin work at, and a later episode has Dustin comparing Vecna to the character. Freddy's actor, Robert Englund, plays heavily scarred alleged murderer Victor Creel in a Casting Gag.
  • Central Theme:
    • Communication, secrecy, and how bad people are at sharing what they really mean compared to what they're actually saying. It's probably not that big of a coincidence that one of the main plot points of Season 1 is simply trying to find a means of communicating with Will while he's stuck in the Upside Down.
    • On a more general level, The Power of Love, friendship, and family, along with growing-up and maturity.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • 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.
    • Subverted with the hairspray as weapon in Season 3. We only see it as a sight gag in the first episode, when logic might dictate parts of the Mind Flayer could be fought with a Hairspray Flamethrower. It doesn't happen.
    • In the first episode of season 3, Dustin sets up a powerful radio in order to communicate with Suzie, his girlfriend in Utah. The radio is all but forgotten until the last episode, in which Dustin uses the radio to communicate with the rest of the teams, and even manages to finally talk to Suzie who helps the heroes.
    • In the finale of season 4, Hopper uses a sword like Conan to slice apart a Demogorgon in the prison "arena." This seems an unlikely weapon to be there until you remember the locker full of melee weapons introduced earlier in the season which the prisoners have access to only to make them more attractive targets for the hunt reflex of the Demogorgon.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Chief Hopper's police uniform is tan, since he's the police chief, whereas the other officers in Hawkins Police Department wear blue shirts and black pants. In season four, Officer Powell wears the tan uniform, indicating he's been promoted to police chief of Hawkins due to Hopper's apparent death at the end of season three.
  • Coming of Age Story: For the child characters, who begin the series as preteens and grow up and mature over the course of the story.
  • 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 happen 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, Will, 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 Hawkins 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.
    • In season three, quite a few plotlines move forward or converge just by the characters listening in on certain frequencies at very convenient times.
    • That Steve, Robin, Dustin and Erica learn about the Soviets in season 3 could only happen because they use radio that even an amateur could listen to and Robin, while certainly skilled with languages, whithout any training in Russian and in a low-quality radio recording being able to translate it.
  • 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, which even gets its own spot on the poster. Season 3 has Hopper steal a 1984 cream-yellow Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible with maroon interior and the license plate "TODFTHR."
  • 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 Power And Light" 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 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.
  • Damned By a Fool's Praise:
    • Ted Wheeler's Running Gag is that he's utterly clueless about what is going on around him, and in Season 2 he has a "Reagan/Bush '84" sign proudly displayed outside of his house. Gets more jarring when you consider that one of Reagan's most memorable quotes is: "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - and he implicitly trusted the government agents, because they were from the government and claimed to be there to help...
    • Bob is constantly shown to be a wholesome and boring guy in comparison to our edgier, hipper adolescents. Immediately after Jonathon says that Kenny Rogers sucks, Bob comes in to proclaim that he loves Kenny Rogers. Later, we see the Byers household watch Mr. Mom. Bob is laughing uproariously while the rest of the family looks bored.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Season 1 consisted of a singular monster and a Government Conspiracy. Season 2 consists of an army of them controlled by the Mind Flayer, the Greater-Scope Villain of Season 1, and some very brutal deaths, which is the result of the fallout from the above-mentioned conspiracy.
    • Season 3 similarly consists of the Flayer itself invading the world, as well as Russians infiltrating Hawkins for a desperate attempt to gain an edge over the Americans. The Flayer's invasion results in a multitude of deaths north of 2 dozen, including numerous children, most of them being assimilated into the monster as it almost kills a depowered Eleven.
    • Season 4 ups the darkness yet again with the violent on-screen massacre of numerous children and teenagers, a villain who is essentially a serial killer targeting traumatized people in a clear allegory for suicidal depression, and a Satanic Panic-inspired mob attempting to hunt down the heroes. And unlike Season 3, there's virtually no comic relief to offer a reprieve.
  • Darkness Equals Death: The monster's arrival is usually signaled by all nearby lights flickering rapidly and then turning off.
  • Dark Reprise: "When It's Cold I'd Like To Die" by Moby plays at the end of Season 1 as Joyce and Hopper find Will in the Upside Down seemingly already dead, but manage to resuscitate him. The song makes a return at the end of Season 4, once again over a scene of characters cradling their dying loved ones, but this time the dying characters don't make it—Eddie bleeds out in Dustin's arms and Max dies from internal injuries as Lucas holds her. While El is able to telekinetically restart Max's heart, it doesn't truly bring Max back, and she ends the season comatose and possibly braindead.
  • Dark World: The Upside Down, where Will is trapped for most of Season 1, and which is filled with toxic fog and covered in Meat Moss.
  • Death of a Child: Kids are absolutely not immune to the dangers of the show:
    • In the first season, teenage Barb is killed and her corpse is quite graphically shown later.
    • Subverted twice with preteen Will in Season 1. At the end of Episode 3, it appears that his body has been discovered and that he drowned after falling into the quarry, but the next episode reveals that the body was fake and Will is still alive. Then when Joyce and Hopper finally find him in the season finale, he isn't breathing and very likely was clinically dead, but Hopper is able to resuscitate him.
    • Season 3 shows that several children—the eldest being the teenaged Heather and the youngest clearly preteens—are shown to be among the people the Mind Flayer liquefies to create its new body, with Heather's body dissolving on screen.
    • The opening scene of Season 4 is the most brutal example of this trope yet, with the gory corpses of the other children that had been raised at Hawkins Lab littering the halls after being massacred by Henry Creel, a.k.a. 001. Several of the children look to be only 6 or 7 years old.
    • Season 4 shows multiple teenagers being graphically killed by Vecna aka Henry Creel mentioned right above, who psychically snaps their bones and crushes their skulls from the inside. The preteen Alice Creel was presumably killed the same way, though the audience is spared the actual event and just sees her partially obscured corpse lying on the floor afterwards.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Some due to taking place in the 1980s.
    • Bullying and casual homophobia, two things which are greatly looked down upon today, are generally treated as commonplace here. Robin is revealed to be a closeted homosexual who is very conflicted about coming out to Steve. His understated reaction is borderline Politically Correct History, but by that time he's already seen such extreme stuff that this is nothing by comparison.
    • There's a much more cavalier attitude toward smoking than in modern times. Joyce smokes around her kids, and Hopper smokes on the job when dealing with the public. He also smokes in a restaurant. Smoking in most public places wouldn't be outlawed until the late '90s, and smoking around your kids would be considered child abuse in most modern circles.
    • Nancy and Jonathan 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 other's houses regularly, are often out with fairly flimsy excuses, and in Season 2 they disappear for a lengthy period of time. 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.
    • The Season 3 premiere features a pool scene where middle-aged mothers are ogling Billy and Billy fat-shames a kid ("Lard Ass") in public and no adult attempts to step to the child's defense. Karen and her friends still find him attractive.
    • The tabloid news show references the Satanic Panic around Dungeons & Dragons that sprang up in the 1980s and is now considered quaint.
  • Denser and Wackier: The first two seasons stayed in a zone somewhere between the 80's output of Steven Spielberg sci-fi/fantasy and Stephen King horror. Season three broadens the tone to include a lot more comedy and other material not known for the small town setting.
    • There is increased luxuriating in the 80s setting, with a mall opening up and the characters spending time there as the Local Hangout or Burger Fool. This makes the costuming more blatant and the women (Karen in particular) sporting much more elaborate, brightly-colored hair, makeup, and outfits. Some extras look like they're attending an 80s-themed party.
    • The "Russians under the mall" plot is also a more cartoonish concept, taking cues more from 80's action movies complete with the uniforms and thick accents. Relatedly, Hopper develops a rivalry with a Russian enforcer who is presented almost like a Terminator.
    • One-note comedic characters like Murray and Erica are afforded much longer screen-time, appearing in multiple episodes.
    • Dustin and Suzie singing the theme tune from The Neverending Story in the manner of a musical interlude — pop-cultural touchstones were previously presented much more subtly.
  • Dirty Communists: The human antagonists of season 3 are Soviets who have secretly built a base underneath Hawkins. This being the '80s, there are a few lines calling them "commies" and extolling capitalism.
  • 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 Season 2 does imply that, with Brenner around, El's dad may be closer than first thought... In the prequel Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds, it's revealed that Brenner had him sent to Vietnam before she was born so he'd be out of the way, and he's killed there.
    • We never see Dustin's dad despite seeing his mom in Season 2 and Dustin's reference to "my parents" (apparently functioning as one unit) in Season 1.
  • 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 Season 2, Episode 6 that it takes a fairly hard turn away from this and into The Exorcist instead. This is ramped up in Season 3, as the Mind Flayer's dialogue before flaying his victims is very, very rapey in tone, not helped by the jerkish bully Billy being the one it speaks through as Billy crouches over the victim.
    • On a less creepy note, Eleven plopping out of the hole in the wall and into this world in "Trick or Treat, Freak" is reminiscent of a baby plopping out of the womb at birth.
    • Most of Dustin's attempts to take care of d'Artagnan over the course of Season 2 are reminiscent of people trying to take in exotic animals (i.e., Burmese pythons and wolves) as pets. Though thankfully, Dustin actually survives his pet's natural instincts.
    • In season three, Hawkins mayor Larry Kline is a rich douchebag and a Corrupt Politician sporting a blond coif and, after getting assaulted by Hopper, makeup that gives him a seemingly orange complexion. He flaunts his involvement in a massive construction project, the Starcourt Mall, in order to win votes and wraps himself in performative patriotism at the Fourth of July fair, but is actually in the pocket of Russian spies who are really behind that construction project. In short, he's a character who could easily be interpreted as a small-town composite of every criticism that has ever been leveled at President Donald Trump. Kline's actor Cary Elwes had to clarify that the character wasn't meant as a Take That! at Trump.
    • Returning to the uncomfortable undertone of sexual abuse in Will's ordeal with the Mind Flayer, there is, equally if not more disturbingly, Billy's abduction and assault of Heather. She's tied up and as she begs Billy, extremely scarily, as the Mind Flayer approaches her.
    • In season 4, Vecna is a clear allegory for mental illness and suicide. He specifically targets people who have some kind of personal trauma or other issues, causes them to have symptoms of depression, and induces terrifying hallucinations. Their horrific appearance when he kills them also alludes to what happens to people who end up jumping off of buildings or bridges.
  • Double Standard: In season 3, Billy is constantly ogled by much older women while on lifeguard duty. As far as we know, Billy is only 18. If a group of middle-aged men spent their time staring at a female lifeguard around Billy's age, it would be considered sexual harassment at worst and inappropriate at best. But because both Billy and Mrs. Wheeler are attractive, it's never looked at as creepy.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Used by Murray, Hopper and Joyce to infiltrate the secret Russian base in season 3. Made easier by the fact that Murray speaks perfect Russian. Somehow, nobody seems to notice either that there are bullet holes in the chest area of their uniforms, or that Joyce is female (even though there is not a single female guard ever seen on camera in the whole place). Justified in that the whole place is in chaos due to a security breach alarm, and people are shown just running past them without a second look since they are, after all, dressed just like all the other guards in the area.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Demogorgons had telekinesis in season 1, as the one that chased Will used it to unlock his door from the outside, and it appeared to drag a dead deer away with it. After that, we never see them use telekinesis. Season 4 attempts to retcon this somewhat by implying that [1] was the one responsible for those telekinetic actions.
    • Steve is seen smoking a few times in season 1, but never lights up at any point since.
    • When the Upside Down is first revealed to the main characters in Season 1, the scientists at Hawkins Laboratory note that the atmosphere there is toxic to humans, which is further shown in the form of Will's barely functioning state when he's finally rescued in the season finale. Subsequent seasons seem to ignore this, as Robin, Steve, Eddie and Dustin are capable of traversing through the realm without suffering any long-term consequences, and Henry Creel manages to live inside of it for years (albeit becoming a Humanoid Abomination in the process).
  • Easter Egg:
    • The Duffer Brothers are from Durham, North Carolina, and several references to that area are made: a lake near Hawkins is called Jordan Lake and a river the Eno River, Will disappears near Kerley and Cornwallis streets, Enzo's is a real restaurant there, and Murray fakes a phone signal as coming from Durham.
    • The phone numbers for Murray and Surfer Boy Pizza, which are mentioned within the show itself, are real numbers that can be dialed for some humorous messages from the characters.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: In Season 3, the base which the Russians are using to study the gate is large, expansive, and entirely underground Starcourt Mall.
  • Eldritch Location: The Upside-Down is an alternate dimension that mirrors Hawkins and the surrounding area, with everything being covered in grime and fleshy tendrils spawned by the entity known as the Mind Flayer, and populated by a hive-mind of monsters that serve as extensions of its will. Season 4 reveals that the Upside-Down is frozen in time on the day Will Byers was abducted by the Demogorgon, and that at the time Vecna was banished there it was a nightmarish hellscape.
    • Eddie compares it to Mordor in season 4.
  • Empty Bedroom Grieving:
    • 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.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Season 3 contains Content Warnings on each episode that it contains strobing light effects that may affect photosensitive viewers. Now they tell us...
  • 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. Season 3 brings Joyce and Hop into the mix, with even Alexei (who doesn't speak a word of English) being surprised that they aren't sleeping together.
  • Everytown, America: Hawkins, Indiana, an anonymous, small Midwestern town where nothing ever happens.
  • Evil Learns of Outside Context: Played for Horror. It's chilling to watch as the Mind Flayer, an entirely alien entity with initially no understanding of Earth, slowly gains more and more knowledge of human behaviour and the larger situation, employing increasingly intelligent tactics as a result. It's especially frightening when the creature figures out that El and The Party are its primary opposition, learning to single them out specifically and make the kids suffer. Subverted in Season 4, where it turns out that the Mind Flayer is a puppet of a human, Vecna, a.k.a. Henry Creel/One, the first of the psychic children raised by Dr. Brenner who was sent to the Upside Down by Eleven.
  • Expy:
    • The Season 1 teens greatly resemble the teen characters in The Goonies:
      • Like Andy, Nancy is a sweet, popular girl who gets thrust into the main plot and initially has trouble adjusting to the events that follow.
      • Barb is Nancy's best friend who tries to keep her head out of the clouds, just like Stef is to Andy. Barb's glasses and haircut only contribute to this resemblance.
      • Steve's casual douchebaggery (before his Character Development) is similar to that of Troy, the Jerk Jock whom Andy dates.
      • Jonathan somewhat resembles Brand: an offbeat older brother of one of the kids who tries to look out for them and ends up getting the girl.
    • In Season Three, Mayor Larry Kline, played by Cary Elwes, is very clearly based in part on Larry Vaughn from Jaws.
  • 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. Also Dustin's girlfriend in Season 3, Steve for Nancy in Season 1 (and it's implied that although Steve has had many girlfriends, his feelings for Nancy were much stronger, since he's still hung up on her in Season 3.).
  • 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 his deputies that a fall from the quarry 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.
    • In the last episode of Season 1, the D&D Monster of the Week is a Thessalhydra. Guess what Season 2's Big Bad resembles.
    • The boys are playing Dragon's Lair in the first episode of Season 2. Dustin loses, and Lucas smugly says that Princess Daphne is still his. Guess who gets together with Max.
    • In Season 1, 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 2, Joyce ends up using fire to drive the Mind Flayer out of Will after previous attempts to outsmart it went horribly wrong.
    • In the 1st episode of season 2, Murray theorizes that there will be a Russian invasion in Hawkins. In season 3, Russian soldiers try to open the gate underneath the Starcourt mall.
    • Dr. Sam Owens reveals to Nancy and Jonathan that he doesn't want the truth of the lab to be discovered because he thinks Russians will try to use the creatures from the Upside Down for themselves. At the end of season 3, it's revealed that Russian soldiers have obtained a Demogorgon and feed prisoners to it.
    • In the lab underneath Starcourt Mall, Erica briefly ponders about the size of the original Demogorgon after she catches sight of a large metal cage. In The Stinger, it's revealed that the Russian scientists running the lab have managed to either breed or capture a full-grown Demogorgon.
    • The tidbit after the Mind Flayer's rampage in the Season 3 finale, which mainly focuses on Satanic Panic due to the Dungeons & Dragons plays a major role in the next season, with the leader of the local Dungeons and Dragons club targeted as the one behind the mishaps throughout the series, and one of the Hawkins students flaring it up and causing Apocalypse How in Hawkins due to mistaken belief on the above.
    • In the first episode of season four, Eddie surprises the Hellfire Club with Vecna, who they believed they'd killed in an earlier session, as the final boss of the campaign. The same goes for the actual Vecna; Eleven thought she killed him when she threw him into the Upside Down, and Nancy believed she killed him when her group set him on fire and threw him through a window, but he's lived long enough to take the spot as the final boss of the show.
    • In the aftermath of a party in the second episode of Season 4, Jason banters with a hungover Lucas with a nod to his upcoming gruesome death in the season finale:
    "First hangover feels like you're gonna split in two, but you'll live."
    • In a teaser for season 4, Scenes of the Creel family moving into their new house and starting to experience the strange phenomena connected to the Upside-Down are shown before the party enter the abandoned house in the present, with Dustin quoting from Sherlock Holmes as to what kind of clues they're looking to discover that tie the family to the otherworldly realm. Said quote actually applies more to the viewers, as the Creel's son, Henry Creel, is revealed to eventually be the human form of Vecca, and his banishment into the Upside-Down by Eleven resulted in him warping it into the eldritch and terrifying realm it became, meaning that the teaser is showing the origins of the Greater Scope Villian of the show.
    Dustin: The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.
    • The teaser also ends with the glass pane on the clock cracking at four different spots, which intersect in the clock face's centre and cause the glass to violently shatter, which foreshadows Vecna's ultimately succeeding in his goals of sacrificing four different teenagers at different points around Hawkins, the site of their murders gaining 'cracks' that become portals into the upside down. Upon Max's (temporary) death, the cracks then split and flow together into the centre of Hawkins, and the season ends with the Upside-Down starting to merge with Earth, the barrier between both realms having been broken.
    • To those who know D&D lore, it might seem odd that what the kids call the Mind Flayer is the Big Bad, while what they call Vecna is seemingly unrelated threat or merely the Mind Flayer's general, since Vecna is a much bigger threat, even attaining godhood, than the average illthid. The finale of Season 4 reveals that Vecna is not the Mind Flayer's servant, the Mind Flayer is Vecna's servant.
  • For Want of a Nail: Billy resisting the Mind Flayer when he has his vision of attacking Karen seems like an innocuous Pet the Dog moment on the surface, but has far more serious implications in context of the rest of season 3, that prevented the Mind Flayer from winning right from the very beginning:
    • Flaying Karen would enable the Mind Flayer to possess the entire Wheeler family. Especially Mike.
    • Flaying Mike would in turn have given the Mind Flayer direct access to Eleven, and killing or possessing El was its biggest priority.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Each season tends to divide its story between several groups of characters.
    • In the first two seasons the Myth Arc became more apparent as the characters get deeper and deeper into the situation, resulting in Two Lines, No Waiting as the mystery is being solved and the relationship between these plotlines is made clear.
    • The third season opens with a Russian black site managing to crack a hole back to the Upside Down and Billy being snagged by the Mind Flayer. This left very few mysteries to be unraveled, as the audience knows for several episodes that Joyce and Hopper's investigation into fridge magnets, Steve and Dustin overhearing Russian Spy Speak at the mall, Nancy and Jonathan looking into rabid rats and the other kids confronting Billy are all connected; all the while these different groups don't fully intersect until the last episode.
    • Season Four pushes it a step further by having six simultaneous storylinesnote . They start merging with each other to varying degrees in the last three episodes and even so, all the main characters remain split in at least three groups, separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, until the epilogue.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Part of Season 2. In an attempt to get justice for Barb, and give her family some closure. They can't just say that Hawkins was performing experiments that caused them to open a tunnel into an alternate dimension, unleashing a monster into our world that devoured Barb. Instead, they frame Hawkins for a toxic chemical leak, telling everyone Barb was killed by it and they disposed of her body to cover it up.
  • Friend Versus Lover:
    • One of the big conflicts of Season 1 is Eleven unwittingly getting in the way of Mike and Lucas' friendship.
    • Two plays on this in Season 3:
      • Will feels left out because Mike and Lucas both have girlfriends, and spend a lot of time and energy on them (or getting back together with them), while Dustin is immersed in his own subplot (which started because he'd built a radio to talk to his girlfriend in Utah he'd met at science camp).
      • Mike (lover) and Max (friend) clash over El's activities and boundaries. Max calls out Mike for being too controlling, while he thinks she's being too lenient with El's abilities.
  • 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. By Season 3, the kids are all old enough that no one seems to pay attention or care that they're out all hours of the night and have the entire group in the house at 6am.
  • 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.

    G-L 
  • Gas Leak Cover Up: In each season.
    • Season 1: Hawkins Lab hide their involvement in the disappearance of Will, and their own earlier attempt at covering up Will's death, by claiming he was found a few miles outside of Hawkins & the body found was another boy who disappeared years earlier - a story Hopper corroborates as part of the agreement he made so they would let him venture into the Upside Down to find Will.
    • Season 2: Nancy & Jonathan turn this against Hawkins Lab, as they attempt to use a recorded confession of the lab's part in the death of Barb Holland a year earlier. With the help of Murray Bauman, the two teens water down the truth of the events to hide the less believable elements, but maintain Hawkins Lab's culpability.
    • Season 3: The U.S. Government attributes the deaths of Hopper & the Mind Flayer's victims to the fire that destroyed Starcourt Mall. However, Mayor Kline is still held accountable for his part of the disaster and subsequently winds up being removed from office & arrested, and Hawkins becomes the focal point of various conspiracy theories as the various cover-ups start piling.
    • Season 4: The destruction caused by Vecna's portals is blamed on an earthquake. However, due to the Satanic Panic hysteria, many townsfolk believe Eddie Munson is somehow responsible for the incident.
  • 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. Happens to Joyce through most of Season 1—it's particularly egregious when Hawkins Lab fakes Will's death but Joyce knows he's still alive.
  • Genre Mashup: The show never quite settles on one particular genre, with the overall cause of the craziness explained alternatively between real science, super science, supernatural powers and Conversational Troping, with each given some credence. And underlying it all can often be a traditional Coming of Age story like Stand by Me. Generally, the creators square away any discrepancies by assigning different groups of characters a particular genre, as discussed under Genre Roulette, only to bring them all together by the end.
  • Genre Roulette: Switches between horror, sci-fi, and conspiracy thriller, with a generous helping of teen romantic comedies. 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.
    • Switched up yet again in the third season. Nancy and Jonathan take on a more horror-ridden storyline once more. Steve and Dustin's group, and then Joyce and Hopper, handle different elements of the conspiracy surrounding Starcourt Mall. Mike, Eleven, Max, Will, and Lucas are thrust into a teen-drama, which begins to take the thriller/horror path after a few episodes.
    • Hopper, Joyce, and Murray remain in the conspiracy track in season 4. The conventional horror is handled by the Hawkins teens, while Eleven is dealing with sci-fi. Meanwhile Will, Mike, Jonathan, and Argyle find themselves in a road trip movie.
  • 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.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: In season three, Dustin claims to have a girlfriend that lives in Utah. Most of the other characters believe she isn't real. She is.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: It was already bad when the facility was torturing children to spy on the Soviet Union, 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.
    • Subverted in an interesting way in Season 2. When Nancy and Jonathan are investigating the lab, Dr. Owens has them brought in, but instead of keeping them prisoner or threatening them ... he does the opposite. He is completely honest and open with them, explaining exactly what happened in Season 1, and what they are now trying to do to deal with the still-present problem (the problem is a lot worse than shown, but Owens doesn't know this), and then lets them go. They still go ahead and blow the lid off things (albeit with a Gas Leak Cover Up story), but it's notable that he takes this approach.
  • Grand Finale: Season 5 will be the final season of Stranger Things.
  • Guns Are Useless:
    • Played very straight throughout the show; close-range submachine gun fire seems to do no damage at all to either the Demogorgon or the demodogs. But somehow Steve's nail-studded baseball bat is highly effective.
    • Played straight again in Season 3, where the shotgun that Nancy wields against the Mind Flayer seems to do very little, if anything at all.
    • Played straight again in Season 4, as the Russian guards with their guns do exactly zilch against the enraged Demogorgon and the Demodogs, and Vecna himself, even after taking 3 shotguns to the chest, escapes the Creel house and enacts his vengeance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Many fans of The X-Files 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 Her actual abilities are more like Carrie, though.
    • 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. In fact, the actor who played the protagonist in The Goonies has a major supporting role in Season 2.
    • 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 later film) The Mist - it even involves a character going out while attached by a line or cable, the line getting violently thrown around, and nothing on the end once it is reeled in.
    • 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.
    • The theme music is a homage to the band Tangerine Dream circa 1980. Tangerine Dream themselves have embraced the homage, and have covered the theme song.
    • Grigori the hitman in Season 3 is one to The Terminator.
    • The music at the end of S3E6, played during the "zombie march" and end titles, is a homage to Philip Glass, particularly his well-known soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi.
    • A lot of this in Season 3 for Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978). Part of the Mind Flayer's plot to take over Hawkins.
    • Steve's bat twirl is lifted from Willie "Pops" Stargell. Stargell played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1962-1982 when that team was a perennial title contender. With Indiana having no professional baseball teams, it is likely Steve was either a fan of the Cincinnati Reds from neighboring Ohio (who were division rivals of the Pirates and in the middle of their "Big Red Machine" dynasty during Steve's youth) or the Pirates themselves. Either way, Steve had ample opportunities to see Stargell and absorb Stargell's bat twirl.
    • In yet another Stephen King-related example, Season 4's main plot seems to be heavily inspired by King's It. Both feature a monstrous Big Bad who kills children by feeding on their fears and lives in a spooky old house.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: While the supernatural entities in the show are definitely monstrous, the humans are typically just as bad and often enable the supernatural evil, either deliberately or inadvertently:
    • The whole reason the creatures from the Upside Down are even aware of the humans' reality is because of the lab's experimentation on Eleven, who was the first to discover the Upside Down and was forced to make contact with it to satisfy Brenner's scientific curiosity.
    • In Season 4, Vecna specifically preys on traumatized people, with the majority of his targets being the victims of abuse inflicted by other humans.
    • Most of the supernatural monsters on the show are mere animals acting on instinct or under the control of the Mind Flayer. The human villains have no such excuse—they bully, abuse, torture, and kill other humans of their own free will.
    • A common theme is a Big Bad Duumvirate between a terrifying supernatural presence and a human monster, with both being presented as equally threatening:
      • In Season 1, whatever kidnapped Will Byers (monster) and Eleven's "Papa" (human).
      • In Season 2, the Mind Flayer and the violent, sociopathic Big Brother Bully, Billy. The finale even involves them both needing to be defeated by the Party.
      • Zig-zagged by Season 3, where the Big Bad is the possessed Billy who straddles the line between human and monster.
      • Zig-zagged again in Season 4, where the supernatural Big Bad Vecna is actually Henry Creel a.k.a. 001, a psychic human who is seemingly the Big Bad behind all the supernatural monsters on the show, there are multiple major human antagonists (Jason, Lt. Col. Sullivan, and Dr. Brenner), and practically the entire population of Hawkins turns on the main characters after being whipped into a Satanic Panic frenzy. However, the belief that humanity is inherently evil is explicitly portrayed as wrong, seeing as it's Vecna's motivation for wanting to wipe out the human race.
  • Iconic Sequel Character:
    • In Season 2: Max, Billy and Dr. Owens are introduced in the second season premiere. Erica, Lucas's sister, is introduced in chapter 2 as a bit character, but will become iconic in later seasons.
    • In Season 3: Robin, Steve's co-worker and future Best Friend, is introduced here.
    • In Season 4: Eddie Munson and Argyle are introduced and quickly tied to the supernatural plot. So does Vecna, the Big Bad of the season who is the true villain of the show.
  • 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 Only Works Once: In the second season finale, in order to free Will from the influence of the Mind Flayer they lock him in Hopper's cabin and turn the heat up to sweltering levels, as puppets of the Mind Flayer prefer cooler temperatures. Will's body goes insane, breaking his bonds and almost overpowering Joyce before finally burning out of his body. In the third season, the characters realize that Billy was similarly possessed by the Mind Flayer, and try a similar tactic tricking him into a sauna and even have Eleven with them as muscle. Billy, however, is naturally bigger and stronger than the adolescent Will, which made the process take longer, and being enhanced by the Mind Flayer made him a threat even to Eleven, which allowed him to escape. This was a sign that the growing Mind Flayer army was both especially dangerous and there weren't going to be easy solutions.
  • It's Always Spring: All of the trees still have their leaves as late as November.
    • The second episode of Season 2 has a scene where El hides from the cops in the woods at night which was clearly shot during summer since all the leaves are freshly green.
    • It's most pronounced in the Season 2 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.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The first season has the adult, teen, and child characters each investigating the strange happenings in Hawkins, Indiana. The opening mysteries of Will Byers' disappearance, Eleven, a secret government laboratory, and the Demogorgon all tie together by the season finale.
  • 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.
  • 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 exorcise the Mind Flayer out of Will. And a visually spectacular version in Season 3 when the party uses a cart full of fireworks to attack the Mind Flayer's earthly form.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Pretty much any promotional material involving season 2 and onwards will spoil the fact that the boy that disappeared in the first episode is not only returned alive and well, he's a series regular.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Steve and Robin spends almost all of Season 3 in their goofy Scoops Ahoy! sailor uniforms. Justified as they're at work for the first half of the season and wind up trapped in the Russian base for most of the rest.
  • 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.
  • Long-Distance Relationship:
    • Dustin lives in Hawkins, IN while his summer camp girlfriend Suzie lives in Salt Lake City, UT. They communicate mostly over the phone.
    • The Byers adopt Eleven and move from Hawkins to Lenora Hills, CA at the end of season three, resulting in two relationships conducted across state lines:
      • Nancy and Jonathan's relationship is strained by the distance, with both disappointed in the other for not being together during spring break. In addition, Jonathan doesn't want to go to college with her but hasn't yet told her that.
      • Eleven and Mike continuously wrote to each other through the school year, but she was lying about how happy she was while he was not as affectionate or open with her in writing as she wanted, resulting in a blowup during their reunion.
  • 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.

    M-R 
  • Magnetic Plot Device: The Hawkins Lab experiments is the ultimate source of every problem in the series, although it continues after they cease operations and even become more friendly with the protagonists. Their efforts exploring the Upside Down is what breached the barrier, more specifically Eleven's psychic powers. That one event triggered later problems, and in season three it's specifically said that the Russians HAD to re-open the barrier in Hawkins because it was weaker in an area it was previously breached.
  • The Mall: A big part of Season 3 is the new Starcourt Mall, where the kids and teens of Hawkins now like to spend time. Attention is drawn to how it threatens local businesses, and it is actually the aboveground cover for a Soviet Elaborate Underground Base. In the season finale the battle with the Mind Flayer's flesh avatar utterly wrecks Starcourt, with the government covering up its destruction as a fire that claimed the Mind Flayer's victims.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: The show is partially influenced by the works of Stephen King, so this is to be expected. The first season centers around a group of preteen boys who attempt to locate their missing friend, and from then on it quickly spirals into a supernatural horror series that deals with the kids having to face Eldritch Abominations, as well as more mundane horrors, such as some of their peers being nearly as dangerous as the monsters. The later seasons ramp up the mature content; season 2 features Will clearly traumatized while routinely being possessed by the Mind Flayer, and season 3 gets quite a bit Bloodier and Gorier.
  • Meat Moss: Seems to be prevalent in both the Upside Down and around its portals.
  • Mid-Season Twist:
    • Season 1: Hopper breaks into Hawkins Lab, and Jonathan discovers the Demogorgon.
    • Season 2: The Mind Flayer takes over Will, and Dustin's pet is a baby Demogorgon.
    • Season 3: The Mind Flayer possessing Billy throws off the Party's exorcism attempt, and almost kills all of them.
    • Season 4: The finale of Volume 1 - the friendly Orderly is the true culprit of the Hawkins Lab massacre, as well as being One, Brenner's very first experiment of psychic children, and also Henry Creel, who murdered his mother and sister and let his father take the blame. In the present day, as Vecna subjects Nancy into a trance and explains his background to her, the camera zooms in to his wrist, showing his One tattoo.
  • Mind Rape: One of the most common effects of the monsters. The Mind Flayer does this to Will in Season 1, as Season 2 uncomfortably reveals, and Billy in Season 3. Billy then does something very similar to Heather, who then assists him in doing it to her own parents.
  • 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.
    • In Season 3, rats chewing up an old woman's bags of fertilizer eventually leads to the realization that an Eldritch Abomination is assembling itself underneath the town, and fridge magnets losing their magnetism leads to the discovery of a secret Russian base hidden beneath the Starcourt Mall.
  • 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.
    • 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 concerning for children, too. Now imagine at least thirty different people having to cope with this due to the Mind Flayer's Assimilation Plot.
  • Monster Delay:
    • The show makes fantastic use of this trope. The Demogorgon isn't clearly seen until very late in the first season. It's quite fitting, given the show's prominent Spielberg influence.
    • Largely abandoned by Season 3, where we are regularly treated to shots of the forming monster as soon as episode 4.
    • Completely abandoned in Season 4, when glimpses of Vecna appear as early as episode 1.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: The show's multifaceted topics make it appeal to adults and kids alike.
  • 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 (namely, firing a rock from his "Wrist Rocket" into its sensitive mouth), but Eleven comes to and takes on the Demogorgon personally before we see how that would have gone.
  • New Weird: Between the Upside Down, the Demogorgon, the Mind Flayer, and the Russian plot, there is a lot in this series that falls outside the traditional bounds of Science Fiction. And as of Season 3, none of it has explained, allowing the series to maintain an air of mystery and incomprehensibility.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Although the government officials in Season 2 are far 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. Then there's the whistle blowing. Jonathan and Nancy release a news story that gets the government evicted from the lab entirely. Unfortunately, the guys they kicked out were the more ethical teams. This left a security vacuum and allowed Russia to setup a presence in the area. While the 2nd government team wasn't perfect, at least they weren't inclined to kill the main characters. Although slightly Downplayed by the massive Demogorgon invasion on the Hawkins Lab, implying it was to be closed up soon anyway even if Jonathan and Nancy didn't expose the Lab.
    • It turns out the entire series is the result of this: hadn't Eleven removed the Restraining Bolt keeping One weak, he possibly couldn't have enacted the massacre at the Hawkins Lab or even been able to influence the Mind Flayer into helping him.
  • 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, a secluded government facility that was an integral part of the top-secret "Manhattan Project" that developed the first atomic bombs during World War II. The nearby Y-12 facility 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. Adding to the similarity, in 1988 the nearby town of Oak Ridge opened an indoor shopping mall after investment from an unscrupulous land development company. Soviet involvement has not been confirmed.
    • 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.
  • 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 AM/FM 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.
    • Season 4 episode "The Hellfire Club" uses "California Dreamin'" for a montage - not the original The Mamas & the Papas version from the 60s that most viewers would recognize, but a Cover Version by The Beach Boys; Their version was a modest hit in 1986, the year the season was set in, but is now largely forgotten.
  • 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.
  • Outdated Outfit: Scenes set in the early 1980s often show some characters dressed in clothing that was more in fashion during the 1970s, from plaid skirts to longer skirts to collared blouses. In one episode, there is a girl with '80s Hair, yet wears a long skirt. This is partly due to those characters simply dressing in outdated fashions and partly because some communities, such as small towns in the Midwest, were slower to adopt new fashion trends.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: By Season 3, the machinations of the Upside Down and Hawkins Lab (and the Soviets) have taken the lives of 16-year-old Barb Holland, 18-year-old Billy, and at least one child (who was flayed) and all have left behind grieving parents (except maybe Neil) who will never know the exact causes of the deaths.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Pretty much all of the parents beside Joyce are completely unaware of the supernatural happenings of Hawkins. Special mention goes to Ted and Karen Wheeler, however, who are so oblivious that they fail to realize Mike is hiding Eleven in their basement. The only reason they even find out is because the Lab tracks Eleven down to the Wheelers house, and even then Ted and Karen only learn because Brenner decided it would be better to talk to them to see what they know (which was absolutely nothing).
  • Percussive Maintenance: Yuri employs this tactic to fix his plane.
  • 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.
  • Placid Plane of Ankle-Deep Water: When using ESP, Eleven enters a pitch-black void containing a thin layer of water, herself, and the thing she is looking for, regardless of if it is on another continent or in another dimension.
  • 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 subverted 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.
    • In season three:
      • Hopper and Joyce are off investigating Starcourt Mall and don't realize that their kids could be in trouble until just before the climax.
      • Dustin is removed from the rest of the party's plot because he becomes preoccupied with his own Russian code-cracking, and later becomes trapped in the Russian base.
      • On the other hand, Nancy and Jonathan are quick to contact the Party when they realize something regarding the Mind Flayer — which the kids were also investigating — is afoot. At the same time, when the Party confirms that the Mind Flayer is back, they immediately try to alert Hopper, only to discover that he and Joyce are together and currently unreachable. Once Nancy and Jonathan come to check to see that Will is okay, the Party share what they know with the two older teens, and vice versa.
  • 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: Although the show doesn't shy away from cursing, the word "fuck" is used extremely sparingly:
  • 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: that's more plausible as their albums had been issued stateside and the band was a critical favorite, but they never made an impact outside of UK and Europe.
    • The kids are in possession of posters for The Thing. While contemporary reception to the movie views it as a beloved classic, it was commercially and critically massacred upon release and almost cratered the career of John Carpenter. Given how immensely unpopular the movie was among even dedicated sci-fi and horror fans at the time, it's extremely unlikely that genre-savvy teens would proudly hold onto this memorabilia in 1983.
    • 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.
    • In Season 2, Hopper goes hunting the Demodogs with an M4 carbine, introduced in 1994. His rifle also has a quad rail forend attachment, which wasn't introduced until around 2000.
    • Although they cut it very close, the Demogorgon figurine used in the first episode was first sold only one month after the beginning of the series.
    • Max labels the party as "stalkers," for following her around. This use of the word wouldn't come about until the early 1990s.
    • The school buses have white tops. This practice (which keeps the interior much cooler) didn't start until the early 1990s, and didn't become common until the 2000s. 1980s school buses were yellow all over.
    • Planck's constant (to six digits) is given as 6.62607, which is the modern value established in 2014. In 1985, scientists had set the value at 6.62617.
    • When Billy is introduced in "MADMAX", Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" plays in the background. Though this is historically accurate (the song was released in 1984, the same year the season was set), the version used in the show is a 2011 re-recording, possibly due to licensing issues.
    • The partial glimpse of Chicago's skyline in "The Lost Sister" is that of the present day. The iconic Crain Communications Building was completed in 1983 and is accurate, but a newer sign on One Prudential Plaza is seen, as well as buildings that had not yet been built, such as Two Prudential Plaza.
  • 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). At times it even seems like the show is parodying the amount of product placement from the eighties.
    • Eggo brand toaster waffles are Eleven's Trademark Favorite Food. However, Hopper frequently admonishes her for eating too many Eggos and not "real food." Eggos experienced a significant boost in sales in the weeks following both the Season 1 and Season 2 premiere, and even allowed the repurposing of an old Eggos commercial during the 2017 Super Bowl to promote Season 2 of the show.
    • 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 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.
    • Season 3's Starcourt Mall is full of these. The Gap, Burger King, Orange Julius, and Taco Bell to name some.
    • Hopper goes out for Burger King and carries a bag in his mouth, putting the logo in center frame.
    • Hopper, Joyce, Murray and Alexei visit a 7-11 for supplies, where Alexei falls in love with Slurpees. He forces Hopper to return to 7-11 for another one.
    • The penultimate episode of Season 3, "The Bite," even has a small notice at the start saying "this program contains product placement," and does indeed have a scene in the supermarket where Lucas drinks a can of New Coke and expounds at length about how good it tastes. The other kids vehemently disagree. This is all a playful reference to how unpopular the new flavor was at the time. Coca-Cola re-released the original New Coke as a limited edition tie-in to promote the show's Season 3 premiere on the 4th of July, in period-accurate packaging and with the original name.
    • In season 4, Yuri the Soviet bootlegger smuggles several American products to his motherland, especially Jif peanut butter: we see boxes upon boxes of it, and everyone (both Russians and Americans) seems to enjoy it a lot. In the season finale, we get another close look at the brand when Robin's crush Vickie holds a Jif jar up to the camera.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Season 2 promoted Joe Keery (Steve Harrington) and Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Season 3 promoted Priah Ferguson (Erica Sinclair) and Season 4 promoted Brett Gelman (Murray Bauman).
  • 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. It's later revealed all the psychic children are actually Brenner's attempts to control Henry's powers, the original psychic child.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Eleven gets them when she uses her powers, so she gets them a lot. It's revealed that this is true for others with powers — Kali gets them and so does Terry Ives when communicating with Jane. By season 3, people start getting worried about Eleven's health after she's been using her powers a lot. In one scene, a large pile of blood-stained tissues establishes that she's been using her powers continuously for some time.
  • 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, and they become an Official Couple come Season 3.
    • Dustin and Suzie. Although nobody thinks she's real, she actually turns out to be.
  • 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.
  • Red Herring:
    • A lot of attention in Season 2 is given over to teasing Max and Billy's Mysterious Past and their reasons for leaving California. Could it be linked to the conspiracy, and is Max another super-powered child? No, it doesn't seem so. Both Max and Billy's pasts seem to have been mundanely abusive rather than supernaturally so. Their pasts are further explained in a tie in novel.
    • Dustin puts a dead Demodog in the fridge at the end of Season 2, probably both as a trophy and a way to experiment on it, since he has a scientific attitude. It ends being forgotten there and never mentioned again.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: For the rest of Season 1, the boys can't stop talking about how Eleven flipped over a van with her mind.
  • 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.
  • Rewatch Bonus: When Mike blurts out that he loves El in "E Pluribus Unum", most of the other characters appear some mix of shocked and amused, while Will, who has spent the season annoyed by his friends' preoccupation with romance, ignores the outburst and stares at the floor. Rewatching the scene after Season 4 confirms that Will has feelings for Mike, it's apparent that Will is actually upset and trying to hide his face so no one notices.
    • The Mind Flayer speaking through Billy to Eleven in the same episode could also be this in light of the Season 4 finale: Vecna is behind the Mind Flayer, and has a very personal grudge against her due to sending him to the Upside Down and wants to kill all humans due to supposedly interfering in its natural order.
  • 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. It becomes a Running Gag of ever new visitors raising their eyebrows at the sight. 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.
    • In Season 3, Nancy is constantly barging into the darkroom while Jonathan is developing photos, to his frustration.

    S-Y 
  • Science Fantasy: Broadly speaking the series is presented as sci-fi, drawing aesthetic inspirations from 80's alien horro movies. However, there is a very strong thematic connection to Dungeons & Dragons, and as the series goes on it engulfs more fantasy tabletop tropes. Ultimately, neither the Upside Down (which the pitch bible claims has strict rules, which in the season 4 finale work very much like ritual magic) nor the psychic powers (which ultimately stem from a single person born with them) are fully explained in scientific terms.
  • Science Is Bad: Played With. Mr. Clarke tells the boys 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 (exemplified by the shady goings-on at Hawkins and its consequences), and the wondrous world of scientific pursuit (exemplified by the boys' passion for science).
  • 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.
    • Season 4 reveals that at least one evil from our world had been sealed by Eleven in the Upside Down
  • Seen It All: After the events of the first season, all the main characters more or less accept the unnatural events going on in Hawkins without question. Steve in particular just rolls with everything weird going toward him after surviving the Demogorgon in the first season finale. In Season 2, after Dustin learns that his pet Dart is a juvenile Demogorgon, Steve asks if he's sure Dart isn't a lizard. After Dustin tells Steve that Dart's face opened like a flower and ate his cat, Steve just pauses with a look on his face that says "okay, that probably isn't a lizard". In Season 3, after learning about the Mind Flayer's physical body in the real world, he reviews the facts, with a tone that is less incredulous, and more just wanting to make sure that he has all the facts straight. He even slightly chides Robin to "try and keep up" when she expresses surprise about Eleven's powers, as if it's totally normal for a girl to have powers.
    • This trope is likely why Steve is so accepting of Robin being lesbian despite the homophobic nature of the setting. After all learning that is nowhere near the "weirdest" thing to ever happen to him.
    • In Season 4, Mike, Will, and Jonathan bury a dead man in the desert very calmly while a friend of Jonathan's loudly freaks out.
  • Sequel Escalation: With regards to the horrors faced — Season 1 has the cast face off against the antagonistic Hawkins Lab and a single Demogorgon.
    • Come Season 2, the main villain is apparently the Eldritch Abomination ruling the Upside Down and has multiple Demogorgons as Mooks, with the main characters having to stop it from mounting a full-scale invasion of their dimension.
    • In Season 3, the Eldrith Abomination kidnaps, mind controls and ultimately liquefies dozens of people to help build itself a physical body in the real world. There also turns out to be a secret Russian base underneath the new mall, staffed by an army of elite soldiers and undercover agents who will stop at nothing to make sure their research, which is the cause for the Eldritch Abomination coming back, is seen through to its fullest potential.
    • Then in Season 4, we learn that another psychic like Eleven was banished to the Upside Down by Eleven herself, and is not only equally as powerful (if not more so), they have been behind everything happening in the first three seasons and are in the process of breaking down the barrier between our reality and the Upside Down.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • At the end of the first season, a few loose ends remain:
      • Eleven pulls a Heroic Sacrifice, but her death isn't confirmed. Hopper and Mike are on the lookout for signs of her return. Hopper appears to be leaving food out in the forest for her.
      • Will vomits up a worm-like creature and has a flash of the Upside Down.
      • Hopper is approached by The Men in Black, but since he is still working as the town's chief of police after that, it seems he's managed to cut some kind of a deal with them.
    • 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.
    • In Season 3:
      • In The Stinger, the Russian Black Site's occupants include an "American", and a live, full-grown demogorgon.
      • Additionally, very few of the hooks from Season 2 are resolved in Season 3; the Mind Flayer is presumably still perfectly fine in the Upside-Down (and likely more pissed-off than ever), and Kali and potentially Dr. Brenner are still out there. The bit of the Mind Flayer that was exorcised from Will may have been destroyed when the new gate was sealed and its body was killed, but even that isn't confirmed; it persisted without a body and without a connection to the Upside-Down between seasons 2 and 3, after all.
    • While Season 4 starts to tie up the above loose ends namely the status of Dr. Brenner and the Mind Flayer more loose ends appear.
      • Eleven might have stopped Max from physically dying, but she can no longer delve into their mind either.
      • Dr. Owens is last seen shackled to a wall, it is unknown if he survives the massacre or even frees himself.
      • Vecna survives despite being set on fire and the Upside-Down is starting to merge with normal Hawkins.
      • Kali's whereabouts is still unknown.
  • Series Continuity Error: Will's birthday was established to be March 22nd in Season 2, but Season 4 later has an episode take place on March 22nd with no mention of it being Will's birthday, which the Duffers admitted was because they forgot about it.
  • 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.
    • A Season 3 episode uses a shopping mall as a plot point. The scene was filmed in the largely-abandoned Gwinnett Place Mall in suburban Atlanta, which actually was built in the mid-80s. Storefronts were retrofitted to period-accurate recreations of popular mall tenants of the day, even some chains that are no longer in existence.
    • Scenes set during the night of July 4, 1985 in season 3 frequently include the Moon - which is at the correct phase.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: The series breaks from its usual Two Lines, No Waiting storytelling 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.
  • Soviet Superscience: Somehow, a group of Russian scientists is able to create a device that can tear holes leading to the Upside Down, with the implied goal being to weaponize its inhabitants.
  • 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.
  • Spotting the Thread: The main cast is very, VERY good at this, and it's essentially what drives the plot in a number of cases. Almost every new revelation the Party uncovers about Hawkins's supernatural events originates from a character having a small hunch or noticing that something doesn't quite add up.
    • The kids tend to make wild hypotheses about the Upside Down's various rules and operations (e.g. Will's possession, the Mind Flayer's powers and minions, Vecna's origins) which, despite usually being blind assumptions based on a single encounter, are almost always correct.
    • Most of the Party's "puzzle" sequences (Joyce's infamous Christmas lights, Robin decoding the Russian transmission, and Nancy piecing together Max's Vecna drawings to form the Creel house, to name a few) also qualify.
    • Discussed by Nancy in Season 4 when following her lead about Victor Creel: she has no reason to believe he's linked to the Vecna killings, and only checks up on it because of her interview with Wayne Munson. Robin says as much:
    • Hopper and Joyce, who spend most of their time in the government conspiracy "genre" of the story, are also very quick to notice when something seems fishy or when they're being bullshitted.
    • Even Erica, the main cast member with arguably the least involvement in the plot, makes a handful of casual yet important observations that prove relevant to the Party (much to Dustin's surprise).
  • Stacked Characters Poster: The first three seasons have posters with the main characters stacked up in a column.
  • 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.
    • The "Starcourt Mall" trailer for Season 3 is designed to look like a hokey 1980s-era advertising pitch for the titular mall, complete with a brief Bad "Bad Acting" cameo from Steve and his co-worker Robin at the ice-cream parlour they work at ("...Ahoy.").
    • The Hard Copy-like tabloid news show in the Season 3 finale is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio, with grainy video quality and cheesy production value.
    • The tie-in "workout" video starring Karen is easily this, looking like a worn-out VHS with a fading film quality and creepy special effects.
  • Suburban Gothic: A number of bizarre and dangerous supernatural events take hold over Hawkins stemming from the nearby lab.
  • Superdickery: The fourth season opens with a scene heavily implying that Eleven massacred her fellow test subjects prior to getting her memory wiped by Doctor Brenner. Later episodes in the season reveal that One was the person who actually committed the massacre, and that Brenner arrived on the scene just moments after Eleven destroyed One and sent him into the Upside-Down.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The boys, particularly Lucas, are initially reluctant to look for Will or keep Eleven's secret and need to be talked into it by Mike.
    • Relatedly, the boys angrily insisting that the government agents will have to get through them first to reclaim Eleven in "The Upside Down" has the agents just easily pick them up and move them away since they are only kids.
    • Despite the Ship Tease that's been developing between Jonathan and Nancy over Season 1, she chooses to stay with Steve in the Season 1 finale. Though the wish-fulfillment conventions of the genre would have her go with Jonathan, from her standpoint it makes sense: she already has a sexy boyfriend who dumped his friends and then risked his life for her, so why give that up for a rather emotionally uncommunicative guy whose only close relationship has been with his little brother? This becomes Subverted in Season 2 when they do get together, but after Character Development.
    • As shown in "MADMAX," even a year after the events of Season 1 Will is still struggling with PTSD from his trauma in the Upside Down. And to a lesser extent, Joyce herself is still trying to get over her own trauma from that whole ordeal.
    • Nancy's attempts at Drowning My Sorrows in "Trick Or Treat, Freak" only result in her becoming a moody Jerkass and in no way help her feel better over her part in the death of her best friend Barb and subsequent cover-up of same. In fact, it actually serves as part of the impetus for her break-up with Steve later on in the season.
    • Downplayed with d'Artagan, Dustin's "pet pollywog" (which turns out to be a juvenile Demogorgon). While it's still a wild animal and Dustin quickly realizes that it's very dangerous for him to be around it (what with it eating his mom's favorite pet cat and all), the creature still never directly attacks him and even lets him pass due to him having taken care of it. As it turns out, wild animals do not make good pets.
    • Discussed and then Exploited by Murray Baumann when Jonathan and Nancy come to him to expose the laboratory in Hawkins. If he gives newspapers the completely unedited version of what happened in Season 1, it will be too unbelievable, the government will barely have to do any work to destroy it, and nothing will happen. As such, he comes to the conclusion that the most logical option is to fight fire with fire, exploiting the nature of this trope by giving a realistic version of what happened. As such, his official story is that Barb died in a gas leak of some sort.
    • Then there's season 3, where season 2's implications come home to roost. Getting rid of the government presence allows Russia to set up a hostile presence in the area to conduct their own experiments. Joyce suffers from wicked PTSD and mourning for losing Bob. Mike and Eleven's relationship goes through teen drama. The Upside Down ups its game, becoming more virus-like and aggressive.
    • Also in Season 3, Nancy's Intrepid Reporter shenanigans get her and Jonathan fired from their internships at the paper. Even if Nancy was ultimately proven correct and there was some supernatural stuff going down, it doesn't change the fact that, in her pursuit of the story, she did a lot of very illegal things and opened the paper up to a potential lawsuit.
    • Season 3: Will is constantly trying to make the group play their usual Dungeon & Dragons games. However, as Mike points out to him, they're growing up and becoming more interested in girls than games. Also, given that they have confronted supernatural stuff twice by this point, is pretty evident that they are starting to hate D&D.
    • Zig-Zagged in Season 4: In "Vecna's Curse" Angela and her friends target Eleven with a cruel prank, embarrassing her in front of Mike and everyone; she retaliates by smashing Angela's face with a rollerskate, and is arrested by the police for this in "The Monster and the Superhero". However, Dr. Owens later tells Eleven he can make the charges "go away."
    • In "The Nina Project", Murray and Joyce are held captive by Russian smuggler Yuri on a plane, allowing them to knock over a crate of peanut butter jars (since he can't hear them over the engine) and use some of the broken glass to cut themselves free. However, cutting ropes with broken glass takes a long time and he simply looks behind him and catches them in the act. The zigzag part comes when Murray, a karate black belt who admits he has only ever sparred with teenagers, overpowers the gun-toting Yuri with relative ease.
    • Also in season 4, Robin and Nancy get into a psychiatric hospital using fake papers and identities, lie about being students sent by a real professor, and then use an elaborate sob story to get the staff to break protocol and let them speak to high security patient Victor Creel, alone. This works for about ten minutes, which is the time it took for the hospital's director to call said professor, who immediately shoots down the whole story. He's understandably upset, and calls the police on the girls. Then subverted, when Robin and Nancy manage to outrun hospital security while wearing heels, reach their car, and drive away. So far, they haven't been caught by police and they have faced no legal consequences.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security:
    • Despite spending no doubt millions on their underground lair, the Soviets fail to put an additional guard or security camera on the cargo bay door and its corridor. This allows the Scoops Troop to enter it.
    • Despite the fact that the base is very secret, nobody bothers to check Hopper, Joyce, or Murray's credentials.
  • Teens Are Short: Played straight with Nancy and her parents (and somewhat with Barb and her father, as Barb and her mother are tall women but Mr. Holland is a giant of a man) and justified in the case of some of the younger kids as they are growing in real-time. Naturally this is defied by Season 3 where both Jonathon and Will are taller than Joyce (played by the petite Winona Ryder)and Cara Buono (Karen Wheeler) has highlighted the difference in height between her and Finn Wolfard (Mike Wheeler).
  • 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.
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier:
    • When Eleven opens a portal into the Upside Down, several of these are created elsewhere, such as in the Byers' house.
    • In Season 3, it is revealed that only Hawkins has a barrier weak enough to easily open without supernatural aid.
    • At the end of Season 4, Vecna has damaged the barrier so badly that Hawkins and the Upside Down are either bleeding into each other, or outright merging.
  • 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.
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: There's great concern over the new mall in Hawkings pushing older, more established local business out. Modern viewers will know that malls have been slowly dying out for many years.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Apparently there's no justice or sense of proportion in the world of Stranger Things, hence why purely good characters like Barb and Bob are unfairly killed off.
  • Totally Radical: A Running Gag in Season 2 from Dustin and Lucas: "Totally tubular!"
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for part 2 of season 4 has several shots of Nancy, which spoils that said character survives the peril part 1 puts them through.
  • 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.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The show juggles multiple plotlines in each season, with slightly different character groupings in each before getting everyone together by the end.
  • The Unmasqued World: By the end of Season 4 the Upside Down has breached into Hawkins by way of Vecna's ritual; a massive X-shaped fissure has cracked into the town and caused devastation on the scale of a 7.8 Richter earthquake, and the particles that float in the air of the Upside Down have started to fall like ash into the surrounding area, causing the plantlife it falls on to start withering like all of the foliage in the Upside Down. There is no degree of government cover-up that is going to be able to hide this.
  • 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.
  • Weirdness Magnet: A news report seen at the end of the third season states that various conspiracy theories have started treating the town of Hawkins as such, due to the events of the series starting to pile up.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Troy and James, despite their presence as bullies in season 1, don't return for Season 2. Whatever 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.
      • The Bully, a tie-in comic, revealed that Troy moved during the events of season 2, but James is still in Hawkins.
    • The Byers family dog disappeared after season 1. He was removed from the show after his barking kept disrupting filming and David Harbour demanded he be removed. There was supposed to be a scene that showed that the dog died in-between seasons 1 and 2, but it was cut.
    • 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.
    • Apart from a single brief mention, nothing is said of Kali and her gang after they flee near the end of Season 2.
    • The possibility presented in Season 2 that Dr. Brenner is alive is not brought up even once in Season 3. It's however addressed in Season 4, proving that he's still alive.
    • Plenty of it at the end of Season 4: the fate of Dr. Owens and Lt. Sullivan is not addressed after the party leaves the laboratory, and, while it's implied they left Russia safely (since Hopper and Joyce managed to come back), there's no mention at all of Murray, Dmitri and Yuri at the end of the final episode.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Hawkins is located in the fictional Roane County somewhere in Indiana, but where in Indiana precisely is never specified. The tie-in novel Suspicious Minds indicates that it's close to Bloomington, where the protagonists live and go to school, as they take regular day trips to Hawkins National Laboratory to participate in MKUltra experiments. Various comments made on the show also indicate that it's close to the Illinois border. The mobile game lampshades it if you choose to look at a map, with the player character stating that they can't find Hawkins on it.
  • White Void Room: Inverted. Eleven is able to enter a dimension that resembles a Black Void Room, invoking Chiaroscuro and Under the Skin.
  • 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).
  • Working with the Ex: Steve and Nancy break up in Season 2, but work together in Season 4 as part of the group in Hawkins investigating Vecna. Lingering glances and comments by other characters indicate that there are still some unresolved feelings between them.
  • World of Snark: Everyone in Hawkins seems to have a knack for making snarky comments.
  • You Have to Believe Me!:
    • Joyce's whole demeanor in Season 1 about Will's "disappearance" and death, and then in Season 3 about the magnetism.
    • Nancy struggles to convince anyone at the Hawkins Post about what she and Jonathan witnessed.
  • Youthful Freckles: (In order of appearance) Mike, Barb, Max, and Robin (at the end of Season 3 especially) all seem to possess a few sprinkles on their complexions and are all very young.

Alternative Title(s): Stranger Things 2, Stranger Things 3, Stranger Things 4, Stranger Things 5

Top

Stranger Things (2016)

The funeral of Will Byers.

How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MeaningfulFuneral

Media sources:

Report