It was the sleeper breakthrough series of 2016, and in short order, the Netflix gem “Stranger Things,” with its tales of the Upside Down, has become a pop culture legend. That popularity was sealed recently with the record-setting Season 3 premiere, which reached more than 40 million households.
Netflix celebrated Nielsen tabulations for the first four days of its Season 3 launch – of 19.7 million viewers, which is more people than this year’s Women’s World Cup.
Set in the 1980s, “Stranger Things” follows the teen angsts of four best friends in the fictional town Hawkins, Indiana, and their mission of finding one member of the group when he mysteriously goes missing. With the look and feel of 80s science fiction vehicles like “The Thing,” “Back to the Future,” “Ghostbusters” and even a bit of “Poltergeist” – “Stranger Things” found a home with a surprising number of D.C.’s Black Con fans.
“The show has been a blast to watch from the start, especially since the Duffer brothers [the twin creators Matt and Ross Duffer], made sure to include a diverse cast that look like the guys I grew up with in Northwest,” fan Sean King told The Informer. “We were those kids riding our bikes through Rock Creek Park and hanging out at the arcade, so I can relate to it – especially since we always thought that there were hidden tunnels under the city where aliens or ghosts lived. The writing is superb.”
King is not alone. In fact, scriptwriter Shawn Levy told Entertainment Weekly that when his executive vice president, Dan Cohen, first brought him the pilot script for “Stranger Things,” “he said, ‘It’s by these twin brothers no one’s ever heard of and it may be the best pilot I’ve ever read.’”
For those interested in binge-watching the series, the premise is pretty tight. Four best buddies find that an alternate dimension known as the Upside Down exists beneath their town, after one of the crew disappears into it. A nearby laboratory conducting paranormal research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, inadvertently opens a portal to the Upside Down, setting off the chain events that lead to the kids’ adventures. Eventually, a young girl with telekinesis who has escaped the laboratory finds her way into the crew as well. No spoilers. [You will have to watch the show to get the rest!]
Southeast resident and “Stranger Things” fan Salencia Irby said she was drawn to the show when she spotted the African American member of the crew, Lucas Sinclair, portrayed by actor Caleb McLaughlin.
“I love the character Lucas. He is brave and adventurous and operates outside of the stereotypical young, Black teen image. His character has been written as the type of young, handsome, brilliant Black boy that I grew up with and who we need to see more of onscreen,” Irby said. “He runs into the fray and he stands his ground and tries to protect others – unlike that weird kid someone threw into the last ‘Jurassic Park’ film who screamed and twitched every two minutes.”
McLaughlin, too, said that he has enjoyed the role and the growth of his character.
“He’s changed a lot, for sure. I feel like Lucas has become more mature. He faces his problems differently; he faces battles differently. He deals with them on a mature, more poised level,” McLaughlin said. “I feel like he knows who he is as a person, and he knows what he can do. He thinks he’s a man and it kind of shows in Season 3. He’s on the cusp of puberty and has a girlfriend now, so of course, he wants his appearance and his outfit choices to be a little bit better.”
McLaughlin, along with Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Gaetano Matarazzo III (Dustin Henderson), Sadie Sink (Maxine “Max” Mayfield), and Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) are currently gearing up for Season 4, even as viewers dive into Season 3. They offer no teasers or hints to the future of the Upside Down. They do, however, expect to continue to keep viewers fastened firmly to their seats.