I have two extremely minor critiques of Stranger Things, and one real “I hope they do better” critique. First, the minor ones.
- There is a profound inability of bad guys with guns to do much of anything effective (other than shooting Brenner from a helicopter with a sniper rifle, and the guard-dudes inside the house that one time). But a whole bevy of cops can’t stop a measly van from driving away, or shoot anyone inside, or shoot anyone hiding behind it (when Eleven is with 008)? A whole defensive unit of Russian soldiers with machine guns also can’t stop a van, or even a snowmobile, from driving away? This is just unrealistic to the extreme. Not one tire blown out? Not one engine disabled? Not one person wounded? The cops never think of shooting the people’s legs underneath the van? No, everyone just shoots, and shoots, and shoots, and misses.
Of course, this IS standard Hollywood fare, in which good guys, as long as they keep moving, can be magically missed by machine gun strafing which would, in reality, tear them apart in two seconds. But in even greater defence of Stranger Things, this is also, I hope anyway, yet another homage to Star Wars, in which the Storm Troopers are hilariously incapable of shooting, well, ANYTHING.
Reminds me of a joke I heard recently — what would happen if a Stormtrooper from Star Wars, and a “red shirt” from Star Trek, had a gun fight?
The Stormtrooper would miss every shot. But the red shirt would die anyway….
So ya, ok. But still, the whole Action Star Runs (or drives) Through A Hail of Bullets Unscathed trope, is getting kinda old…. But I can forgive them. Especially because….Jim. I mean, sheeeeiiiiitttttt man. Jim is a god.
2) My second minor critique of Stranger Things is that there are several times when the bad guys know where the kids are, and instead of chasing them, just let them get away. Or, they send in far too little firepower to make a difference.
Like, Brenner’s people showing up at the school with a handful of people and guns? To take down Eleven? Brenner knew her power much better than that. What, did he think she wasn’t going to waste everybody, exactly like she did? Hmmm…
Or like, at The War Zone, when Jason and the football dudes find Nancy, and instead of following the RV, just let them go? And then go back to their utterly futile search for EXACTLY THOSE PEOPLE? This is the single best lead they had, Mike’s bloody sister, mysteriously driving away in an RV, and they never bothered to follow them, see where they went, see if anyone else was inside? That just doesn’t make sense.
Similarly with the military dude at the Nina project, watching the Pizza van drive away. He didn’t have a walkie talkie, or some kind of military communications equipment, with which call in some back-up? The US military is incapable of getting to the middle of the desert faster than the Pizza van can drive away and hide? ….Granted, maybe he was having second thoughts after Eleven trashed his helicopter and jeeps. But still. He basically just shrugged and gave up. No back-up. No putting out an APB to apprehend them. Just, “Oh well…..bye bye Pizza van, with our most potent super-weapon inside….”
But yeah, ok, whatever, so the Bad Guys had some dumb moments. I find these sorts of plot holes drive me crazy in stories, but I get it; it’s tough to write a good plot, and the Stranger Things peeps certainly have written a good plot. I guess they can be forgiven for glossing over some complexities in order to keep the story going.
But why is Henry/Vecna SO evil?
The biggest unexplored ‘hole’ in the show, which would be SO COOL to unpack, is why Henry is so evil in the first place. Like, he’s a mega-scale psycho, right from when he was a kid. Are we just supposed to assume he was born that way? Victor Kreel talks about him being “sensitive”, and so, it seems we are either supposed to assume he was genetically psychotic, or that his sensitive nature caused him to get possessed by the demonic power in the Upside Down? Either are, of course, possible, but not very satisfying. I mean sure, sensitive people are more likely to get possessed by evil spirits…maybe. And sure, truly psychopathic murderers do, sometimes, seem to be that way from birth, like they’re born with some missing biological empathy/compassion circuitry or something. (Although this is by no means the norm; usually there are developmental contributors.) So, okayyyyyyy, “Henry is pure evil”. I guess that’s what we’re supposed to believe?
I think a much better backstory would capitalize on the universal psychological truth (and indeed, much broader universal truth of system organization), that “your strengths are your weaknesses”.
In this case, Henry’s strength is clearly that he is psychic; he can read minds. Imagine for a moment, how this would, developmentally speaking, become a HUGE weakness, a source of profound, mind-fucky trauma.
Just imagine, a young child, a cute little toddler with near-zero understanding of the world around him, and the inborn need all children have, to feel safe and secure in the world, a safety and security which is pretty much 100% dependent on the adults around them.
But this child is, tragically, able to read the actual, uncensored adult minds around him. He would read his father’s mind filled with war trauma and violence. He’d read his parents’ (and other adults’) sexual urges and x-rated memories. He would read people’s fantasies and fetishes and deep, dark secrets. He would read people’s hate and prejudices. He would read all the lies and disingenuousness around him. With no maturity or life experience to guide him, he would get marinated, right from the beginning, in all the darkness of the human psyche, a darkness which takes the rest of us our entire lives to figure out how to deal with.
THIS would be deeply traumatizing to little Henry. And furthermore, just to rub salt in this psychic wound, he would have his sister’s mind as a comparison, and would read her child-like, naive, blissful innocence, untroubled by the darkness he couldn’t help but perceive in everyone he met.
Clearly, that would make him ‘weird’, withdrawn, introverted, and ultimately rejected, avoided, and judged, by the people around him, most notably his own family. He would know that people, who he already would see as filled with darkness, then became frustrated with him, judgemental, thinking he was weird, disliking him, being afraid of him. No wonder he identified so strongly with spiders, who, so far as I know anyway, don’t care about such complexities, but straightforwardly just like to eat flies.
Now THAT would be a satisfying backstory, rather than some “innately evil” story, which thus far, it seems we are being told.
So, writers of Stranger Things, there’s an idea for you….(Unless they thought of this already, which I guess we’ll find out, in Season 5).
Well, I hope you enjoyed this! When Season 5 comes out, I will either write a blog post laughing at how idiotically wrong this all turned out to be……or, I’ll write one that just says, “Yep.”
In any case, my evaluation of the show?