THE SHOW: Stranger Things
THE PAIRING: Eleven and Mike
THE EPISODE: Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT: Mike asks Eleven to the Snow Ball and kisses her in a moment of innocent, first love. Later, Eleven makes the ultimate sacrifice to save him.
Time Travel does exist! Just watch the new Netflix series, Stranger Things and you’ll understand. Not since the ‘80s and ‘90s has young adolescent romance been captured with such depth, innocence, and sincere emotion, proving that this coming of age motif still has some legs in movies and television today. You know, kids actually acting like kids instead of adults.
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Stranger Things is a breath of fresh air in the world of television and a much-needed break from the other modern entertainment we consume. If you haven’t seen Stranger Things and used to believe in the magic of movies and imagination, then this eight-part new series from Netflix is a must see. The series actually takes place in the 1980’s and is a clear homage to early Steven Spielberg and Stephen King movies. It’s part The Goonies, part E.T., part ‘80s horror, even part John Hughes. Winona Ryder also stars giving an award-worthy performance.
Rather than subvert into vulgarity and crudities amongst middle-school aged boys, the writers/directors, (twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer) instead opted to embrace adventure, romance, and genuine scares.
Stranger Things ultimately proves that adolescent first love in the realm of My Girl, Now and Then, and well, all those eighties movies, can still be handled with care and even nostalgia. Both older kids and adults will appreciate the young love story between Eleven and Mike – whether from looking to the past with an air of nostalgia or simply relating to it (depending on your age). The Duffer Brothers refrain from being condescending and instead embrace the intelligence of pre-teens. That is a rare quality in writing. Not only that, they were able to find young actors who could actually act and were able to bring out some of the best young performances I’ve seen in years. No cutesy acting here.
Stranger Things tells the story of a small, idyllic Indiana town in the 1980’s where nothing bad ever seems to happen. That is until Will Byers (a young boy) disappears one night. Will’s mother, a couple teens, the sheriff, and Will’s three best friends each begin a journey to find a way to save him. The boys cross paths with a young telekinetic girl named Eleven who helps them, but with the government and a supernatural monster fighting against them all, will they succeed?
THE BUILD UP – ELEVEN AND MIKE (MAJOR SPOILERS)
The three boys are central to the plot, most notably Mike Wheeler – the clear leader of the group. It’s Mike who really decides to take Eleven in after they find her lost in the woods. She escaped a government facility that experimented on her since she was born so she doesn’t understand normal human things. Nor has she ever really had anyone genuinely care for and love her. Mike decides to change all that when he hides her in his family’s basement. The two grow inseparable as they become “true” friends who “don’t lie” to each other.
Not since the ‘80s and ‘90s has young adolescent romance been captured with such depth, innocence, and sincere emotion, proving that this coming of age motif still has some legs in movies and television today.
With her supernatural ability, Eleven (or El as Mike decides to call her) saves Mike a few times from the severe bullying he has to face at school further cementing their growing friendship. This friendship develops into actual romantic feelings for Mike. The hint of first love. He will do anything for her and she will do anything for him.
Part of that includes fighting the Demogorgon (what the boys nicknamed it) – the supernatural monster threatening the town as well as doing anything to find Will who they believe is in The Upside Down (an alternate version of the regular world).
By the final episode, the government has figured out Mike and his friends have been hiding Eleven and they want her back. Mike, Eleven, and the boys hide out at the school while the “bad” guys look for them – which brings us to the romantic moment; a sweet scene between Eleven and Mike.
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT – ELEVEN AND MIKE
Sitting alone in a classroom together, Eleven and Mike talk about the future. Mike believes everything will soon be over and El will no longer need to hide. He’s convinced his parents will give her a real bed and she can have real, home cooked food instead of “Eggos” (her favorite) and leftovers. She’ll have a new family with parents and an older sister (his sister Nancy).
“Will you be like my brother?” El asks.
Realizing the mistake in his choice of words, he reacts quickly. “What? No. No.”
Still, she doesn’t understand why he doesn’t want to be like a new brother to her. Mike weakly explains that it’s just different but won’t go into specifics. So, El reminds him that “friends don’t lie.”
With a sigh, Mike confesses what he’s really been thinking with an innocent declaration and whiff of a question:
“I was thinking…I don’t know…maybe we can go to the Snow Ball together.”
“Snow Ball?” El asks.
“It’s this cheesy school dance, where you go in the gym and dance to the music and stuff,” Mike explains. “I’ve never been, but I know you’re not supposed to go with your sister.”
Mike continues to ramble as he finds a way to reveal his feelings. “I mean, you can, but it’d be really weird.”
All the time, El watches and listens with an intense curiosity to understand.
“You go to school dances with someone that, you know…someone that you like,” Mike finally admits.
“A friend?” El asks him.
“Not a friend…Uh…uh…someone like a [he pauses as he thinks of a way to clarify his meaning]…
With some ‘80s inspired sweeping music, Mike then gathers up his courage and kisses Eleven.
The two pull apart, each with a smile on their face.
The moment is broken, however, when the bad guys arrive. El and the boys try to escape but with the monster and the bad guys both after them, they find themselves in serious trouble. Thankfully, El is able to protect everyone from the bad guys when she uses her powers to kill a bunch of them. This, unfortunately, attracts the monster to them – which then kills the majority of the rest of the bad guys – including the main “bad man.”
Weakened from using her powers, the boys carry Eleven into a classroom, where they find themselves trapped.
Mike, sweet as ever, attempts to comfort El in her weakened state. He, once again, refers to the future. Now that the main “bad man” is gone, everything will soon be over. He talks about a bed for her and all the Eggos she could want. He adds, “And we can go to the Snow Ball.”
“Promise?” she asks.
The monster finds them and breaks into the classroom. They attempt to fight him but the monster is just too strong. And just as they are about to lose, Eleven steps in using her powers to save them.
Mike tries to stop her but she pushes him away with her telekinesis. She approaches the monster and stands directly in front of him.
El, our Little Mermaid if you will, can dream of the normal life, but instead she must suffer (her powers causing her to bleed) and then sacrifice her own happiness for the ones she loves. El turns to face Mike with a knowing but sad glance.
The realization hits Mike as the truth of what she’s doing sinks in. His eyes are filled with tears but there’s nothing he can do.
Eleven turns back to face the monster and uses all of her strength and powers until the monster (and her) seem to obliterate into ash.
Still, could Eleven have survived? Is she in The Upside Down protecting the town from more monsters? In the end, the Sheriff is found leaving Eggos for someone in a hidden spot. So it seems likely! But, we’ll have to wait till season 2 to see if Eleven and Mike will able to go to a school dance together!
Have you watched Stranger Things yet? How brilliant do you think it is? What did you think of the young love between Eleven and Mike? Let me know in the comments!
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