On his way home from a friend’s house, young Will sees something terrifying. Nearby, a sinister secret lurks in the depths of a government lab.
Travel back to the ’80s with the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana, who think they’re living in a pretty normal town. The nerdy kids play Dungeons and Dragons, the popular kids have ridiculous hair, the sheriff would rather be anywhere else, and the single mother is maybe a little bit crazy. When kids start going missing, however, and a strange young girl appears—seemingly out of nowhere—disparate groups in Hawkins begin to realize that something is amiss, and they’ll all have to work together to save their town.
Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers
As someone who grew up watching Winona play a teenager, it was a little bizarre to see her play a mom. But I guess life goes on, as much as we might not want it to, and it was fitting for her to find a bit of a renaissance thanks to a role in a show filled with 80s references. She’s also super great at playing a little bit crazy with a whole lot of heart, which we know from roles like Susanna in Girl, Interrupted.
Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner
For most of Matthew’s scenes, I was too distracted by his amazing coif to compare Dr. Brenner to other characters I’ve seen him portray.
Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler
I honestly don’t know Cara from Adam Karen, but according to her IMDB page, she’s been in a lot of popular shows, including Mad Men (which i didn’t watch), Third Watch (which I didn’t watch), and The Sopranos (which—you guessed it—I didn’t watch).
David Harbour as Sheriff Jim Hopper
I didn’t recognize David, either, regardless of his pretty extensive filmography. But I have to give him props for creating the most surprising character in Stranger Things. I totally assumed that Hopper was a stereotypical terrible sheriff-type, and I was pleasantly surprised by the end of the first season.
Chris Sullivan as Benny Hammond
Benny isn’t in many episodes, but he’s just as sweet as Chris is as Toby on This is Us.
Shannon Purser as Barb Holland
Shannon wouldn’t have been a familiar face, but thanks to watching this way (way) after most of the rest of the world, I knew her first as Ethel Muggs on Riverdale. Both characters are kind of sidekick types, but they have intriguing stories that I hope the showrunners of both shows spend time investigating. And I can’t wait to see Shannon step into some main character roles.
Couch-Sharing Capability: High, Particularly if Your Guests Were Born in the 80s
Half of the fun—maybe more than half if you’ve seen the show before—is figuring out all of the pop culture references and Easter eggs. So sit down prepared to flex your trivia night muscles, and see who can come up with the most by the end of the season’s eight episodes.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Coffee Drinks
One of the best lines in the entire series is Hopper’s “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.” And there are plenty of coffee drinks, both alcoholic and non, that would be appropriate for drinking while watching Stranger Things. But be careful with the caffeine—I’d hate to add to the jitters you might already have from the creepy nature of the show.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Catch Up
My husband and I didn’t watch Stranger Things until last month, and we somehow avoided most of the major spoilers for a show that was filled with twists and turns. If you can say the same, now’s a great time to see what all of the fuss is about, considering the show’s second season premieres Oct. 31. It’s also a perfect time of year for a sort of sinister mystery and unknown monsters. (Because Halloween, if that wasn’t clear.)