Like any popular thing, the Netflix original horror series Stranger Things received smug backlash from guys in Xtro shirts quick to remind you that a The Thing poster does not an atmosphere make. And while, yeah, a great deal of affection for the show emerged from its vision of an eerie, Spielbergian ’80s, that doesn’t mean the storytelling played second fiddle. In fact, the show was one of the better told genre stories to emerge on modern television.
Video essayist Karsten Runquist agrees, and his new video touches on the show’s deft touch with character development, namely in its pilot episode.
Using what he calls “the character bounce effect” as a lens, Runquist outlines how the Duffer brothers quickly and efficiently establish the defining traits of each character without having to delve into expository information or weepy monologues. By his definition, the character bounce effect imbues each introductory scene with a touch of subtle discord that serves to establish each character’s approach to conflict, which in turn helps establish character and perspective. It’s a common means of character development, but Runquist does a fine job of distilling it into a consumable and practical trick.
The essay also serves as a fine primer for the second season, reintroducing each character for those who haven’t watched the show since it first aired. The pre-release teasers and posters have been promising something bigger, freakier, and more Lovecraftian, and, while that’s exciting, here’s hoping character doesn’t get lost in the mix.