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stories vs soap operas and why Stranger Things is imho completely excellent

a story is a human thing that by definition has a beginning, middle, end. it is a thing that happens during a life. the life existed before the story and continues to exist once the story ends. “i found five dollars.” there’s your life before the five dollars and your life after the five dollars, but the interesting part of your life that you want to tell someone is that you found five dollars. that’s the story. “check it out, here is something that happened to me…”

soap operas, tho, are a different thing: they never end. they keep trickling on and on. there is no clear line for where the story started and where it ends because life IS the story, all of it, like the way toddlers tell stories, and then, and then, and then. some people like this kind of narrative. but it can be frustrating for the people hoping for a story.

this imho has been the major pitfall of the last ~20yrs of prestige drama television, starting with The Sopranos. The fucking things never fucking end. about four seasons in you say to yourself “i hope they know where they are going with this.” sometimes (Breaking Bad) the writers are able to salvage it and wrap it up and put a bird on it and you can look back and say “that was a good story.” other times (Lost, Battlestar Galactica) they fuck us straight in the eyeholes.

so i’ve been avoiding starting new prestige dramas that sweet-talk thru a really good first two seasons then abuse your time and corrupt your judgment for literally years.

until, that is, Stranger Things. Stranger Things is different.

“season 1” of Stranger Things (which is a “season” in the same sense that Lemonade is an “album” and the thing in my pocket is a “telephone”) is a story. beginning, middle, end. the end. you can watch it, walk away, tell your friends. civilization as we know it could end tomorrow and we will never once say to each other “it is too bad we will never learn what happens in season 2 of Stranger Things.” this is a gift. the Duffer Brothers (if that is indeed their/its real name) have given us the gift of prestige television story telling without the soap opera emotional abuse.

of course you could do a sequel to Stranger Things and call it “season 2” but regardless of its goodness or badness, we will always have that first, complete, beautiful, thrilling, completely excellent story, with all its mysteries solved, all misunderstandings explained, the monster defeated, the enemies destroyed, the friends reunited, everyone changed. that’s a beautiful story and it didn’t even take ~60hrs of my life, only like eight.

The Brothers Duffer are obvs not the first to do this. The Wire is a clear early example, True Detectives a good more recent one. but the whole prestige tv genre has felt lost and wandering since the end of Mad Men and wind-down of Game of Thrones.

so i’m calling it. Stranger Things is the way forward. let’s go.