The search for Will Byers and the discovery of Eleven sets the stage perfectly in Stranger Things’ first episode. This friendship is the forever kind and that’s partly why this episode works so well because it establishes strong bonds from day one. There is a sense of understanding between Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) that easily exudes trust. They’re the kids who are bullied by others, they’re the kids who are looked down upon, but they’re the kids who will always be loyal to one another.
They are also the kids who are scared. The kids who are hesitant. The kids who have no idea what they are doing, but trust stands at the forefront of their bond even while they are unsure.
And that’s what happens when they realize that Will’s missing, they take the risk to run out into the woods by themselves because they don’t trust anyone else to care as much as they would. They don’t trust anyone else to be as steadfast in their loyalty especially the adults who don’t always listen to them.
It’s up to them. It becomes very clear from day one that there is nothing they wouldn’t do for each other, and there’s nothing they would not do to protect each other.
It sets the stage for a lot, but more than anything it shows us that this is a series about friendship, and it proves to be the case three years down the line. Stranger Things is a series that cements loyalty beautifully and even amongst the adults, these kids stand as the shining example of it.
“The Demogorgon, it got me.” Though in a game, Will sacrifices himself for his friends and that’s what very boldly and gorgeously sets up the fact that not only is he a kid worth fighting for, but he’s a kid who’s going to keep fighting for his friends. The pure, unyielding selflessness between all of them is the very anchor of the series and it’s the very thing that grips us into its world.
And where Will is nowhere to be seen, Eleven is there. Eleven. Eleven. Eleven! How is a single character so easy to adore from the first moment she graces our screens?
Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven is everything and more and it starts from the realization that there’s so much more to her that we have yet to discover. It starts with Benny feeding her burgers and the unbridled, pure thrill in her expression as she layers the character masterfully at such a young age. Eleven has been through a tremendous amount we don’t quite know of yet, but that’s easy to see from the first moment we meet her.
And when the team finally finds her? It shows the audience that she’s going to part of this adventure because something about her is just like them. A lost kid. A kid who doesn’t fit in. A kid who’s also searching for something. A scene like this in the pilot episode is always a fascinating way to start.