"Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers" is the premiere episode of Stranger Things' first season as well as the first episode of the entire series. It was written and directed by the Duffer Brothers and premiered on Netflix on July 15, 2016. All episodes were premiered at this date.
On November 6, 1983, in a US Department of Energy-backed Hawkins National Laboratory, a man in a lab coat runs down a dark hallway, then frantically pushes buttons for an elevator. When the elevator arrives, the man seems to be safe, but then something growls above him. As the doors close, the man is pulled up in the elevator by a mysterious force.
Meanwhile, four middle schoolers, Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson, Lucas Sinclair, and Will Byers, play Dungeons & Dragons in Mike's basement. The four boys want to play a while longer, as they have just encountered the fearsome Demogorgon, but Mike's mother insists it's time for them to go home. While Will and Dustin are riding their bikes home, they decide to race so that if Will wins, he gets one of Dustin's comic books. As Will pushes ahead, he rides onto Mirkwood, which is near Hawkins National Laboratory. He is frightened by a mysterious figure in the middle of the road and crashes his bike.Will hears something in the distance, which frightens him and sends him running home. However, the mysterious creature chases him. He tries to call for help, but the phone is not working. As the creature breaks in through his front door, Will runs and hides in a shed in the backyard of his house. He shakily loads a gun to fend off whatever is coming for him. The shed's dangling light bulb begins to flicker; a growl is heard, and Will disappears.
The next morning, Will's mother, Joyce, and his older brother, Jonathan, are unable to find him. Joyce calls Mike's house to see if Will stayed there, but is told that he left to go home the night before.
At school, Mike, Dustin and Lucas are unconcerned that they haven't seen Will yet. They have a run in with bullies before heading to class. Nancy makes out with Steve in the bathroom and they make plans to meet up later.
Joyce hurries to the Police Chief Jim Hopper for help with finding her son. Hawkins is a quiet, sleepy town, which causes Chief Hopper to question Joyce's claims. Hopper's first instinct is to question her ex-husband Lonny, and states that 99% of the time when a kid is missing they are with another parent or relative. Joyce insists Will wouldn't run away to him, and questions where the kids are in the other 1% of the time.
At the Hawkins National Laboratory, a team suits up in protective clothing and enters a wind under Quarantine. They examine some sort of biomatter splattered over the walls.
At school, the boys are excited by their teacher showing them a new HAM radio. Hopper interrupts to question them about Will's whereabouts. He tells them to go straight home after school and to not go biking around looking for Will.
Flashback: Joyce is in the woods at Castle Byers surprising Will with tickets to see [Poltergeist]. He tells her he won't get nightmares, he isn't scared like that anymore. In the present time, Joyce and Jonathon are at the Fort looking for Will.
Back at Benny's Burgers, Benny feeds the girl and attempts to make conversation, but she keeps quiet. The girl has a tattoo of the number 011 on her arm, and tells Benny that 11 is her name. Benny steps away to make a phone call to child services; he thinks 11 has been abused and needs help. 11 is annoyed by a noisy fan. She stops it from moving with her mind.
Hopper and a team of Law enforcement are out on the road where Will crashed his bike. They find it, tipped over and abandoned, in the woods.
Joyce tries to call her ex husband, and is hung up on by his new girlfriend, Cynthia. The cops show up with Will's bike. Hopper looks around the house for clues and is drawn to the shed by the dog barking at it. He finds the loaded gun and signs of a struggle. The light flickers, and he is startled by another officer entering the shed. He tells them they need to organize a search party.
Mike and his family sit around the dinner table. Mike wants to go looking for Will, but his mother says no. Nancy asks her mother to go study at her friend Barbara Holland's house. She says that nobody leaves the house until Will is found. Nancy gets upset, and in a fight with Mike he spills the beans about her new boyfriend.
A search party is out in the woods at night looking for Will. Scott Clarke tells Hopper that Will is a great student. It is revealed that Hoppers' daughter, died a few years back.
Lucas and Mike talk on walkie talkies. They discuss how Will was willing to put himself in danger to help the group while playing D&D the night before, and agree to meet up to look for him. Mike spots Steve trying to sneak into Nancy's room.
Benny is doing dishes in the kitchen and tells Eleven that a smile looks good on her. A woman claiming to be from Social Services arrives to pick her up. Benny invites the woman into the diner, and when his back is turned, the woman shoots Benny. Benny is deceased on the floor while a number of agents arrive to collect Eleven. Eleven uses her telekinetic abilities to kill two of the agents, and then escapes.
The boys are out searching for Will, while Nancy and Steve study in secret in her room. Steve makes moves on Nancy, and she puts him in his place. They return to study.
Joyce and Jonathan go through family photos. Jonathan breaks down, feeling guilty about his brother's disappearance. Joyce tells him it's not his fault, that Will is close, that she can feel it. They choose a picture for his "missing" flyers. Joyce receives an ominous, static call on her home phone. Joyce says to Jonathan that she can hear Will breathing. There's static, some growling, and the lights flicker. The phone surges with electricity, burning Joyce.
While searching for Will in the rain, Dustin wants to turn back. Mike and Lucas disagree, moving forth with their plan. They hear rustling in the bushes and find Eleven.
- Joyce Byers - Winona Ryder
- Jim Hopper - David Harbour
- Mike Wheeler - Finn Wolfhard
- Eleven - Millie Bobby Brown
- Dustin Henderson - Gaten Matarazzo
- Lucas Sinclair - Caleb McLaughlin
- Nancy Wheeler - Natalia Dyer
- Jonathan Byers - Charlie Heaton
- Karen Wheeler - Cara Buono
- Dr. Martin Brenner - Matthew Modine
- Ted Wheeler - Joe Chrest
- Steve Harrington - Joe Keery
- Deputy Powell - Rob Morgan
- Lonnie Byers (voice) - Ross Partridge
- Barbara Holland - Shannon Purser
- Officer Callahan - John Reynolds
- Will Byers - Noah Schnapp
- The Monster - Mark Steger
- Benny Hammond - Chris Sullivan
- Elevator Scientist - Andrew Benator
- Cynthia (voice) - Stefanie Butler
- Earl - David Dwyer
- Agent Connie Frazier - Catherine Dyer
- High School Principal - Salem Murphy
- Scott Clarke - Randall P. Havens
- Lead Agent - Tobias Jelinek
- James - Cade Jones
- Holly Wheeler - Anniston Price, Tinsley Price
- Agent - Anthony Reynolds
- Florence - Susan Shalhoub Larkin
- Principal Coleman - Tony Vaughn
- Troy - Peyton Wilch
- Local Newswoman - Brenda Wood
- "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" by The Seeds: Hopper arrives at the police station and talks with the staff.
- "She Has Funny Cars" by Jefferson Airplane: Eleven is caught stealing fries in Benny's Burgers.
- "I Shall Not Care" by Pearls Before Swine: Benny makes burgers and sits down to talk with Eleven.
- "Jenny May" by Trader Horne: Eleven makes the fan stop at the diner.
- "Every Little Bit" by Jackie James and Jackie Curnow: Nancy is studying in her bedroom.
- "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane: Heard on the radio when agents come to Benny's Burgers to capture Eleven.
- "Africa" by Toto: Steve helps Nancy with her homework and things get heated.
- "Kids" - The boys play Dungeons & Dragons before cycling home.
- "Hawkins" - Hopper wakes and gets ready for work.
- "Biking to School" - The boys cycle to school.
- "Nancy and Barb" - Nancy arrives at school and talks with Barb.
- "Agents" - Agents arrive at Hawkins National Laboratory.
- "Talking to Australia" - The boys try Mr Clarke's new Heathkit.
- "In Pursuit" - Hopper tells Powell and Callahan he wants to put together a search party.
- "Over" - Mike talks to Lucas over radio.
- "No Weapons" - The boys search for Will, instead finding Eleven.
Influences, homages and cultural references
- See also: Cultural influences and references
Many aspects of the opening of the episode are influenced by Steven Spielberg's 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The opening scene of Stranger Things starts with the camera panning down from the sky, just like the opening of E.T. Also, the main characters in the film play Dungeons & Dragons and order pizza at the beginning of the film, which helped popularize the game in the eighties. The Duffer Brothers stated that the scene where Will Byers goes into the shed is a "blatant" homage to E.T., in which the main character goes into the shed and makes first contact with the titular character.
The boys play a campaign of the board game Dungeons & Dragons, which became popular in the eighties after it featured in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Mike has a poster of The Thing, an iconic 1982 horror film by John Carpenter, who The Duffer Brothers have named as an influence on several occasions.
Knight Rider, a popular eighties show, plays on the TV as Mike's father tries to fix the reception.
When Will beats Dustin in their bike race, he demands Dustin’s X-Men #134. The comic was released in 1963 and featured the “Phoenix Saga,” in which the telekinetic Dark Phoenix teams up with the X-Men to defeat the villain Mastermind by pinning him to a wall with her powers, much like Eleven does to the Monster in Chapter Eight.
Hopper's mention of Eleanor Gillespie is a reference to the Silent Hill games, which has a major character with the same, uncommon last name: Alessa Gillespie. Alessa shares many similarities with Eleven in Stranger Things, as she too had a range of psychic powers including telekinesis, levitation and astral projection and suffered an abusive childhood. This could lend support to the theory that The Upside Down is a projection of the darkness in Eleven's mind, like the titular location of the game became dark and twisted because of Alessa's imagination and fears.
In a flashback, Joyce surprises Will with tickets to Poltergeist, a 1982 horror film written by Spielberg. After Will’s disappearance, Joyce can hear him in the walls and communicates with him through the lights, which was influenced by similar events in the film. She also mentions he used to be afraid of clowns, which probably references another of the Duffer Brothers' 80s horror favorites: Stephen King's It.
Nancy has a poster of Debbie Harry, the lead of the rock band Blondie, on her bedroom wall.
- See also: Montauk Pilot
The precursor to "The Vanishing of Will Byers" was the pilot script for the Duffer Brothers' "Montauk". Although the show was re-titled to Stranger Things and the script was rewritten, scenes almost identical to the original script can be seen in the final product.
- Right before he leaves for home, Will admits to Mike that he rolled a seven and says "The Demogorgon got me," foreshadowing the following events.
- After the main title, the opening shot is of a child drawing of a family of three in Hopper's home, hinting at his family's history.
- Wikia Fandom: ‘Stranger Things’ Watchalong: Chapter 1
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "How Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King Influenced Stranger Things" IGN. July 7, 2016.
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