"Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers" is the first episode of Stranger Things and the first episode of the first season. It was written and directed by the Duffer Brothers and premiered on Netflix on July 15, 2016 along with the rest of the season.
On November 6th, 1983, in Hawkins, Indiana, a scientist flees down a hallway in Hawkins National Laboratory from an unseen force. He gets in an elevator, only to realize the force is inside with him and hanging on the ceiling, He is killed as the doors close.
Middle schoolers and best friends Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson, Lucas Sinclar, and Will Byers play Dungeons & Dragons in Mike's basement. Their party is fighting a powerful creature known as a Demogorgon. Will, the party's cleric, is pressured by Dustin and Lucas to choose between a safer protective spell or an offensive (but more dangerous) fireball. Will chooses a fireball, but knocks the dice off the table in his excitement. Mike's mother Karen interrupts, telling Mike that it is time for his friends to go home, since it is a school night. Dustin tries to offer the boys' leftover pizza to Mike's older sister Nancy, who ignores him. He comments to the group that she used to be cooler until she started dating "that douchebag" Steve Harrington. The others (except Mike) agree. Before they leave, Will tells Mike that he rolled too low and the Demogorgon got him. The lights in Mike's garage flicker as his friends leave.
Riding in the dark past the laboratory, the light on Will's bike briefly flickers out. When it comes back on, a tall, faceless figure appears before him. Will swerves off the road and crashes his bike in the woods. He then runs home as the figure pursues him. He finds his house empty. Will dials 9-1-1 but only hears garbled static on the phone. He sees a dark shadow moving on his front porch. His locked front door seemingly opens by itself from the inside, causing Will to flee to a backyard shed. He grabs a rifle inside and loads it, aiming it at the door as the lights above him flicker. The figure rises up behind him and Will turns to face it, the lights brightening before going back to normal, both Will and the figure now gone.
The next morning, police chief Jim Hopper awakens in his trailer. As he showers, a newscast reports power outages across the county. Hopper smokes, pops a pill, and drinks some beer, then dresses before leaving for work. Meanwhile, Will's mother Joyce and his older brother Jonathan realize he did not come home last night. Joyce calls Karen Wheeler to ask if Will stayed the night, but Karen confirms Will left a little after 8:00 the night before. Arriving at Hawkins Middle School, the other three boys also wonder where Will is, but are interrupted by bullies Troy Walsh and James Dante. At Hawkins High, Nancy's best friend Barb Holland asks about whether or not she and Steve or dating, which Nancy denies. She finds a note in her locker from Steve asking to meet her in the bathroom, to which Barb smugly smiles. Nancy and Steve make out in the bathroom, and they make plans to meet to study that night.
Joyce goes to the police station and begs Hopper to find Will. Hopper is not very concerned, since 99% of the time a missing child will be with a parent or relative. Hopper's first instinct is to contact Joyce' ex-husband Lonnie, despite Joyce's insistence that he is not involved.
A group of suited men led by Dr. Martin Brenner enter Hawkins Lab, dressing in hazmat suits and descending into the lab's basement, where the air is now filled with strange flecks and the walls are covered in black marks. They see a large hole in the wall infested with a grey substance that seems to breathe. One of the men asks Brenner if the hole is where "it" came from, and asks about "the girl." Brenner says that she could not have gone far.
A young girl in a hospital gown with a shaved head wanders barefoot through the woods, coming across a diner called Benny's Burgers. She enters the back of the restaurant. Owner Benny Hammond catches her stealing food. At school, the boys approach science teacher Scott Clarke and learn that a powerful radio for their A.V. club has been delivered. Before they can use it, they are called to the office to talk to Hopper and deputy Phil Callahan. The boys describe Will's route home, and states he goes down "Mirkwood", the Hobbit-based nickname they gave a road that Will uses to go home. When they offer to help look for Will, Hopper adamantly refuses, ordering them to stay home. As Joyce and Jonathan search for Will around his fort in the woods, Castle Byers, she remembers visiting him there to surprise him with tickets to Poltergeist.
Benny Hammond makes burgers for the girl and tries to talk to her, but she remains silent. He notices a tattoo reading "011" on her left forearm, and she seems to identify it as her name by pointing to herself. Assuming she is an abuse victim, Benny calls Social Services. While he does, the girl stops an irritating, noisy fan just by looking at it. Hopper, Callahan, and deputy Calvin Powell search Mirkwood and find Will's abandoned bike. At Hawkins Lab, several workers listen to various nearby phone calls, one of them being Joyce desperately trying to call Lonnie and being stopped by his girlfriend Cynthia. Hopper approaches the Byers house with Will's bike and starts looking through the house. He notices the Byers' dog barking at the shed, which he investigates. The lights in the shed go out until Hopper is interrupted by Callahan. Hopper tells him they need to organize a search party.
Over dinner, Mike begs his mother to let him search for Will, and Nancy asks to go and meet "Barb" to study, Karen vetoes both requests. As Nancy and Mike argue, he reveals to their parents that she is dating Steve. This causes Nancy to storm off. Believing he is the only one in the family that cares about Will, Mike also angrily leaves the table. Karen chastises her husband Ted for his lack of help in dealing with her two older children. Clarke and Hopper discuss Will while participating in the search party, and Hopper mentions that he has a daughter who lives with her mother. A bystander informs Clarke that Hopper's daughter actually died several years ago.
Mike calls Lucas on his Supercom. Mike tells Lucas that Will chose to put himself in danger during t he game by casting a fireball instead of playing it safe by choosing the protection spell. Understanding what Mike is saying, Lucas says they should meet in ten minutes. Mike sneaks out on his bike, seeing Steve trying to climb through Nancy's window. They have an awkward moment before Mike shrugs and rides off. Hammond gets Eleven to smile before Social Services representative knocks on the door. The woman at the door, Connie Frazier, identifies herself as being from Social Services but then shoots and kills Hammond. Eleven runs out to the back door but meets two armed agents there. Dr. Brenner, entering the front of the restaurant, hears a commotion at the back entrance. Brenner finds the two armed agents who tried to stop Eleven are dead, and that Eleven has fled out the back of the restaurant.
Steve tries to seduce Nancy while he helps her study, but ultimately ends up helping her work. As it starts to storm, Joyce and Jonathan go through family photos so they can choose a picture to put on missing posters. Jonathan, having worked late the previous night, admits he blames himself for Will's disappearance. Joyce tells him it is not his fault. The phone rings and Joyce answers, at first hearing breathing she identifies as Will before hearing animalistic growling. The phone shocks her with a light electric current.
The three boys are in the woods searching for Will. Dustin tries to convince the others to turn back due to the storm, and since they are going to the place where Will disappeared but they have no weapons. They hear a rustling sound near them and turn to see Eleven.
- "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.
- "The Upside Down" (stripped down version) - Will sees something outside the front door.
- "Lights Out" - Will is abducted.
- "Coffee and Contemplation" - 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.
- "Friendship" - Joyce enters Castle Byers to visit Will and show him the tickets for watching Poltergeist.
- "Hawkins" - Hopper, Powell and Callahan find Will's bike.
- "Are You Sure?" - Hopper looks around Joyce's house for evidence.
- "In Pursuit" - Hopper tells Powell and Callahan he wants to put together a search party.
- "Over" - Mike talks to Lucas over radio.
- "Starts to Rain" - The boys arrive at Mirkwood.
- "Crying" - Joyce breaks into tears after hearing Will's breathing.
- "No Weapons" - The boys search for Will, instead finding Eleven.
Influences and 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 was 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. In fact, an episode of Knight Rider was broadcast on November 6, 1983, at a time consistent with the events of the episode.
When Will beats Dustin in their bike race, he demands Dustin’s X-Men #134. The comic was published in 1980 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 script
The precursor to "The Vanishing of Will Byers" was the pilot script for the Duffer Brothers' "Montauk". Although the show was re-titled as 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.
- As Mike, Dustin and Lucas approach Mr. Clarke at the end of class to ask about the Heathkit delivery, we see our first glimpse of a Periodic Table Of Elements on the front wall to the left of the board. At least 6 elements shown on the table were not discovered until after 1983 . This table of elements continues to be shown in season 2.
- The headset that the group are using with the Heathkit sports a CE mark, which were not conceived until 1985.
- Right after a flashback of Joyce telling Will he could see the film Poltergeist, when Joyce was peering into the fort and stepped back, a man can be seen jogging in the background to the viewer's left.
- Natalia Dyer's (Nancy Wheeler) and Joe Keery's (Steve Harrington) first scene together was the bathroom scene in this episode.
- The watch Dustin wears (in 1983) is a Casio F-91W, introduced in 1991.
- In an early scene, Will dials 911 on the rotary phone in the kitchen. While the 911 system was operating in most large cities by 1983, many small towns were not yet linked to it.
- A white Volvo 745 is seen when the boys arrive at the school. That model was first introduced in 1985.
|For this subject's gallery, see The Vanishing of Will Byers/Gallery.|
- "The Vanishing of Will Byers" script written by the Duffer Brothers
- Wikia Fandom: ‘Stranger Things’ Watchalong: Chapter 1
- "How Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King Influenced Stranger Things" IGN. July 7, 2016.
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