Watched 80% of Stranger Things ep 5 before I had to go to sleep. (Monday Sucks!)
I get the feeling the reason, like most things in Stranger Things is "we brainstormed all the stuff that was big in the 80s and we came up with Cold War, Russians, Aliens, Terminator, etc…"
Episode 5 is on a major Terminator kick for no apparent reason, other than Terminator!
The show having each season be basically one monster movie means that unless they shorten it down to 2 episodes, they’re kinda always going to have the first 3rd of the show being setup, gradual awareness of the threat, and then getting the gang back together.
They seem to have split the gang into basically the same groups as last time (Kids, Dustin+Steve, Joyce+Hopper, Johnathan+Nancy etc…). but this has the slightly weird effect that I’m not sure I’ve seen many of the families in the same room.
I don’t think Will, Joyce or Jonathan have shared a scene, except maybe the first 1 minute.
I’d kinda forgotten that Nancy was Mike’s sister. (!)
Then the second half of each season they all get together to fight back, kinda like a baseball team meeting up for practice on a Sunday. I kinda like that.
That said, despite some of it feeling like filler, I have enjoyed some of the stuff with Elle and Max hanging out.
I watched 3 episodes on a flight a few years back, and hence feel highly qualified to answer.
I actually thought it was a lot better than I expected, but it did seem very OTT and self-aware, to the point of being almost a pastiche of similar shows. That kinda endeared it to me.
I put it on my watchlist, but never actually got around to going back to it.
I can’t say whether the murder plot becomes more central, but I suspect it’s always going to be more about the multitude of lurid things going on rather than just focusing on one murder.