The Vanishing of Will Byers
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The Vanishing of Will Byers
“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 his way home from a friend’s house, young Will sees something terrifying. Nearby, a sinister secret lurks in the depths of a government lab.
November 6, 1983. Hawkins, Indiana.
In the lower levels of Hawkins National Laboratory, a scientist in a lab coat runs down a dark hallway, frantically pushing buttons and trying to operate an elevator. When the elevator arrives, the man enters and is seemingly safe. but then something growls above him. Terror fills the man’s face, his eyes widened. As the doors close, he is violently pulled upwards.
Meanwhile, four middle schoolers, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, 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”, a road near Hawkins Lab. He is frightened by a mysterious figure in the middle of the road and crashes his bike.
Will’s last moment before disappearing.
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 strange, guttural growl is heard, and Will vanishes.
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 Karen tells her that he left the night before.
At Hawkins Middle School, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are a little surprised that they haven’t seen Will yet. They have a run in with bullies before heading to class. Meanwhile, at Hawkins High School, Nancy, Mike’s sister, makes out with Steve in the bathroom and they make plans to meet up later.
Joyce hurries to the police station to talk to Chief Hopper, who she hopes can help find her son. As Hawkins is a quiet, sleepy town, Hopper questions Joyce’s claims and doesn’t take her too seriously. Hopper’s first instinct is to question her ex-husband Lonnie, but Joyce insists that any potential involvement of his in Will’s disappearance is unlikely – nonetheless, she agrees to call him.
At Hawkins Lab, a team of scientists, including Dr. Brenner, suit up in protective suits before entering the quarantined underground subsystem. There, they find strange biologic growth spreading – originating from a mysterious fracture in the wall.
Benny tries to communicate with Eleven.
A young girl dressed in a hospital gown, with a completely shaven head, wanders into Benny’s Burgers. Benny Hammond, the owner, catches her in the kitchen stealing fries.
After class at Hawkins Middle, the boys become overwhelmed with excitement when their science teacher reveals that the Heathkit ham shack he ordered has been delivered. However, the school principal and Chief Hopper interrupt to question them about Will’s way home the previous night. He tells them to go straight home after school and to not go biking around looking for Will.
In a flashback scene, Joyce is in the woods at Castle Byers surprising Will with tickets to see Poltergeist . In the present time, Joyce and Jonathan are at the fort, looking for Will.
Back at Benny’s Burgers, Benny, showing some charity despite her trying to steal from him, feeds the girl and attempts to make conversation, but she keeps quiet. He realizes she has the digits “011” tattooed on her left forearm. When Benny inquires about the number’s meaning, the girl indicates that the number refers to herself. While she eats, Benny steps away to make a phone call to social services; he assumes the girl has been abused. The girl becomes irritated by a noisy fan. She stares intensely at it, lowering her head – suddenly, the music on the radio becomes heavily distorted – and the fan jolts and stops. The girl relaxes and resumes eating.
At Mirkwood, Hopper and his officers Powell and Callahan are out on the road where Will crashed his bike. They find it, tipped over and abandoned, by the trees on the side of the road.
Joyce tries to call Lonnie, but is hung up on by his girlfriend, Cynthia. The cops show up with Will’s bike. Hopper looks around the house for clues and is drawn to the shed. The light flickers, and he is startled by Callahan 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 Barb’s house. She says that nobody leaves the house until Will is found. Nancy gets upset, and in a fight with Mike he reveals 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 Hopper’s daughter died a few years back.
Lucas and Mike talk on their Supercoms. 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 the girl 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 him. Benny falls dead to the floor while a number of agents arrive to collect the girl. She quickly becomes agitated and uses her telekinetic abilities to kill two of the agents before escaping.
Lucas, Mike and Dustin search for Will in the woods.
The boys are out searching for Will, while Nancy and Steve study in secret in her room. Steve tries to seduce Nancy, but she rejects his advances. They return to their reading.
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 and claims that Will is close, that she can feel it. They choose a picture for his “missing child” 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, briefly electrocuting 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 the girl.
- 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
- Officer 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 – Randy Havens
- Scientist – Hugh B. Holub
- 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 Wich
- 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.
- “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.
- “I Shall Not Care” – Benny makes burgers at his diner and sits down with Eleven in an attempt to talk.
- “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
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 scene in which Chief Hopper types the police report was intentionally framed identically to a scene in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) which is one of ‘The Duffer Brothers’ favorite films. 
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 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.
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.
"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 his way home from a friend’s house…
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