The irony of streaming services, cable, and broadcast TV networks looking for "the next Game of Thrones" is that that's not how that works. HBO didn't set out to create Game of Thrones, it just made a really good show and it went monster viral. Much like Netflix did with a little show called Stranger Things, which is now going so monster viral in their second season, that their social media numbers are starting to rival the HBO juggernaut. But that's not the only Stranger Things and Game Of Thrones connection.
The shows also have in common that their respective channels believe fans will pay more for access. HBO launched an entire streaming service on the back of GoT. This month, Netflix raised their monthly rates for streaming, just ahead of Stranger Things 2's debut.
So why are both shows such monster hits? As 4C Insights notes, ST2 had 750,409 mentions on Twitter on release day, which is the first show to come close to GoT's whopping 1,114,152 mentions when Season 7 debuted in July. What could a little '80s nostalgia trip about a group of kids have in common with the sprawls fantasy world of Westeros?
Would it intrigue you to know that actually the two stories have a major plot point in common? It's their villains.
It took several seasons to reveal where the true evil lay in Westeros. Prior to Season 4, where we first met the Night King when he turned Craster's newborn son into a White Walker, the villains were all lesser characters. Some, like Cersei, had shades of grey added to their backstories, making them somewhat sympathetic. Others, like Joffrey or Ramsay, were more like sharks in the water, eager to tear the flesh from whatever came their way.
The first season of Stranger Things also did not give us the true evil in the Upside Down. Instead we got villains like Steve, whose story turned out to be less about being evil, and more about being an immature jerk who needed to grow up a little. And we got villains like the Demogorgon, who the Duffers have actually compared to the shark in Jaws, down to being drawn to the scene to kill by the smell of blood.
But the true evil in both cases was far more frightening. The Night King and the Mind Flayer (aka the "Shadow Monster") are both far more deadly foes. Both have armies behind them that they can set upon those they wish to destroy.
But most importantly both characters prey on the same primal fear we the audience at home are responding to: the concept of "evil as a hivemind."
In this season of Stranger Things, the hive-mentality for the Mind Flayer is what makes it so dangerous. It takes over Will's body, and slowly eats away at his soul until he cannot help but do what the Shadow Monster commands, including trapping the soldiers from the lab in a Demogorgon trap, or setting those same creatures on those he loves. The demodogs are also acting on the Mind Flayer's whims, relentlessly attacking until they simply outnumber and outlast their foes.
That same hivemind mentality is what makes the Night King so terrifying. As Jon Snow points out, every dead person from our side is another soldier for the Night King's Army of the Dead. Said blue eyed white walkers and wights are acting on his whims, relentlessly attacking until they simply outnumber and outlast their foes.
Both also have a very simple solution, which is so far easier said than done, it's laughable. All they have to do (ALL!) is kill the leader, and the entire army collapses.
When Eleven shuts the gate to the Upside Down, anything on this side is cut off from the hivemind and dies. When the Mind Flayer figures out how to get through the Wall between universes, the only way to stop all his creatures will to be for Eleven and her team to kill the one in the center who controls them.
Now that the Night King had gotten out of his own frozen Upside Down and smashed through the Wall between Westeros universes, the only way to stop all his creatures will to be for Daenerys and her team killing the one in the center who controls them.
Good luck to both our teams facing down the terrors of the night. Seems like they're going to need it.