It also made sense when the show’s executive producer Shawn Levy said the next season would have a Back to the Future reference, given that it’s not only one of the most iconic films of the decade, and a science-fiction staple to boot. But despite being a cult classic, one film we never would have guessed would be a major source of inspiration for Netflix’s hit show is Chevy Chase’s 1985 action-comedy Fletch. Yet David Harbour revealed it will be one of the movies the show will “play around and have some fun with” in Stranger Things 3, which will also be set in 1985.
But how can a story about a disguise-loving reporter possibly fit in with the supernatural world of the Upside Down? After our own investigation into the matter, we think we’ve unearthed some major leads.
“Drugs on Our Beaches”
Fletch begins with its titular character investigating drug activity on a public beach, which ends up intertwining with the main story in an unexpected way. In the early part of the decade, Ronald Reagan dramatically increased the federal government’s “War on Drugs” effort, which only grew bigger and more destructive over the span of his presidency. A show set in Hawkins, Indiana probably won’t take place on a beach, but a narcotics subplot would be a very ’80s thing to incorporate into Stranger Things. Such could bring more characters, both police and criminals, into the story who are not aware of the existence of the Upside Down, complicating things even more for those who are.
The main plot of the film revolves around Fletch being hired by rich aviation executive Alan Stanwyk—who believes the undercover reporter Fletch is a drug addict—to kill him because he has cancer and doesn’t want to suffer. However, it’s all a ruse to fake his own death by murdering Fletch and using his burned corpse so he can flee to South America with his real, secret first wife. A skeptical Fletch investigates his claims of terminal cancer, and when he finds out he’s completely healthy it leads Fletch down the path to find out what’s really happening.
Any number of people in Hawkins could find themselves with a reason to fake their own death (something that already happened by accident with Eleven), but with season two’s tease that Matthew Modine’s villain from the first year, Dr. Martin Brenner, might really be alive, he is an obvious possible culprit.
Stanwyk chose Fletch as his patsy because he thought he was a drug addict with a similar physical build to his own, but the reason he found Fletch at all was because Stanw himself was a drug runner involved with the criminal activity at the beach—an illicit operation run by Joe Don Baker’s violent police chief. A bunch of bad guys posing as good guys and using their position of power to get rich is not exactly unique to Fletch, but it would definitely fit on a show where shady government officials are tired of being thwarted by locals who can’t mind their own business.
Investigative Reporter Who Uses Disguises and Breaks the Law
The defining trait of Fletch as an investigative journalists is his use of fake personas and disguises to gather research, which range from minor deceptions like posing as a member of a country club to impersonating a doctor and a government official. He also has no qualms about breaking into homes and offices (which is why if he weren’t so funny and likable he’d be a villain). If the next season features a Stranger Things character taking on a Fletch-like role, it could be one of three options.
1. Jake Busey, who is playing a “journalist for The Hawkins Post, with questionable morals and a sick sense of humor.” Busey said his character is a foul-mouthed, crass reporter who doesn’t care who he insults, which sounds like the evil version of Fletch. It’s very easy to imagine him using disguises to sneak around manipulating people in his quest for the story.
2. But even if Busey’s character seems like the obvious candidate we can’t rule out Chief Hopper either. No character spends more time investigating than he does, and the government knows him far too well now, which could entail going incognito.
3. Finally, there’s also Brett Gelman’s private investigator Murray Bauman, the man who helped reveal the “truth” about Bard. He is definitely eccentric enough to try using disguises to get the real story.
Humor in a Dark World
According to the cast and crew, season three of Strangers Things will be darker than the previous two. Fletch is funny, sarcastic, and—thanks to his use of totally absurd secret identities—flat out silly at times. But under the surface, the movie is really dark, considering plot involves a rich guy trying to murder a drug addict so he can flee the country with his secret wife, all so he can get away from the drug ring being run by the murderous Los Angeles police chief.
Even though things are going to get really bleak in Hawkins, we’re sure we’re still going to have a lot of fun. So it’s possible Stranger Things will be more inspired by the general feel and tone of Fletch, which blends humor with tense, life-or-death action, than by specific story beats.
Unless it inspires the show in some other way we can’t see yet. Fletch is really good at disguises.
What do you think though? How will Fletch influence the series? Don’t conceal your thoughts, tell us in the comments below.
Images: Netflix, Universal Pictures, Touchstone Pictures