12th Jul2019

‘Stranger Things: Season 3′ Review (Spoilers Ahead)

by Chris Cummings

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I can’t even begin to tell you how much I was hyped for Season 3 of Stranger Things. The previous two seasons were, in my opinion, absolutely fantastic television. The mixture of nostalgia, horror, action and adventure was exactly what I wanted, and throw in some comedy and old-school FUN, and you’ve got a television show that will go down as one of the best of this decade. July 4th 2019 would be the date in which Season 3 would land on Netflix, and I was eagerly awaiting it. One part of me completely excited, like a kid waiting for Ghostbusters toys to be put on the racks in Woolworths, and another part of me nervous that the season wouldn’t measure up to the excellent previous ones.

I was, thankfully, wrong to have any concern at all. The Duffer Brothers and the excellent cast and crew put together a season that definitely, for me, exceeds Season 2 and perhaps falls in line with the first season. I’ve only watched it once, but I’m close to feeling like this was the best season of Stranger Things yet, or very close to it. So, let’s talk about it.

So, what’s it about?

So, this season takes place in the summer of 1985. The new mall in town, Starcourt Mall, is the new cool hangout, and even workplace, in Hawkins. Our crew are all dealing with their own things, with many of the kids dealing with growing up and all the things that come with getting older. Joyce is considering hitching a trailer and hitting the bricks out of town. Hopper is dealing with life with Eleven, his own feelings, and later the impending doom of Hawkins once more. Steve is struggling to find his place again. Nancy and Jonathan are trying to make waves on the newspaper but are greeted with reluctance from the staff. Will begins to feel the shivers on his neck that tell him that The Mind Flayer has returned. Billy, on lifeguard duty, finds himself part of the plan to destroy Eleven, Hawkins and everyone and everthing else. Basically, it’s a wild season that does a great deal with every character, while also introducing a couple of new strong ones too, in Erica, the young spunky kid-sister of Lucas, and Robin, Steve’s co-worker. It’s another horror story in the cursed American town, with funfairs, shopping malls and the suburban streets as the playground for the monsters that are attempting to tear it all down.

Stranger Teens

Season 3 takes place around July 4th, Independence Day, and we head back to the good ole town of Hawkins and join back up with our exceptional and diverse cast of characters. Eleven is dating Mike, and they spend too much time, especially in Hopper’s opinion, smooching in Elevens bedroom. This is a running theme in this season. The growing pains and strains of teenage life, of changing bodies, hormones and mood-swings. Eleven and Mike’s relationship goes from good to bad to awkward and we witness the two of them struggle to come to terms with life as a boyfriend and girlfriend, and the importance of keeping true to who you were before that relationship. This adds a whole new direction to the characters and provides us with deeper and more complex emotions. It isn’t just Eleven and Mike who are going through the rollercoaster emotions of romance. Dustin arrives home after being away for a month, and reveals to the gang that he has a girlfriend named Suzie that he met when he was away. He talks about her like she’s the best thing since Empire Strikes Back, but it seems the rest of the group are a little unsure if Suzie actually exists. Lucas and Max are also in the midst of a childhood romance which isn’t always going smoothly either. Unlike previous seasons, we deal with the kids growing up, feeling things they haven’t felt before, and at times struggling to vocalise these feelings. Speaking of which…

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Hawkins is Hopper

Jim Hopper has always been a big part of Stranger Things, but his role is bigger than ever in Season 3. We spend a good amount of time with him as he traverses his relationship with his daughter, Eleven, as well as his feelings towards Joyce Byers. Hopper struggles with the change in Eleven, the way she is with Mike, and the fact that she is growing up, no longer needing him as much as she used to. Hopper is also a big part of the survival of the town, of the characters, and a big ole part of the finale. Now… look away if you haven’t seen it yet, but Hopper’s death, a shock to anyone watching, was a very powerful one, and we find ourselves ending the season in a post-Hopper world, with Eleven leaving town with Joyce, Will and Jonathan, her sadness as strong as her willingness to try to move on. Powerful stuff. I was glad we saw more of this character this time around, and thought, in the end, that he was the heart and soul of Season 3.

Monster Squad

It wouldn’t be Stranger Things without the monsters, would it? This season, the monster is a great one, in both size and design. We see the return of The Mind Flayer, which attaches and takes control of citizens of Hawkins, Body Snatchers style. They then turn to sludge and all become this giant snotty grotesque creature with tentacles and a massive sharp-toothed maw. It’s spectacular and, in my view, the best monster design in the show to date. The scene in which a bunch of our protagonists are being chased while in a car by this massive monster is just awesome. We get plenty of battle and action scenes, and some of them are the best in the show’s history, especially when it comes to the “explosive” finale. Oh boy.

Nostalgia and Ice Cream

One of the things that attracts many of us to Stranger Things is the full-on nostalgia that it has to offer. The nostalgia effect is taken up a few notches more this time around, as we see the likes of New Coke, Back to the Future, Day of the Dead and more in scenes that are both incredibly exciting and memorable. I loved that a lot of the show takes place in Starcourt Mall too, and we meet a new character, Robin, who works in Scoops Ahoy, an ice cream parlour, with Steve. These two characters have a cool chemistry as the season develops, and when Dustin and Lucas’s younger sister, Erica, join them, they go on their own wild adventure. Whether it’s video stores, the mall, the movies, the music, the fashion or even the slang that the characters use, be prepared for a beautiful load of nostalgia with this season.

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Only The Good Die Young

Dacre Montgomery’s Billy Hargrove makes a much bigger dent in Season 3 too. His performance is stunning, going from the arrogant and smug character we knew from Season 2 to becoming a dark, vicious and corrupted one. His backstory presents some of the most emotional aspects of the season, and the scene between Billy and Eleven in the last portion of the final episode is one of the strongest of the whole season. Excellent stuff. The villain of much of the show’s eight episodes, in a way, becomes one of its heroes, and it’s done magnificently. His death in this season will certainly result in this character going down as a fan-favourite after all is said and done. And yeah… there’s a fair amount of death in Stranger Things and Season 3 is no different. Smaller characters kick the bucket, plenty of Russian guards are shot or stabbed to death and some of the bigger names we’ve got to know very well fall from this mortal coil this time around, and it’s emotional stuff, for sure.

Stranger, Stronger Cast

I’ve been a fan of the cast since the first season landed. I think each character is played beautifully, but I have to say… the actual performances are better this time. Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers is more subtle, more calm than she was in Season 1, and yet provides this relatable element with her need to protect those she cares about, while wanting to get out of town and try to start over. David Harbour is terrific as Hopper, and perhaps the best of the season. He’s funny, he’s furious, he’s protective and he’s relatable. The way he can’t properly talk about how he feels really makes the paths his character takes all the more emotional to watch unfold. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven has always been an awesome young actor, and she kicks butt here once again. She effortlessly sheds tears, she makes you believe she’s in pain as she tries to use her power to save her friends, and she’s perfectly innocent and naive. Her character, and the changes in it, are excellently done. I really got a kick out of Joe Keery’s Steve in Season 3. He’s down-to-earth and funny, bringing a nice lightness to the scenes he’s in, and his bond and rapport with Dustin is a blast to watch. Gaten Matarazzo, as Dustin, spends much of the season with Steve, Robin and Erica as they attempt to uncover a Russian plot in the mall. This side of the season features a lot of the comedy that comes with Season 3, and it never dull. Hell… I personally never found a single moment in Season 3 to be dull. The slowest and perhaps least interesting story arc came from Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton’s Nancy and Jonathan, dealing with the arrogance and ignorance of the newspaper staff that think of them as nothing more than kids who should run for their coffee. While I say these were the least interesting to me, it doesn’t mean I found them uninteresting. They were enjoyable scenes. I just think they paled when compared to what the rest of the characters were upto. The blossoming friendship between Eleven and Sadie Sink’s Max was a fun aspect to watch, giving Eleven a chance to experience life as a normal teenage girl, buying clothes, gossiping about boys and having sleepovers. I’ve already mentioned how strong Dacre Montgomery’s performance as Billy was, but I’ll say it again anyway. What a character that was in Season 3. Caleb McLaughlin, Finn Wolfhard and Noah Schnapp, as Lucas, Mike and Will respectively, take a back-seat of sorts due to how much time we spend with the other characters, but they still have plenty going on, and are given scenes that stand out. It’s crazy just how much development we got in Season 3 considering how many characters we had, and only 8 episodes to get the job done. Unreal storytelling.

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The Future?

We leave Season 3 with as many questions as we get answers. Joyce moving away with Will, Jonathan and Eleven presents us with a divide in things. Jonathan and Nancy are split apart by the move, as are Mike and Eleven. Eleven and Joyce are coming to terms with the loss of Hopper. Will is moving away from his best friends. Max has lost her brother, Billy. They’ve all been through Hell again, and the results this time around appear to be much harsher, leaving our group with a big cut down the middle. It’s an interesting time as we head into Season 4, a season where our characters are going to have grown up even more, where their bond and trust is deeper, yet the tear in the fabric of their relationships is evident due to the happenings at Starcourt Mall. Is Hopper actually gone? I mean, it seems so, but in the end-credits scene with hear a Russian Guard walk past a cell, and say “Not the American”, before walking past that cell and proceeding to feed someone else to a creature beneath. Is that American in fact Hopper, or someone else entirely? Will Season 4 take place outside of Hawkins, or will Eleven, Joyce, Jonathan and Will return to their old hood again? Lots of questions. It just adds more excitement and intrigue as we await that release date for the forth season, a season I will be eagerly anticipating.

It was a season very different to the prior ones, yet with all the similarities we wanted there to be. Some characters take a seat in the back of the theatre this time around merely because of time constraints and the sheer amount of people we follow in the eight episodes we get. There’s a real grit and gore to things, more than with previous episodes of Stranger Things, and the gross-out creatures and more adult-tone makes it feels like the show is growing older along with its characters. The nostalgia is strong, the music and tone is sparklingly retro and full of energy and the cast do a great job. It’s eight strong episodes of a fantastic season. I can’t really pick at it, I can’t really be down on it, because once again I could just grab some popcorn, a coke, put my feet up and feel like a kid watching Back to the Future again, or The Neverending Story, or Ghostbusters. I just had a ton of fun. If you’ve yet to give Stranger Things ago and you’re still sitting on the fence, then jump on down and get on with it, it’s totally rad.

Stranger Things: Season 3 is on Netflix now.

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