**SPOILER ALERT** With the recent release of the third season of the Stranger Things on July 4th, it is only right to evaluate how this sci-fi dynasty has continued to capture the attention of millions of viewers. The gang returns for their third adventure but their second with the dreaded mind flayer. After Will had a pseudo-exorcism performed by his mother, Joyce Byers, in Season 2, a piece of the flayer was released but never returned to the Upside Down because the gate had been closed by Eleven.
Season 3 sees this dismembered mind flayer attempting to make its mark on Eleven, the town of Hawkins, and eventually mankind. To turn itself into a physical being, the monster, with the help of Max’s brother Billy, assembles an army of zombie-like citizens of Hawkins to sacrifice their flesh towards the construction of the physical mind flayer. While all this is happening, the secret Russian military base located under the recently constructed Starcourt mall has the dastardly objective of re-opening the gate to the Upside Down to fulfill their unknown plan.
These two antagonists have created the perfect storm of chaos for Mike, Will, Dustin, Hopper, and the rest of the Hawkins gang.
There are such an exorbitant amount of positives this season that it’s really hard to point out the very few, if any, shortcomings the show has.
To begin, I really liked the new character of Robin that they introduced to serve as a foil to Steve Harrington. Steve’s brashness and unearned confidence diminish a lot this season as he just strikes out with girl after girl that he hits on at his job at Scoops Ahoy! while also expressing his disappointment with not getting into school. Robin kind of brings Steve down to earth from the high school king that only searches for love within the limits of reputation to someone that, over time, becomes more practical and starts to actively search for people he truly wants to be with. Although Steve strikes out again with Robin after she confesses that she is queer, she ultimately teaches him an important lesson about staying grounded and humble.
Additionally, the “new” character of Billy who isn’t technically new but undergoes such a dramatic character change that it almost feels as if he is a new person. After getting tapped by the mind flayer as his “host”, Billy is yet again seen as just another evil character that is just a pawn in the grander plot of the show. But it becomes clear to the viewer as the show goes on that Billy isn’t just a typical d-bag. The scene between him and Eleven where she dives into his corrupted background with his mother and his abusive father is one of the more powerful scenes of the show and shows Billy as a multi-layered character. This is only accentuated with his death scene that just had everyone watching deep in their bag.
Another strong positive is the Duffer Brothers’, yet again, perfect implementation of 80’s nostalgia that is effective but the script doesn’t heavily rely on it. The amount of hard work they put into this is evident in the sheer detail of everything from the fashion of the extras to the stores in Starcourt Mall even to the “Welcome to Indiana sign” in Episode 7— its simply amazing. I know this is true of most great pieces of film or TV but its especially true in Stranger Things, every little detail matters and that’s what makes this show just so entertaining.
To continue on the train of positives, the ending scene was such a perfect way to wrap the season(and possibly the series?) that gives the audience some closure while also opening the door to possible future plot lines. It had you on the edge of your seat, deep into your box of tissues, and pulling your hair out— something extremely hard to evoke from your audience. Hopper’s death(??) was such a hard pill to swallow especially for the Stranger Things die-hards and was done so perfectly with Joyce, his potential love interest, being the one that had to make the sacrifice in order to save the world.
There are so many great little moments that I could go into (i.e. never ending story theme song with Suzie Poo, hospital sequence, etc.) but this post would be ten pages long. Overall, the Duffer Brothers did what all great TV directors do, bring back what worked and eliminate what didn’t work last season. The comedy hit, the romance hit, the action hit, everything hit and they just did a marvelous job.
I give Season 3 of Stranger Things a 9.4/10 just barely beating out Season 1 for the top spot.
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