With one cultural phenomenon coming to an end with Game Of Thrones, another graces us with its presence albeit in full binge watching form.
Stranger Things has become a behemoth in the small screen/streaming world ever since it first appeared in 2016 and won our hearts with its stellar young cast. It’s become a household name so quickly, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 3 years but here we are with a 3rd season, following on from what was a mixed reception for 2017’s Season 2.
• Showrunner: The Duffer Brothers
• Episodes: 8
(Spoilers ahead as standard!)
A big part of what endeared us to the kids from Stranger Things is that their character development and growth went hand in hand with their age and the older they got.
In Season 1, we see the kids as just kids, playing their Dungeons and Dragons and arcade games and innocently traversing their lives as kids do. After everything transpires with the upside down in Season 2, we see them grow older mentally and physically, developing further whilst also having again to deal with the threat from the Mind Flayer.
In Season 3, we follow a similar pattern; the first episode of the season is mainly catching up with the kids who are now about a year older and the terrible teens has hit them with full force.
Mike and Elevens lips are constantly locked much to the anger and frustration of Eleven’s adopted dad Chief Hopper. The opening is more light hearted than expected, quickly showing us the threat to come but focusing on the core cast, such as how Max and Lucas have now also become a budding couple and Will is, well, still Will. Dustin is absent for a month at science camp and his eventual return to the group shows how much the kids have grown and moved on from their usual nerdy interests to girls and the problems that arise with maintaining relationships at a young age.
The first half of the season follows this pattern, checking in with everyone’s favourite motherly figure, Steve Harrington and how big and important of a location the new Starcourt Shopping Mall is. We also get caught up with Nancy and Jonathan’s time at the Hawkins Post and Billy’s stint as a lifeguard (which doesn’t end well for him)
The main focus in the first half of the season is Hopper’s difficulties in communicating with Eleven regarding setting boundaries with Mike. It also doesn’t help that Mike has turned into an insufferable teenager.
Will’s mum, Joyce, is also back again, playing the instigator to eventually discovering the looming threat from the Mind Flayer and also the Russians who know about the gate to the upside down and are looking to reopen it with the guise of the Starcourt Mall as their cover. Joyce is also now a romantic interest for Hopper as he adorably tries to get her out on a date. While Joyce and Hopper pair up to follow the lead Joyce finds, we find Steve and Dustin (reunited in a great scene) also start to follow their own leads after Dustin hears Russian coded radio broadcasts. Steve and Dustin are joined by an excellent addition to the cast in Maya Hawke who plays Robin. Her chemistry with both Steve and Dustin make for some of the seasons most memorable moments.
It’s at this point we see the team ups take shape. Hopper and Joyce, Steve, Dustin and Robin (also eventually accompanied by Lucas’ little sister Erica) and then you have the rest of the kids with Mike, Will, Max, Lucas and Eleven with Nancy and Jonathan eventually joining them. Will is sensing the Mind Flayer again and thus, the kids know the threat is back and we begin.
The second half of the season is faster paced and much more focused than the first. We see our separate teams tackle the best way to get through not only the Mind Flayer threat but the Russians too. Here Billy is now under the Mind Flayers control and is trying to eliminate Eleven knowing that she is the only person standing in the Mind Flayer’s way. There is a particular scene in which the kids test to see if Billy is under the influence of the Mind Flayer in which Dacre Montgomery (who plays Billy) displays some outstanding acting and really brings the scene home.
What really makes the latter half of the season fantastic is when the creature controlled by the Mind Flayer takes form and goes out to hunt Eleven. The cinematography is excellent and some shots are genuinely breathtaking. The CGI is flawless and as usual, the acting chops of the cast really shines through as they deal with the new threat.
A new twist to the old formula is Eleven losing her powers which makes for an interesting dynamic in which the kids must think of ways to defeat the monster without the kick ass powers that have saved them time and time again.
We do get somewhat of a disheartening ending to the season but in another first for the series, there is a post credits scene which potentially sets up Season 4 and what the main plot points for that season may entail.
As usual you will find heavy 80s nostalgia, a great soundtrack and immense attention to detail. Once again the Duffer brothers create a world where you are fully immersed back in the 80s and the world building is incredible, checking in with the cast in the first episode really does feel like seeing old friends again after a while which is a testament to how well these characters have been written and how well the cast have grown into them.
You will get your mix of horror with a splash of dread and tense atmospheric tones. You will also find some hilarious one liners and jokes that follow through later on in the season. The blend of SciFi and comedy is maybe not as spot on as the first season but it is very close and overall as close to the first season as you can get. It seems the Duffer brothers took the feedback from season 2 and improved almost every aspect. My only slight gripe is that I would have liked to see the whole cast work together more instead of the separate teams we get but we would have missed out on some great moments if that were the case.
Season 3 of Stranger Things is a fantastic entry to the series and improves on Season 2 in almost every way. If you are still on the fence regarding this show, definitely give it a try, even if you are not traditionally a sci-fi or horror fan, the cast and characters and world are well worth getting to know.