Warning: Spoilers Below!
Whilst 2017’s Halloween-set sophomore season felt like a weak imitation of the first breakout season, Stranger Things season 3 manages to reinvent itself in impressive fashion. In this latest foray the merry gang of Hawkins teens struggle with much more pressing issues than other-dimensional monsters and shady Russian operatives. Now entering their early teens its interesting to see our core characters navigate adolescence, offering some heartwarming character moments. Surrogate father Hopper (David Harbour) struggles to accept Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) blossoming young love with Mike (Finn Wolfhard). Whilst Will (Noah Schnapp) feels put out as his friends’ interest move to girls, while he still desperately tries to cling onto his childhood.
However, this wouldn’t be Stranger Things without well, some strange things going on. Underneath Hawkins’ newly built Starcourt Mall something nefarious appears to be going on. Whilst elsewhere in town Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), now interning for the local newspaper, investigate the mystery of diseased rats.
It is revealed that the parasite, the Mindflayer, that possessed Will last season didn’t make it back to the Upside Down before El closed the gate in the season 2 climax. Therefore, this sentient being needs a body stronger than that of a pre-pubescent boy in order to survive. What follows is a plot not too dissimilar to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978), as the Mindflayer begins inhabiting residents of Hawkins, starting with Max’s arrogant step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Montgomery gives a credible performance throughout the entirety of this season, providing us with something much darker and unhinged than the typical school bully. Its also refreshing that Billy has something to do this season, especially when this ensemble cast continues to swell.
As Steve (Joe Keery) is able to attain a summer job at Starcourt’s nautical themed ice cream parlour, ‘Scoops Ahoy’, we are introduced to co-worker Robin (Maya Hawke). The pair have amazing chemistry together through Robin’s constant onslaught of witty remarks and digs at Steve’s expense. However, the outcome of their relationship takes a refreshing twist as Robin comes out to Steve as a lesbian. Not only is it wonderful to see canon representation, especially in an non-contemporary era, but Steve’s nonchalant response at having his romantic interest rejected is also a testament to his character growth.
Other dynamic duos also permeate the season. It’s great to see both Eleven and Max (Sadie Sink) develop a strong friendship, allowing this relationship to move past the tired and sexist trope of girls being jealous of each other over a boy, that permeated last season. Hopper and Joyce (Winona Ryder) also get their moments to shine in a side-plot that sees them investigating de-magnetism and getting pulled into a Russian plot to reopen the gate to the Upside Down. Whilst the motivations for the Russians reopening this dangerous realm aren’t fully explored, its evident it’ll form the basis of the next season. The fallout to this season however will surely have fans developing their own theories, especially pertaining to status of one Hawkins police chief.
Ultimately, this season of Stranger Things was able to invent itself from its previous outings. Juggling numerous characters in multiple side plots, the final episodes managed to tie many loose ends together. Whilst not void of some unnecessary moments and cartoonish side characters, season 3 benefits from its maturity. Not only do the rapidly growing young stars provide richer stories and performances with age, but this season definitely plays more with gore and body horror. With strong emotional beats, character-driven stories and powerful consequences, Stranger Things Season 3 is stranger than ever and all the better for it.
Russian Commander: WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?!
Steve: I WORK FOR SCOOPS AHOY!!
Erica: You can’t spell America without Erica.
Dustin’s and girlfriend Suzie’s entire duet to the Neverending Story theme.