It’s the summer of 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, when Stranger Things Season 3 commences. “Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?” reunites us with all of our friends as they enjoy lazy delights like sneaking into the movies and discovering young love. Of course, because it’s Hawkins, something dark is brewing under the idyllic surface, and this first episode of the season offers only a glimpse of what it might be.
Let’s start with a look at the happier things happening in Hawkins. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) are in love. They’re irritating their friends and driving Hopper (David Harbour) crazy with their giggles and disappearances and endless, endless kissing. When they aren’t kissing or holding hands, they’re talking on their walkie talkies about how they wish they were. Physically, they’re in the full flush of adolescent awkwardness, and they find that attractive.
Max (Sadie Sink) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are dating, too, but their romance barely registers on the spark-o-meter, and Lucas can’t seem to help himself when it comes to putting his foot in it. Whether he’s asking his girlfriend if that’s “a new zit” on her forehead or gulping all of the water in their shared canteen without offering her any, he is the antithesis of suave. Fortunately, she seems to dig that.
For a month, Will (Noah Schnapp) has been weathering the indignities of being the only solo guy in the mix with two couples while Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) has been away at science camp. When he returns, he informs them that he, too, has found love: a girl named Suzy who is a genius and hotter than Phoebe Cates. He’s invented a special antenna to help him connect with her by ham radio, because she “lives in Utah” and her conservative Mormon parents wouldn’t approve of them just talking on the phone.
Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) has also been suffering indignities. After high school, he couldn’t even get into a technical college. His dad has forced him to get a job scooping ice cream at Scoops Ahoy in the new Starcourt Mall for three dollars an hour to teach him a lesson, and his diminished position is killing his usual game.
Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) are going strong. They’re both working at The Hawkins Post, where he’s the paper’s golden boy photographer and she’s an undervalued serving wench. When Nancy has the audacity to pitch a story idea (about how Starcourt has decimated the small businesses in town), she’s literally laughed out of the conference room by the old boys on the newspaper staff.
Amongst the parents, Hopper is carrying a torch for Joyce (Winona Ryder), but she is still mourning Bob (Sean Astin), who gave his life to save her son. And Karen (Cara Buono) is seriously flirting with having an affair with teen hair-mop-slash-local-pool-lifeguard (and fantasy fodder for all the suburban moms) Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery). Just your typical sleepy summer stuff, right?
Of course not.
Unbeknownst to anyone in Hawkins, a year ago the Russians were hard at work trying to access the Upside Down. They failed at the time, but they haven’t stopped. Is it a coincidence that as we rejoin the Indiana kids who know that dimension all too well, a freak power outage shuts down Hawkins for a few minutes? And that during the power outage, something takes shape under an abandoned steelworks on the edge of town? And that after the power comes back on, rats start flocking to that steelworks en masse, only to spontaneously explode when they arrive? And that Will has started getting goosebumps on his neck and feeling afraid?
After moving gently through what otherwise looks like an ideal 1980s summer, the episode ends with Dustin picking up Russian chatter on his ham radio (instead of Suzy’s sweet voice), Nancy receiving a call at the paper about “diseased rats” and Billy making an unexpected, and involuntary, detour into the basement of the steelworks on his way to (he hopes) bed Karen at the Motel 6.
Meanwhile, the Russians are celebrating something “beautiful”…
Thoughts: It’s so awesome seeing 1985 being lovingly brought to life in this show! From the kids choosing George Romero’s Day of the Dead in the theater (after all they’ve been through!) to the fabulous soundtrack to the myriad pitch-perfect extras populating the mall. What a joy!