Wow OK, so I just binge watched season 3 of Stranger Things and HOLY MOLEY guys! I freaking loved this season. It was definitely very different than seasons 1 and 2 but a good different.
This was the Goonies, this was E.T. yes like the previous seasons but this was also Red Dawn, Terminator, Die Hard, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers!
So let’s start out at the beginning and see where everything takes us. A definitely SPOILER WARNING, this is full of so many spoilers and if you don’t want anything ruined click outta here and come back once you’ve finished!
So the Season start off with Mike and Eleven smoothing and Hopper’s got a big problem with this. He’s being the overly protective Dad which… took me a minute to get used to. This hopper seemed so much different than the one we last saw in season 2 and I’m not gonna lie I was a little concerned about where they were taking his character. Those concerns were unfounded as we see this was all for a very specific reason when he asked Joyce to help him talk with El about it and he wrote that adorable note that was so heart-wrenching to hear El read after he “died” “keep the door open three inches.” is the new “love you 3000”! *tear*
And this season really played heavily into the the “growing up” themes that they couldn’t do when the kids were younger. And again I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first because to me they were always going to be those young kids from season one, but all of favorite Hawkinsites are growing up and all of these themes ended up working so great.
There’s a scene later on where Will keeps trying to get Mike and Lucas to play Dungeons and Dragons and he even dresses up as Will the Wise but it doesn’t work and Will has to grapple with the idea that everyone’s interests are changing and that nasty puberty demon is taking over his friends. Dustin kind of has this same problem where he still likes his toys and his dorkier things like science and radios and the others aren’t interested anymore.
Something that I was so excited to see was Max being utilized soooooo much better this season. Last season she was kind of just “new girl” on the team but this season she was more fully fleshed out and she becomes close with Eleven and introduces El to things she was never exposed to by Hopper or Mike and she shows Eleven that there is so much more to the world than what they show her and she’s able to do and be who she wants to be without a man (Hopper, Mike, Dr. Brenner) telling her what to be.
And all of this kind of sets up how this season really shines as an ensemble cast with everyone splitting up for most of the run time and forming their teams.
You have Joyce and Hopper who are kind of doing the buddy cop movie investigating the Russians in Hawkins with a heavy emphasis on the bickering lovers who can’t quite express their feelings for each other.
Joyce starts the season out still so hung up on the loss of Bob last season (Justice for Bob!) So much so that she is either oblivious of Hopper’s advances or out right shoots them down. She even explains early on that she has put the house up for sale and wants to get out of Hawkins. Contrast this with her at the end when she asks Jim out to dinner once all this trouble is settled down.
Their team grows once Murray Bauman (Bunman) and Alexei Smirnoff join the team.
They’re dealing with the biggest swing this show has ever taken with the addition of the infiltration of Russians and the political corruption of the Mayor. And I think it ends up working surprisingly well. After the first two seasons, Stranger Things definitely was risking running into the wall of no new material or ways to take the story and this new addition adds a new aspect that fits perfectly into Reagan Era cold war mentalities.
Though there is something funny about Joyce season 1 “Find my son!” Joyce season 2 “Save my Son!” Joyce season three “my magnets don’t work!” but hey it ended up working in the end.
Jonathan and Nancy start off working awful summer internships with the Hawkins Post where the male staff have no respect for Nancy. And they end up investigating the diseased rats and eventually humans they’ve discovered!
The Scoops Troop!
Dustin, Steve, new comer Robin, and Erica (the Scoops Troop!) explore the secrets of Star Court Mall and discover the secret lab deep beneath the sprawling shopping complex and honestly this was probably my favorite story line and team up of the season. More screen time for Erica who is always hilarious and quick with the sass. The role reversal for Dustin becoming the baby sitter to Steve and Robin after they’re drugged by the Russians. And even more character development and growth for Steve as his friendship grows with Robin who he has a crush on but doesn’t miss a beat when she comes out to him and tells her she can do so much better than “Tammy.”
And Will, Lucas and Mike who deal with the fall out of being dumped by Eleven and Max and try to get the gang back together after Will confesses that he believes the Mind Flayer is back! And then joining Max and Eleven to confront the threat that is Billy!
Billy ended up having such a tear jerking ending for a character that was such a complete douche bag and everyone in the fandom hated in season 2. I thought it was very interesting how the Mind Flayer chose as a host a person who was both physically strong but emotionally tumultuous and when El is able to appeal to his memories of his mother and his life that effect him so greatly he’s able to break that spell and sacrifice himself to hold off the Mind Flayer just long enough.
Star Court Mall
Let’s talk Star Court Mall. This place is almost a character unto itself. It obviously serves as the mechanism to introduce Mall culture that was so big in the 80s and 90s but its secrets drive our characters adventures and serves as the back drop for quite honestly some of the series most ambitious battles and it provides a very interesting backdrop against the monsters. Help we need to get away from the monster, go through “The Gap”!
Another great set piece was the summer Fun Fair carnival presented by Mayor Kline. I definitely remember running around summer carnivals and having the most fun in the Fun Houses and Laugh in the Darks.
The final episode I think was done absolutely amazingly. There were the reunions and planning, taking action. Tension and adjustments to the plan. Redemptions. And of course my absolute favorite scene the whole season and MAYBE even the whole series. Suzie is REAL! She’s got the answer Dustin needs and they sing the Never Ending Story! The clips over everyone else listening in while they do are hilarious.
OK. So. Let’s talk about the surprising death. Hopper. I kept waiting for them to say he was OK or show him get up from the explosion. I was ugly crying here and through the entire end when El is reading his note. This absolutely could have served as the end of the entire series and honestly I would have been OK with that. Do I think Hopper is dead? No. I think, like many believe he is the “American” being held in Russia in the credits scene that also showed us they have a Demogorgon. How did he get there? I’m not sure if he hopped into the upside down before the gate was closed, maybe he slipped out a door some other Russians did and he was captured and taken. Or and idea that slipped into my mind was: Back to the Future played soooo much through out scenes of the season maybe the machine created some kind of time travel situation and Hopper was sent back one year to the opening scenes of the season and he was captured then! We’ll have to wait about a year a half for any answers of course.
What’s the call?
Over all, I think this was an amazing season. Definitely better than season 2. On par with season 1 but I don’t think we can compare them because they are very different stories.
5/5 Why haven’t you seen this yet?!