Stranger Things Season 3: Recap and Review.

STRANGER THINGS SEASONS 1, 2 AND 3 SPOILERS AHEAD.

After a long hiatus, Stranger Things Season 3 finally made its long awaited appearance on July 4th 2019. Following the events of season 2, season 3 holds the pressure of using its slightly shorter 8 episodes to catch us up and develop our favorite, lovable characters whilst introducing fresh and exciting personalities to tell a cohesive story. This show seems as if it’s becoming more self aware of what people love about it and plays very much so to those strengths which is certainly a positive but may leave a behind a few flaws in the overall product.

Let me start off by saying this I certainly enjoyed this season and I’m happy it’s finally here, I’d 100% recommend it. While shows like Game of Thrones explore the ideas of politics and religious and political influence in different communities and cultures, Stranger Things is very much a character-based show with some commentaries mixed with in. The show to me isn’t necessarily about the tragic events in Hawkins, it’s more so about how they challenge our main characters and the effect it has on them. Which brings me in to my first positive point.

Positives

– Everything great in seasons 1 and 2 are still great in season 3. In terms of coming of age stories, it doesn’t get much better than this series. As always, the interactions and relationship between the young-minded kids are incredibly fun and entertaining to watch. The dialogue amongst the best buds is hilarious, witty, refreshing, youthful, and full of energy. When it’s time to develop these kids, the show goes about it in a very realistic and honest way, specifically Will’s arc with getting older and his friends maturing just a little bit faster than him.

Of course everything is well acted and everyone gives very solid performances and seems to be very in to their characters and excited to be back for another season.

This season is up there with just about anything in terms of capitalizing on 80’s culture! This season lives and breathes 80’s with beautiful set pieces, hilarious but realistic outfits, technological limitations, and of course, reminiscent and very funny dialogue about things such as New Coca-Cola, Back to the Future, Phoebe Cates, and much more.

This season explores slightly darker tones and horror aspects just the right amount while keeping a light-hearted theme overall. When the horror aspects come they’re genuinely scary and a lot of that has to do with the connection we build with these characters throughout the season due to how well they’re written and displayed, we don’t want to see them in dangerous situations. When the season gets into darker subject matters, such as Russian interrogations, Steve and Robin laugh and crack jokes, which is still within their character and is enjoyable to watch.

This season follows the pattern of cutting between our 5 main groups which then becomes 4 down to 3 all the way to 2 and finally 1 big group. This is a similar structure used in season 2 but the way these characters are grouped together in this season brings out the best in all of them. It gives mostly all of them equal opportunities and screen time which is very impressive with this many great actors and characters.

Robin, by the end of the season, is very nicely fleshed out and feels unique while being like-able in her own ways. The beginning of the season sets up Robin and Steve to be unlikely love interests for each other. But the twist in episode 7 where we find out Robin isn’t even into guys was very unpredictable and really sets her up as her own character instead of being an extension to Steve’s character and completing his ongoing arc, which is very admirable.

Steve’s arc of not knowing where to be in life or who to be with is alright to carry on to next season and just sets up new opportunities for his character. However another arc was incomplete and bothered me which brings me into my negatives/nitpicks.

Negatives

Joyce’s character really took a step back for me this season in terms of the writers exploring her. Following the events of season 2, there is certainly a ton for her to do including grieve over her loss of Bob, which was one of the more devastating moments in the entire series. This is even set up early in the season where we see a scene of Joyce having to turn off the television because her memories trigger back to a moment of bliss and it pains her too much to continue. Instead of having her go though the process of a painful loss and properly grieve and recover from her tragic experiences and near loss of her child, we see her run from her problems and move away. This would all be fine and could be resolved in the next season but now that she’s lost Hopper, the events of season 2 get pushed further back and aren’t as relevant and are therefore never properly dealt with. This could also be seen as a tragic story of her lack of grieving getting in the way of ever going out with Jim and being happy but even that would’ve been too unexplored to assume.

You guys remember the controversy surrounding Season 2 Episode 7? Well season 3 seems to completely abandon that murky subplot. This might be more of a knock on season 2 for making that episode in the first place but to my knowledge “The Lost Sister” basically goes completely unmentioned in this new season. I’m not complaining.

I might be called heartless for this, but in my opinion the final episode of this season could’ve produced a better emotional breakdown at Star Court than we received. I expected to be a lot more emotional when I realized Hopper wasn’t going to make it out alive (or so I thought.) The decision to cut 3 months into the future was way too rushed and I would’ve preferred to see how those final scenes played out, at least for a little bit longer.

Going off my last point, we see the same repeated sudden cuts between a group at a moment of tension or realization. One group makes a realization about what’s going on and then we cut to the next, the next group finds an important clue and then cut to the next. This group gets into a dangerous and scary situation and then cut again. While this keeps you interested in what everyone is doing, some scenes were maybe just a tad longer it’d make for some longer and more intense action or detective sequences.

I really would’ve preferred if this season could’ve found time to give to an antagonist and especially earlier on. Once you hit episode 4 this season is in full snowball effect and it’s all downhill from there so I think an additional 1 or 2 episodes to:

A) Spend some time with an antagonist and establish a threat to show the audience why our characters should be afraid.

B) set our characters back in place a little bit better to catch us up to speed from the year and a half since season 2.

And of course, I know we get to see a lot from Billy early on but specifically if we could see the Mind Flayer more within those 4 first episodes it’d jump start that snowball suspense effect.

I really don’t have too much to complain about here and I’m thankful we finally got around to seeing this binge-worthy season. I think this season could’ve benefited from an additional episode or so but I’d say the Duffer Brothers made the most of the time they were given and made a beautiful looking season with great characters and solid arc’s. I’d rank this season right below the first season and a good bit above the second season.

All and all I’d go for around an 87/100 for this season. Very enjoyable but definitely room to improve.

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