It’s my birthday, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of notifications on messenger asking me about my in depth thoughts for STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (other than my short little tiny paragraph of my summation earlier this week), so here is an in depth review! A present from me to you…on my own fuckin’ birthday. Jk, jk, I love writing these things. But be warned, I’m just going to start running my mouth, and since a lot of people have finished the entire short 8 episode season by now, there’s no telling what I’ll start spouting out, so major spoiler warning from here on out. The third season of Stranger Things is a vast, vast, vast improvement on the very kind of….I don’t know….just there second season which felt like just a retread of Season 1 (even though I still liked it). It doesn’t however beat the glorious first season, and there are reasons for that, which I’ll get to in a bit. But needless to say, I really really really enjoyed Season 3, I just wished that it didn’t have any minor problems where it could’ve completely blown the first season out of the water.
I loved the whole Starcourt Mall, The Meat Monster, Scoops Ahoy, the Russian Commie Thread, Alexei, Billy being possessed, all the new elements that were brought to the table. When Will started getting goosebumps at the back of his neck again when they snuck into see Day of the Dead I was rolling my eyes, hoping that they weren’t going to do him possessed thing all over again a la season 2. Thankfully he just has a ‘sense’ now since he was in the Upside Down for so long and is not the actual entity. Making Billy that entity (who was already established as an asshole last season) and then having a minor little arc of redemption felt a little refreshing. The whole thing is like a giant 8 hour summer, retro horror/thriller, fun for the whole family movie where the first 2 episodes are all set up and the last 6 are fast paced pay offs. The only problem with this is that the whole thing feels a little rushed (although I’d rather it be rushed than strung out into 13 episodes with a bunch of needless filler) and that character development is sacrificed for plot the majority of the time. Let me explain.
Remember the scene in the last episode where Dustin is trying to get that number from his girlfriend Suzie (the joke is that she might not be real), this mathmatical number that will unlock the place where Hopper and Joyce need to get into to turn those keys and close the gate the Russians kept trying to keep open, probably hoping to weaponize the creatures and attack America? Where Dustin had to prove his loyalty to Suzie before she would give him this number by singing with her the theme song to The NeverEnding Story? Made you get all goosebumpy and all memberberry inside right? THAT SCENE IS A GOD DAMN JOKE AND COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. It was a waste of time for all characters involved and if she would’ve just given him the number and then they could’ve sang it to each other, the gate could’ve been closed much faster, it could’ve served both story and character development at the same time, and Hopper might not have ‘died.’ I’m putting ‘died’ like that because, like everyone with a brain, I don’t think they would kill off one of their best and complicated characters. David Harbour is a master in the role, and like I always say, “no body, not dead.” Unfortunately I’m afraid they are just going to resolve the situation like they did with Eleven in season 1 and 2 where she ‘died’ but really just ended up back in the Upside Down place.
Other character development problems: Max and Lucas, who got together near the end of season 2, have virtually no character development between the two this season, they are together the whole time, barely an argument. She has a small arc with her brother Billy but it is completely rushed and half-assed. Eleven and Mike break up for the stupidest reasons other than to get some funny scenes between her and Max. All he had to say was, “Hopper told me to spend less time with you,” and everything would’ve been solved. The relationship between Eleven and Hopper, the father/daughter angle, is good in the first two episodes, and then they are separated the rest of the time, everything meaning to tie together in a sappy yet sweet letter at the end. If there was anything that season 2 got completely right, it was the relationship with those two. The Jonathan/Nancy lover thing, that was again, done better in Season Two, is kind of like the Max and Lucas thing here, they have a couple of arguments, but ultimately love each other and everything is okay. Thank goodness the acting all around, especially from Millie Bobby Brown, is top notch, other wise all these problems would’ve bothered me more.
Fortunately, there are some very, very good character moments that about evens everything up developmental wise. Hopper and Joyce’s relationship is the best it has ever been this season and has a pretty solid arc. And remember that last minute Steve and Dustin friendship near the end of season 2? Here, it is full blown brilliant and is even combined with a great arc between Steven and a new character named Robin (played by Maya Hawke, who looks just like her mom, Uma Thurman) that works with him at Scoops Ahoy (I want to work there). Even though they are in the mall (and the secret Russian underground base) basically the entire 8 episodes, every scene with all of them together work perfectly, including when Lucas’ sister joins the fray later in the season. Also that weird conspiracy theorist dude from season 2 that helped Nancy and Jonathan get together gets a cute, little, but strong and effective arc with a Russian turncoat, a scientist nerd by the name of Alexei, who loves Cherry Slurpees and Burger King but is empathetic with the American’s plight. Also, the CGI and special effects this season are amazing. The Meat Monster is the greatest horror to come out of this series, even more enjoyable than the original Demogorgan.
So basically because of some character development problems and that the 8 episodes went by way too fast, it did not beat Season 1 for me, but at times it came incredibly close. Blew Season Two out of the water, but to be fair, I still do like that season, and love this series. With Season 3, The Duffer Brothers have finally found their groove with the series, relying less on just nostalgia references and more on story and group dynamics. And when there are references, it isn’t just to say, “hey look! Remember this!” anymore, but is often introduced to be a foreshadowing plot point or a joke that hits hard and is immersed in the overall story. And it’s just fucking fun as hell. The 8 episodes went by fast because I completely gave myself to that world and everything in it. I would complain about that long wait times between seasons (it was almost two years! Oct 2017 – July 2019) but if that’s how long it takes to tinker it, and give us a great, almost greatest, season like this one, everyone involved can take all the time they need. Now all they need to do is just end it all next season, or at the most, Season 5, so the whole thing doesn’t become stale. *coughlikeHouseOfCardscough*