Ok. So you’ve had exactly a week to delve into the world of Hawkins and watch season 3 of Netflixs Stranger Things, and what a gorgeous season it was. Stranger Things is a show that I will ALWAYS enjoy. The actors, the CGI, the writing, the interpersonal chemistry – it’s just all as close to flawless as humanly possible. It’s a Netflix original that’s done absolutely and obseletely right.
In terms of epicness, this season followed a more concentrated time frame than we have seen before with the exception of the time jump in the final episode. This gave the season a different feel to its predecessors although making it more condensed did seem to leave me wishing for more content at the end.
There are two wonderful aspects to season 3; the time given to allowing new and old relationships between the characters to develop and the expansion of the referential nature of the programme. In S2, we had some rather clunky relationship progression, notably El going to the city. In S3 we get lots of chunking down into the Scoops Squad, Hopper and Joyce, El and Max etc which allows the characters space to interact organically, making us deepen our own relationships with them. We also get teased with the brilliantly written and portrayed Steve / Robin relationship and of course the classic Beatrice and Benedick trope with Hopper and Joyce. The whole endeavour is essentially a referential homage that works in the detail of the various easter eggs that pop up continually but thematically, in terms of the style and plotting, it is constructed completely by echoing the films and the directors of choice. Spielberg, of course, towers above everything, with Hopper even given lines from Jaws’ chief Brody and a corrupt mayor putting on a July 4th celebration. This season though we also get Cronenberg (Scanners and The Fly), Romero and his Zombie Films, Carpenter’s The Thing, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Red Dawn, Ronald Reagan’s favourite about a Soviet invasion of the US being thwarted by teenagers.
The new season introduced new a spiel of new characters as viewers hearts were filled with adoration for the aforementioned Robin (Maya Hawke), Murray (Brett Gelman) and Alexei (Alec Utgoff). We also touched more upon the character development of withstanding characters such as Lucas’ sister Erica who brought heaps of comedic value to the Scoops Troops as well as paving the way for a future ‘Nerd Squad’ as Dustin and Will gift her with their version of D&D in the seasons final moments.
One of the many things that Stranger Things excels in is over-arcing character development. We have seen it done brilliantly with both Steve and Hopper for example, yet this season the focus was on Billy. It was a constant source of conflict to see Billys inner torments as he battled between his lucid self and the demons who had possessed him. What was really interesting was that we don’t strike a natural empathy with his character to begin with as we only ever know him as the mean big brother of Max. So for us to have the ability to empathise with his torture by using the insights into his childhood, the result is a really powerful 4d viewer participation.
The format of a Stranger Things season usually follows a pretty unchanged suit: evil emerges – government tries to cover it up – the kids solve it – gate closes. I think we can all agree on that three seasons in. How many more seasons do they have in it using this format before people get tired of the same arc? I think it’s time to expand the Stranger Things world a little. I guess that’s why Russia has been introduced but still, there needs to be something a little more next season. By the looks of the post credit scene – it appears as though the monsters are evolving – it looked ever so more ‘human like’ with its full formed hands and feet so perhaps it’s going to get increasingly more difficult to defeat the monsters.
So, what next for our beloved characters? I think that next season will deal with El and the regaining of her powers, the return of Hopper and I also think it’s time that perhaps Will discovers some powers of his own asides from his ability to sense the upside down & it’s inhabitants on an ad-hoc basis. Perhaps something a little more Eleven like. I personally don’t believe that ‘The American’ described in the Russian cell was Hopper. I think that that would be a little too much of a deflation to have the hugely emotional goodbye to him, to then five minutes post credit produce a little ‘lol joke’ kind of feel. I do believe he is still alive but is stuck in the upside down. The camera lingered a little too long on the gap to the upside down that wasn’t quite sealed after his death, and this would be a nice reference point to the re-iterated ‘three inch door rule’ throughout the season and the fact that the gap is still open a little; allowing Hopper to have travelled through and into the Upside Down. Perhaps that will be Elevens motivation to regain her powers if she discovers that Hopper is stuck there. My brother however has totally different views believing that Hopper jumped willingly through the gap into the Upside Down knowing that is the only way to survive the inevitable impending abbliteration. He was then found in the Upside Down by the Russians who we knew had opened their own gate to the Upside Down earlier in the season. It was then there that they found Hopper and imprisoned him on their side. (Let me know which theory you prefer!)
Other things to note:
Jonathan & Nancy – Whilst their presence was a little more low key than usual, all of their scenes were seamless. Their natural chemistry is evident on screen & I really liked Nancy battling her way through a sexist industry such as the wonderful world of Journalism. A fun nod to Tr**mp.
Max & El – loved having Eleven become integrated into a 80s modern girl life thanks to her blossoming friendship with Max. Watching their mall moments was some of the funnest parts of the series.
Soundtrack – I somewhat infamously amongst my friends and peers have a disdain for all things 80s. Fashion, Music, Film. Stranger Things appears to be opening a portal inside of me that when Lover Girl comes on shuffle I embrace and feel every word as I sing it in my car instead of cringing into the seat as I once did. The entire soundtrack is a glorious robotronick campness that I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Trainers – I’ll take all of the retro reebok classics please. Not forgetting a pair of Steves Nike Cortez.