Netflix’s hit sci-fi adventure series Stranger Things has returned with another impressive endeavor into the alternate dimension known as The Upside Down.
Season 2 may have dropped the ball a bit along the way last time audiences were beckoned to Hawkins, Indiana. Luckily, season 3 is an excellent return to form, and the cast is back and better than ever. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Will (Noah Schnapp), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) have all grown over the past two years, and love is in the air for some of them. While this latest outing from writer and directors, Matt and Ross Duffer, brings back the charm of the first season, it isn’t breaking new ground either.
Taking place in 1985, a year after the previous season, the gang thought they had eradicated all traces of the Mind Flayer in this world when Eleven closed the gateway to the alternate dimension. Of course, that isn’t correct, and it’s still lurking in Hawkins waiting to strike. With the unintended assistance from a secret group of Russians in the area, the Mind Flayer’s consciousness is able to access the unsuspecting town once again. Interestingly enough, the first film that appeared this season was Day of the Dead, which focused on scientist and military types dwelling in underground bunkers, a reference to the season’s plot.
The enticing mystery this season will have viewers glued to the screen, and there isn’t a single filler episode. With the kids now older, expect the first couple of episodes to build interest by focusing on the relationship between Eleven and Mike. A cute pairing that has been building ever since the two first met and shared a kiss. They aren’t the only love birds, Lucas and Max (Sadie Sink) seem to be growing stronger than ever as well. Eleven and Mike’s romance may be short-lived though, as Hopper (David Harbour) doesn’t fancy how close the two are getting.
Unable to accept that Eleven is getting older, which means puberty is setting in. Hopper turns to Joyce (Winona Ryder), who is still struggling to deal with the events of last season. Hopper’s romantic interest in Joyce becomes more apparent, but his advances are shot down. Meanwhile, the Mind Flayer has found a new host and has begun to build an army to take down Eleven, and anything else standing its way. Elsewhere in town, Steve (Joe Keery) has gone from a cool guy to spoiling children, a refreshing change for his character that began last season. He now works at Scoops Ahoy, an ice cream shop at the Starcourt Mall. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) are still together and spend their summer interning at the Hawkins Post.
Once the season fills you in on the life of the Hawkins inhabitants, it doesn’t take long to transition into a full-on edge of your seat, nostalgic driven adventure. Similar to the seasons that came before it, Stranger Things’ third season is jampacked with 80’s references, it even features an opposing character channeling his inner Terminator, but he is no Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Mind Flayer is more gruesome and in itself another reference to the Terminator series, as it grows by gathering mass from the remains of its victims.
The Duffer Brothers are well aware that this nostalgic formula is what made the show a success when it initially arrived in the summer of 2016, but what keeps viewers coming back are the emotionally-driven characters portrayed by rising young actors and actresses. Season 3 is a retelling of story fans are familiar with, but it remains effective because of the characters involved. Another attribute this season has going for it is that the group of young kids is entering that stage of puberty, so the stakes are heightened, and this season features the most intense, graphic, gut-wrenching sequences to date.
As always, the cast brings their roles to life, as everyone involved gives a believable, and for some, heartbreaking performances. However, one trope from the series should be rendered obsolete, and that is the denial from certain characters who think nothing is wrong in the town. There’s an instance where Joyce is shutdown by Hopper who does everything possible to prove to her that all is well in Hawkins. While he probably did it because he wants her to feel safe, the town is known for not always being safe, and he is more than aware of that. Not to mention, Joyce was the one who ended up being right about her son’s whereabouts in the first season.
Stranger Things won’t last forever, in fact, the Duffer’s have made it known that they don’t plan on revisiting Hawkins for that long. While the world they have created is thrilling, they know that it has a shelf life. Regardless of that, this third season is very formulaic but still so well executed in doing what it does best. Such as the breakdown of groups that explore what is happening in town, but they all eventually come together, in the end, to resolve the issue together and learn from one and another. Millie Bobby Brown gives another delightful performance as Eleven, and her powers are in full force this season. Also, Lucas’ little sister Erica is an absolute delight. She is the breakout star this time around and offers the most hilarious dialogue in the series to date.
Stranger Things’ third season is another home run for Matt and Ross Duffer. A trip to Hawkins, Indiana is always eery, emotional, and quite scary. The season ends in a sad manner this time around, but then something else occurs that will inevitably play into the fourth season, which could take us to a whole new playing field.
Stranger Things Season Three is currently available to stream on Netflix.