Stranger Things

Will the party return to the Upside Down? Will the ever-anticipated Dustin and Steve friendship grow? Will Eleven finally be free of her overwhelming powers? Find out below.

After nearly a year and nine months of waiting, the newest season of Netflix’s phenomenon “Stranger Things” has finally arrived. 

The show’s third season is a fun mix of horror, sci-fi, comedy, spy thriller and romance. While it wasn’t completely panned by viewers and critics, “Stranger Things” season 2 received lukewarm and critical responses when it first released in 2017. The dip in quality from the show’s freshman and sophomore seasons concerned some viewers about how its third season was going to go, but, it’s delivered on all fronts and is a definite success. The pacing and storylines are cohesive and sharp; the series has rediscovered the unique charm that made viewers fall in love with it when it first debuted. 

Season 3 revolves around Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Schnapp) and Max (Sadie Sink) tracking down the source of the Mind Flayer, a monster from the Upside Down that previously controlled and possessed Will during season two. Though Eleven closed the gate to the Upside Down, they fear it’s back with a new host, and with the help of Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), they try to end its existence for good. 

The season also follows a group of Russian villains who’ve infiltrated Hawkins and are trying to open the gate that Eleven closed. Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) follow leads of their own that get them involved with the Russians, as does Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), who intercepts a Russian transmission after attempting to contact his new girlfriend, Suzie. 

Since six months have passed since the end of season 2, all of the characters must deal with new individual and transitional struggles of their own. Eleven and Mike are dating and have to find a balance between focusing on this new relationship while also discovering who they are as individuals. Hopper struggles with parenting and dealing with Eleven and Mike’s relationship, as he feels overly protective of Eleven after adopting her. Dustin worries that he’s drifting away from everyone, much like Will who’s having a hard time growing up and accepting that he and his friends aren’t going to stay kids forever.

Lucas and Max are figuring out how to keep their relationship solid, while Nancy, Jonathan and Steve have all graduated high school and are having problems moving on with their lives. Nancy faces sexism and disrespect working at the Hawkins Post with Charlie, who deals with financial struggles. Steve works at Scoops Ahoy, an ice cream shop in the mall and worries he doesn’t know who he is anymore or where life is taking him. 

Season 3 introduces a new character named Robin (Maya Hawke) who works with Steve at Scoops Ahoy, and expands upon the character of Erica (Priah Ferguson), Lucas’ little sister. Robin is a great and seamless addition to the cast and she, Steve, Dustin and Erica prove to be a fierce and epic team as they work together to investigate Dustin’s intercepted Russian transmission. 

One of the reasons season 3 is so good is that it seemed the Duffer Brothers, the show’s creators, truly listened to what audiences thought did and didn’t work in season 2. In that season, Eleven was separated from the cast for the majority of the time and several viewers didn’t appreciate having to wait until the very last episode to see her reunited with the rest of the characters. In season 3, no one is gone or missing, and the show benefits from keeping its core cast together.

The relationships and dynamics are stronger and the chemistry between the actors make the friendships believable. On a similar note, one of the most popular aspects of season 2 was the newly-developed friendship between Steve and Dustin, and the new episodes capitalize on that. 

The production was excellent on all counts. The cinematography was impressive, especially during scenes when Eleven uses her powers to “spy” on other people. In one instance, she witnesses memories of a character and the scene uses dark red coloring and an environment that emulates a tornado to capture the stress and pain those experiences held. The special effects highlight the terror of the Mind Flayer as well as the scary atmosphere of the Upside Down. 

’80s nostalgia is ever-present in the new season with popular songs like Madonna’s “Material Girl,” REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” playing in the background of scenes. Other throwbacks include the gang sneaking in to see “Day of the Dead” in the first episode, and the constant product placement for “New Coke.

“Stranger Things” season 3 is exciting and filled with both heart-warming and heart-wrenching scenes. Whether bingeing the season or spreading it out, there’s something to enjoy for all audiences. While viewers may be emotionally exhausted by the time they reach the end of episode eight, it’s important to watch the post-credits scene as it hints toward a character’s future and a potential season 4 storyline. Though after the brilliance of this season, fans should rest easy as a fourth installment is essentially inevitable.

Contact Kira Baldau at baldaukb@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.