Review: The kids of 'Stranger Things 3' grow up as Hawkins fights the powerful Mind Flayer
The townsfolk of Hawkins are back fighting monsters again in Season 3 of Stranger Things, which just dropped on Netflix last Friday (5 July). This time they are up against the Mind Flayer itself, instead of its Demodog minions from Season 2.
But there are new enemies afoot in the form of Russian agents (who were still Communist in 1985), who have sunk roots in Hawkins. They plan to use the inter-dimensional gate for their nefarious purposes, and they’ll get rid of any pesky kids (or adults) who get in their way.
This season also ditches the previous seasons’ plot device of Will Byers as victim to the Upside Down, though his connection to the Mind Flayer proves useful.
The first few episodes of the eight-episode season take their time setting up the showdown with the evil entity from another world, but hang tight, because the story pays off in the climactic battle(s).
The residents of Hawkin go about solving different parts of the mystery as the Mind Flayer sets its scheme in motion, and their separate storylines eventually merge as things come to a head with the villains, both monster and human.
Stranger Things was always as much about its adorable child characters as it was about the monsters. Our lovable kids, Mike, Eleven, Dustin, Will, Lucas and Max, are now in the process of growing up, with Will being the only guy without a girlfriend at this point, which leaves him feeling left out.
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Erica, Lucas’s sassy sister from Season 2, gets a bigger role this time as one of the main players in the fight – hooray! She remains a scene stealer with her precocious, no-nonsense attitude.
This season also portrays the different ways that teenagers tackle romance. Mike and Eleven can’t stop kissing and pissing off Eleven’s foster dad, police chief Hopper. Lucas and Max play it cooler with their more toned-down relationship. And Dustin tries to convince everyone that his long-distance girlfriend, Suzie, is real by way of radio comms.
Although the monster(s) are arguably at their scariest (and grossest) in this season, Stranger Things somehow balances that out with lots of funny scenes as well as bittersweet romances.
The show, known for inducing ‘80s nostalgia by incorporating pop culture from that era into the story, continues in that vein with references like the song Total Eclipse of the Heart and the Back to the Future films.
But the most awesome ‘80s reference, which also happens to be supremely crucial to the storyline, goes to Dustin-bun and his new girlfriend Suzie-poo (yes, those are their nicknames for each other).
Stranger Things is known for giving us iconic moments (like the Christmas lights message that Joyce receives from Will while he’s in the Upside Down), and Season 3 doesn’t disappoint in that regard. In an unforgettable sequence in the season finale, the fate of the world rests on the two teenagers in love singing The Neverending Story, the theme song from the 1984 classic fantasy film of the same title. It sounds weird but it’s really sweet and it tempers the episode’s darkness and violence in trademark Stranger Things style.
The season ends with a teaser for Season 4, which has already been greenlit by Netflix, and the showrunners, the Duffer Brothers, have said that it might well be the last season. Well, there’s only so much growing up these kids can do!