Almost two years have passed since its season two premiere on Netflix, but Stranger Things is back and stranger than ever. Season three is cleverly written and crafted with care as it plays like a greatest hits of its prior two seasons. The sci-fi horror elements the series is known for is constant throughout all eight episodes, but this season thrives on its character development.
Yes, the wait was long for the release of this season, but after watching all eight episodes it is easy to see why. This isn’t a rushed season that relies on contrived plot elements or shock value to get you to keep watching. The season thrives on the organic chemistry that only two seasons could produce. Season three reminds us that there is much to learn about the Upside Down, its creatures, and all who know about it.
To catch you back up, it’s the summer of 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, half a year has gone by since Eleven used her powers to push the Mind Flayer (the shadow monster and main antagonist of season two) back into the Upside Down and close the gate between its world and ours. Unfortunately, new enemies bring old problems back to the unsuspecting town of Hawkins as its residents are distracted by a new mall and upcoming 4th of July celebration.
One of the things that audiences will notice immediately about this season is how the characters have grown and matured since season one. The kids aren’t kids anymore; they are teenagers. New romantic relationships put a strain on their friendships. Furthermore, the characters aren’t the only ones that have grown as the threat to Hawkins is more horrifying than the past two seasons.
Season two was interesting in the way the creatures of the Upside Down interacted with the outside world. It was clear the Duffer Brothers, the creators of Stranger Things, paid homage to James Cameron’s Aliens with the way the Demogorgons (carnivorous creatures from the Upside Down) obeyed and protected Mind Flayer, but with season the inspiration comes from several iconic 1980s films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, and most shockingly, James Cameron’s The Terminator.
Being set in 1985, there are numerous references to 80s pop culture in Stranger Things; but, the season doesn’t rely on it, which may come as a surprise to some as Netflix partnered with more than 60 companies to promote the new season of Stranger Things, with Coco-Cola even reviving the infamous New Coke for a limited time. Most of the time the sense of nostalgia is played up for much-needed laughs in a season where things seem hopeless. But perhaps the biggest and most appreciated form of nostalgia is within the soundtrack, comprised of both 80s hits and inspired original music. The right song or score always tends to play in the background, elevating every scene, and even inspiring a certain sing-a-long.
Thanks to the increase in length per episode, with the season finale clocking in at an hour and 17 minutes, Stranger Things 3 is a highly rewarding installment in a franchise that has captured the hearts of millions. For those worrying about their fan favorites, don’t worry, no one is left behind as every character plays a key role in protecting Hawkins.
Stranger Things 3 learns from the mistakes of its previous season by providing several meaningful subplots that not only strengthen the bond between characters but brings them all together for a finale equivalent to a firework display.
Stranger Things 3 releases on July 4th on Netflix. All eight episodes were provided for the review.