SPOILERS. I plan on talking about the third season of Stranger Things in this post so if you have been unable to watch the entire series, you may want to avoid this post until you finish it. SPOILERS AHEAD…
You have been warned…
Final chance to leave before SPOILERS start dropping….
I binge watched the third season of Stranger Things as my Fourth of July binge fest and I have to say that it was a fun time. Only having 8 episodes in season three made the show a quick binge and never felt as if it dragged. Some Netflix series seem to have filler episodes because of the number of episodes, but Stranger Things does not have that problem.
There were some fantastic performances throughout the entire run. Millie Bobby Brown brings the goodness as Eleven, aka “Elle”. She has really shown that she knows exactly what this character is like and how she would react. The relationship between Elle and Mike, as played by Finn Wolfhard, is sweet and believable after the previous two seasons of them together. Starting the season off with the kissy-face between the two of them showed where the characters have gone.
I also liked how they took Elle and gave her a female friend in Max, played by Sadie Sink. This showed us something that Elle never had, a friend who was a girl. The scenes of them at the mall are wonderful and so real to life.
The show follows one of the tried and true ideas in storytelling. The entire group splits into sections, all dealing with pieces of the over-arching storyline, and slowly come together to share what they know. It can be frustrating at times, but every show from LOST to The Walking Dead have used this trope. There is a satisfaction when the group finally get back together.
Looking at the episodes:
Episode One: “Suzie, Do You Copy?“
We are re-introduced to the characters from Hawkins, Indiana, including Dustin returning from a vacation where he claims to have met a girl and they have become a couple. He sets up “Cerebro” a communication device to talk with her in her home in Utah, but he cannot connect. His friends wonder if there truly is a Suzie. However, he does eventually pick up a surprising message in Russian. Will and Lucas are becoming frustrated with Mike and Eleven’s relationship. Their relationship is also causing stress for Hopper as well. He seeks council from Joyce. Max’s brother Billy winds up crashing his car and being dragged into the steel mill by some creature.
The first episode was a bit slow and was probably the weakest of the season. It included some weird storyline with Mike’s mom Karen Wheeler, who was at the swimming pool ogling lifeguard Billy. Billy wants some of that too as he invites her to some private swimming lessons at a local hotel. This was a creepy way to start the show and included a storyline that went absolutely nowhere. I loved the X-Men reference with Cerebro though. As always, Stranger Things is more than happy to remind you that this is set in the 1980s and to beat you over the head with nostalgia if you forget it.
Episode Two: “The Mall Rats”
Hopper fails to have the heart-to-heart with Elle and Mike that was recommended to him by Joyce and instead threatens Mike. A fearful Mike lies to Elle about his grandma being sick. Max takes Elle to the mall and they have a fun and engaging shopping trip. Mike, Lucas and Will also go to the mall looking to purchase an “I’m sorry” gift for Elle. Elle and Max find them there and, mad about being lied to, Elle “dumps his ass.” Meanwhile, Dustin has gone to see Steven at Steven’s job at Scoops Ahoy at the mall to try and get help with the Russian message. He recruits Steven’s co-worker Robin to help. They are able to determine that the message originated from Hawkins. Finally, Joyce, ever paranoid, believes something weird is happening to make the magnets in her home not stick to her refrigerator. She winds up standing up Hopper on their date to go see science teacher Mr. Clarke. Nancy and Jonathan, who are working as interns at the newspaper, go to an elderly woman’s home following up a lead on a story about hyperactive/crazed rats.
Robin is one of the great new characters of season two. The relationship between her and Steve is one of my favorite parts of the season. They start off typically berating one another, but their connection is obvious right away. They are funny as scene partners almost every time they are together. As a recurring theme of the season, the Russian stuff is fairly ridiculous, but, if you take it in that manner, it works.
Episode Three: “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”
Billy has kidnapped on of his co-workers from the swimming pool and Eleven is able to see him doing it with her super spying power. This sends Max and Eleven out to try and help the girl and find out what exactly was going on. Will, Lucas and Mike are together and Will wants things to get back to normal…aka D & D. However, Mike and Lucas are more interested in the girl drama, causing Will to storm off. He winds up at “Castle Byers” tree house that he destroys in a fit of anger. After this, Will’s Will Sense tells him that the monster from the Upside Down was back. Robin breaks the Russian code down and realizes that someone is bringing something to the mall that night, and Dustin, Steven and she go to spy on it. Nancy gets made fun of over her story idea by the douchebag newspaper men so she and Jonathan go back to Mrs. Driscoll’s place only to find her crazed herself, eating fertilizer.
The whole Mrs. Driscoll stuff was wild and made me sad. In the little screen time that actress Peggy Miley had received, I really liked the little old lady. The Will reaction was great and very understandable. Of all people, Will would want to get back to what he was used to, but the others moved on with their love lives. Will storming out of the D & D session made me think of my friend Frank, who once tried to storm out of a D & D session we were playing in only to be tackled by my friend Darin. I actually said to Mike, “Tackle him!”
Oh, and by the way, I absolutely hated the characters of the newspaper men. They were nothing but rotten men who were one-dimensional.
Episode Four: “The Sauna Test”
The boys and girls reunite and share information. With Will’s proclamation that the mindflayer was still in the universe, they determined that the mindflayer had been trapped in this universe when Eleven closed the door between dimensions in season two. They also began to speculate about someone that might be possessed. They immediately placed Billy front and center and set him up in a trap at the swimming pool to find out for sure. Trapping him in the sauna room, they knew that the mindflayer wanted to stay cool and this showed that Billy was indeed possessed. Showing incredible strength, Billy broke free and had his first confrontation with Eleven. As Billy was showing his transformation, so was Mrs. Driscoll and Nancy happened to be witnessing this in her hospital room after she and Jonathan had been fired for pushing the case after their boss Tom (who is also now possessed) told them not to. While this is happening, Steve, Robin, and Dustin have enlisted Lucas’s sister Erica to crawl through air ducts to get them into the warehouse so they can find out what was in the secret deliveries to the Russians. The four of them wind up trapped in the tunnels beneath the mall, a Russian stronghold.
The whole Russian thing was not a personal favorite of mine. It all felt too cartoonish and the fact that these four kids were able to be so successful in compromising the secret headquarters was stretching credibility too much for me at times. What saved the whole situation was how great the four characters were together. Robin and Steve were fun and the introduction of Erica was a hoot. She played very well off of Dustin. We also get evil mayor The Dread Pirate Roberts! The city’s mayor was played by Cary Elwes, who has some underhanded dealing with the Russians.
Episode 5: “The Flayed”
Joyce and Hopper investigate the Lab, finding a pair of Russians. They capture one of them, Alexei and Hopper takes him to Murray Bauman because he can speak Russian. Murray is much more entertaining this season than he was last year as the conspiracy theorist. Nancy and Jonathan meet up with the kids, bringing another group together. They decide to try and find the possessed people by going to the hospital and letting Mrs. Driscoll lead them there. Unfortunately, this was a bad idea as Tom and Bruce, the douchebags from the paper, were there waiting for them and have killed a bunch of hospital staff members. Jonathan and Nancy are able to kill the possessed pair, but they dissolved into a red ooze and combined to form a bigger monster. Meanwhile, Steve, Dustin, Erica and Robin found that the Russians were trying to open the door to the Upside Down using some big machinery powered by this green liquid that was in the boxes that had been delivered to the mall.
Things are heating up here as the hospital fight was insane. It also gave the kids a chance to start healing from their break-ups earlier. Mike and Eleven have a nice scene and Eleven helps with the vending machine, which was funny. The whole Hopper, Murray, Joyce and Alexei stuff was classic.
Episode Six: “E Pluribus Unum”
The Mindflayer chases after Nancy and Jonathan in the hospital in some of the most dramatic scenes of the series so far. Thankfully, the Will sense had warned him that the Mindflayer was here and Eleven was able to arrive in the nick of time to save Nancy. Steve and Robin get captured by the Russians as Dustin and Erica get away. Steve and Robin are given truth serum which drugs them up and they are interrogated by the Russians. Meanwhile, Alexei has decided to cooperate with Hopper and tells them about the “keys” that were used to start the machines to open the doorway to the Upside Down. Dustin and Erica are able to rescue Steve and Robin, but they are so drugged out that they seem to be drunk. Trying to find out where Billy is using her powers, Eleven winds up reading his mind and finding out some info from his childhood. Unfortunately, he finds out she is doing this and then knows where she is. The possessed people start melting together to form one giant monster.
This was a great episode. I have to say though that the Russians are just too much of a joke for me. As I said, the whole thing is saved by Steve and Robin and their dialogue, which is absolutely fantastic. The scene where these people wind up melting into goo and forming the new giant Mindflayer is one of total horror. The body count of this series is tremendously high. So sad to see Mrs. Driscoll go.
Episode 7: “The Bite”
The Mindflayer arrives at the cabin and the kids have to fight it off. It gets a bite on Eleven’s leg. She is able to use her power to tear it apart, giving the kids the chance to retreat. They wind up at a hardware store and they hear from Dustin over a walkie. Dustin, Erica, Steve and Robin are hiding at the movie, Back to the Future. Unfortunately, the walkie-talkie has a battery that is too low and eventually gives out. As this is going on, Hopper, Joyce, Murray, and Alexei head to the July 4th carnival trying to find the kids because they realized that the danger that they are in. Alexei gets shot and killed by the evil Russian agent that had been stalking them. The three flee the fairgrounds, heading to the mall. At the mall, Eleven saved Dustin’s group from the Russians who were about to shoot them by smashing them with a display car. Afterwards, Eleven collapses as her bite mark throbs with something inside it.
God this was great. The confrontation at the cabin was the bomb and full of tension and that was just the start. You knew that the bite mark would cause trouble later as the episode was named that. I was so sad that Alexei got murdered. I had grown to like him in a short time. He and Murray had shown the possibilities of covering the chasm between countries and were becoming friends. His death made me think of Sean Astin’s death last season. When Hopper shot the Russian agent multiple times and he went down, I yelled out, “shoot him in the head.” Of course, he did not and the agent had a bullet proof vest on. I knew it! The whole Back to the Future stuff was awesome too and Steve and Robin continue their epicness. And they discover that they are not becoming a pair because Robin is gay even though Steve was falling for her. That was handled so well that it was truly beautiful. And speaking of beautiful, Eleven crushing those Russians with the car had me shouting out loud.
Episode 8: “The Battle of Starcourt”
Looking at the bite mark on Eleven’s leg, they saw something crawling around inside her wound. Jonathan tried cutting the thing out and tried reaching into the incision to grab it. Eleven said he could do it, and she used her power to pull the creature out of her leg and flipped it away, just in time for Hopper to step on it and squish it. The group, fully combined finally after the whole season, compare notes. Hopper, Murray and Joyce head down to find the keys and shut off the machine opening the door to the Upside Down. They are following instructions from Dustin and Erica, who went back to Cerebro for a stronger signal. The Mindflayer arrived at the mall and the kids had to hide, trying to escape. Eventually, the kids tossed fireworks at the monster, stalling it. The Russian agent showed up to fight with Hopper. Billy showed up. Lots of stuff happened. Joyce is able to turn the keys and close the door, blowing up the machines. It appeared as if Hopper was caught in the explosion and died. Billy turned on the mindflayer to save Eleven, also costing him his life.
Three months later, Joyce and her family (including Eleven) are moving. Everyone says goodbye. We wind up in Russia in a post credit scene where we see them feeding a prisoner to the demogorgon.
There was so much in this episode. This was a great conclusion to the season. Lots of conflict and dramatic tension. The removal of the thing out of Eleven’s leg was unbelievably queasy. It was really hard to watch, but you couldn’t take your eyes off of it. I did not even mention Steve arriving to crash his car into Billy’s car, who was trying to smash Nancy. It was a brilliant moment. I also did not mention the moment of the Neverending Story, where Dustin and Suzie sing the song together over Cerebro. I am not sure how I feel about this. My first thought is that this had no place in the story, but it did break some of the high tension of the episode and allowed for a funny joke later. The Hopper stuff was emotional, but I believe that he is not dead. In the post credit scene, the Russian guard makes a reference to a jail cell that contained an American. Any bets that Hopper is inside that cell? Billy’s sacrifice was tough to watch as well as his return to the good side was helped by Eleven and her flash to his past.
These characters had been building to this moment throughout these episodes and everyone had their moment. This season of Stranger Things was really great. I think I would put it ahead of season two, but behind one. I’m not sure where the show goes from here, but there is definitely plans for the Russians to continue as we saw that demogorgon at the end.
Season Three: 8.5/10
Best Moment: Eleven crushing Russians with the car. Love that.
Worst Moment: The Russian interrogating Steve and Robin. Was Boris Badenov too busy?
Most Horrific: Cutting her leg and reaching into the wound.
We miss you moment: A flashback featuring Bob (Sean Astin).
Best Acting: Give it to Millie Bobby Brown. Top notch.