Stranger Things makes me happy. That’s the best way to describe this series. Season 3 of Stranger Things was a fun, enjoyable show that successfully combines childhood nostalgia with science-fiction and horror. I was not a child of the 1980s, but I can relate to that feeling of playing with your friends and going on adventures in the summer. (Of course, I never had the threat of being attacked by Demogorgons present.) Nothing excites me more than sitting down on my couch, firing up Netflix, and seeing what the gang is up to in Hawkins, Indiana.
*There will be spoilers in this article. You’ve been warned.*
Season 1 was magnificent. Season 2 was good, but a step back from Season 1’s brilliance. This time, Season 3 was stellar.
Season 3 is set in the summer of 1985. We return to Hawkins to see that the kids have grown, their hormones are rising, and the Mind Flayer is back. Love is in the air at the start of the season as Mike and Eleven are inseparable and can’t keep their faces off each other. Lucas and Max are still an item, though, at times, their constant bickering might make it seem like they’re enemies. Nancy and Jonathan aka the Woodward and Bernstein of Hawkins are still going strong.
Joyce and Hopper (Jopper?) also share a few intimate moments as well as continue down their detective path as they try to solve another supernatural mystery. Magnets, anyone? Will aka Peter Pan is back and all he wants to do is never grow up. The bromance between Dustin and Steve shines once again and they even add new girl Robin into the mix along with Lucas’s sister, Erica. Last, but certainly not least, Billy continues to wreak havoc on the kids except this time, he’s possessed by a former foe. Oh yeah, there’s also the presence of our Cold War enemy, Russia. The 80s, baby!
As a whole, the season had a lot of highs, but there were some small complaints I had. Here are my winners and losers from Season 3 of Stranger Things.
In my notes for this review, I had “Robin” in all caps. That’s how good of an addition Robin was to the cast. She is the greatest addition to the show since its inception. Her wittiness and quirky attitude matched perfectly with Steve’s charming and dimwitted personality. I could have watched a spinoff of Robin and Steve in the ice cream shop for eight episodes. Which leads me into my next winner…
Winners: Dustin And Steve Adding Robin Into Their Bromance
One of the highlights of Season 2 was the bromance that developed between Steve and Dustin. Steve gave Dustin tips with the ladies and Dustin shared his knowledge about science-fiction and Demogorgons with Steve. Adding Robin to the mix was a seamless transition. The three of them teaming up to crack the Russian code and save Hawkins from a potential nuclear and alien invasion was my favorite storyline of the season. I’m not forgetting about Erica, who’s genius and sassiness turned the successful trio into a quartet.
Loser: A Separated Gang
My major issue with Stranger Things over the last two seasons has been the lack of interaction between the original group of Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven. The chemistry between this group is one of the main reasons why Season 1 was so successful. Though Dustin and Steve’s friendship has blossomed, part of me wishes that Dustin had a chance to recapture his magic with Mike, Lucas, and Eleven. Stranger Things can be formulaic in a good way, but separating the kids and teenagers from each other until the very end leaves me wanting more huge team-ups instead of separated groups.
Winners: Dustin And Suzie’s Song
I was initially torn on this scene. Like Hopper, I was entirely confused when I first watched Dustin and his girlfriend, Suzie, belt out the song to The Neverending Story. However, after I rewatched the scene for a second time, I couldn’t stop humming along and eventually, singing the lyrics. The finale was so intense and emotional that a silly and playful musical number to remind us that this show is about children was a good break in the action.
Losers: The Beginning Of The Season
I’m fully aware that this could be a “me problem,” but the first couple of episodes in Season 3 of Stranger Things dragged out a little too much. I was excited to see our favorite characters back, but it felt plotless. The Mind Flayer abducted Billy and Joyce had a magnet problem, but the mission of each group was still up in the air. It wasn’t until the fourth episode, “The Sauna Test,” where the action picked up and the “what do we have to do to save Hawkins” question started to have an answer.
That fit >>>>. Eleven may be the MVP of the show, but Hopper is the most interesting character. Hopper is a broken and flawed man with a big heart but struggles to express his emotions. Sharing his true thoughts with those he loves (Joyce and Eleven) is a struggle, but that’s because he cares about them so much. Did the arguing with Joyce drag out? Yes. Did he spend way too much time fighting Russian terminators? Probably. However, did Hopper continue to captivate my attention in a way that no other character can do? Absolutely. It’s why his death is so special and heartbreaking. I’m going to have more on the finale in the coming days, but for now, let’s assume Hopper is dead for now. That’s a huge loss for the show. Hopper is the only father figure in the entire series and removing him means there’s a serious void in men who like to pound cigarettes and alcohol. All joking aside, Hopper will be severely missed if this was his final farewell. Nominate David Harbour for every award.
Winner: Hopper’s Letter To Eleven And Final Montage
I will be the first to admit that I was a mess after watching Eleven read her letter from Hopper. Joyce put Hopper on the right track, but he absolutely crushed my soul with the second half. Here’s the letter in its entirety.
“There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you both about. I know this is a difficult conversation, but I care about you both very much. And I know that you care about each other very much, and that’s why it’s important that we set these boundaries moving forward so we can build an environment where we all feel comfortable, trusted, and open to sharing our feelings.
Feelings. Feelings. Jesus. The truth is, for so long I’d forgotten what those even were. I’ve been stuck in one place. In a cave, you might say. A deep, dark cave. And then I left some Eggos out in the woods and you came into my life. For the first time in a long time, I started to feel things again. I started to feel happy. But lately, I guess I’ve been feeling distant from you. Like you’re pulling away from me or something. I miss playing board games every night, making triple-decker Eggo extravaganzas at sunrise, watching Westerns together before we doze off.
But I know you’re getting older, growing, changing. I guess, if I’m being really honest, that’s what scares me. I don’t want things to change. So I think maybe that’s why I came in here, to try and make stop that change. To turn back the clock. To make things go back to how they were. But I know that’s naive. It’s just not how life works. It’s moving, always moving, whether you like it or not. And yeah, sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s sad. And sometimes, it’s surprising. Happy.
So you know what? Keep on growing up kid. Don’t let me stop you. Make mistakes, learn from ’em. When life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good. It means you’re out of that cave. But, please, if you don’t mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches.“
Rereading that last paragraph has me in a puddle of tears. “When life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good. it means you’re out of that cave.” That’s a beautiful line that perfectly represents the father/daughter relationship between Hopper and El. Both have been hurt numerous times and yet both continue to find love with each other. It’s a beautiful message.
Throw in the cover of “Heroes” by Peter Gabriel and the finale leaves on an emotional note. It’s not a coincidence that my two favorite endings to the show include that song. The ending of Season 1, Episode 3, where Mike and the crew find “a dead Will” and the Season 3 finale are both elevated thanks to the moving voice of Peter Gabriel.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Season 3 of Stranger Things. It was terrifying, devastating, emotional, and funny. I can’t ask for much more from a television show. Here’s to hoping that Season 4 follows the same release date pattern of the previous seasons and drops sometime in October 2020.
Check back later this week for more Season 3 of Stranger Things content. Click here for previous articles on Stranger Things.