Stranger Things - Season 3 (TV Review)
Oscar Rendon | St. Louis, MO | July 9th, 2019
Stranger Things Season 3 returns with our favorite ensemble cast, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Joe Keery, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Priah Ferguson and Cara Buono with Dacre Montgomery and newcomer Maya Hawke. The kids are all grown up, well sort of. We are reintroduced to our favorite Hawkins residents as they enter the summer with nothing but their teen spirit and per usual spooky supernatural occurrences from the upside-down. A familiar foe returns to exact revenge and it isn’t the 80’s without some Russian villains (I didn’t write the show).
Last season, we knew we wouldn’t get another season of Stranger Things for a while and that was about 2 years ago in November of 2017. Fast forward to July 4th, 2019 and not only have grown up a bit but so have the kids on the show. We see a more mature cast and with that a more darker and heavy season for the characters and actors. So let’s begin, the ‘UPS’ this entire season had the luxury of looking back at an amazing first season and a highly criticized second season. With that being said I think they took a lot of the criticism from Season 2 and went back to a more contained story like the first season did. Now (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!) this season did add an element that makes the Stranger Things world a bit bigger but contains it in a smart way. This season adds a Russian spy element that if done in the second season probably would have been too much. That element is very cleverly contained with the Starcourt Mall and a secret base underground it. One of my favorite storylines is with the group of Steve, Dustin, Robin and Erica who discover the secret base. Not only is the bromance between Dustin & Steve fun and even more dynamic but the added relationships with Robin who has a major arc in this season makes for a better viewing experience and it raises the stakes for those characters. I think a lot of the heavy acting was left to maybe 5 characters this season with Hopper, Joyce, Eleven ‘El’, Nancy, and Billy.
Realistically all of the supernatural stuff we like from the show starts with Billy when the ‘Mind Flayer’ returns and takes possession of him. From there we really get to see Billy in a whole new light as opposed to when when we were first introduced to him in Season 2. First, the whole he’s a villain is immediately debunked in the 4th episode when he is trapped in the sauna. That is the first time we really see who Billy is and it’s also an easter egg for a coming episode in which we’ll get to in a moment. In the sauna scene we see Billy broken down asking for help and telling the kids he’s scared and can’t control the terrible things he’s done. What is so great about that scene is we finally begin to sympathize with Billy on a human level, we got a glimpse of that in season 2 with his conversation with his a**hole of a dad but here we feel bad for him and from that moment I’m hooked to Billy’s character. We get the back story to Billy and see why he is the way he is when Eleven goes through his memories, we see a younger Billy happy and loved by his mother but when she leaves that’s when he begins to break and his father’s abuse also is much clearer and we see how Billy becomes the quote on quote villain. What I loved about this scene is that it connects to the sauna scene, Billy is again reverted back to that little boy pleading for help which is why it makes his redemption and death all the more meaningful and emotional. You see who he was, who he became and eventually who he could have been, all in the span of 8 episodes and it really sticks with you.
When Eleven is trapped by the possessed Billy she connects to Billy with the memory of his mother on the beach that day and reminds him he was once happy, visually you see the dark marks on Billy disappear showing that the Mind Flayer has lost control of him and Billy snaps back to that version of himself who was good. The emotional part comes when Billy stops the Mind Flayer from getting Eleven, holding it back and eventually sacrificing himself to save her. What makes that scene so impactful is the journey we went on with Billy this season, this was Billy’s season and his death brings the emotional weight because we the viewers want him to find that happiness again but alas we don’t and that hope, that glimmer of light left in Billy dies with his sacrifice. Now let’s get to the even sadder stuff, Jim Hopper’s story and how it maybe ends this season. At the end of this season it is presumed that Hopper dies when Joyce initiates the shutdown of the machine trying to break the gate to the upside-down. The machine not only shuts down but is also destroyed in the process. Like in the beginning of the season the machine kills whoever is near it when tampered with and unfortunately Hopper was right next to it and like I said we presume him dead.
Overall this season of Stranger Things is the best by far. We get the more self contained story while also creating a much larger world in a smarter way than Season 2 did. The monster designs for the ‘Melted’ and the ‘Mind Flayer’ are great, you can tell they had a much bigger budget to work with for the the creatures The storytelling is great, the Nancy stuff wasn’t as engaging after she figured out the Mind Flayer was back and if that is the only real negative I can find then thats not a bad thing. The kids growing up and trying to find themselves was an added bonus while also juggling saving the world you know? The real good stuff came from Hopper & Joyce’s relationship and the bond they build not only over the series but particularly in this season. The villain aspect is compelling and Dacre Montgomery is the true standout in a cast full of great performances.