After two years, Netflix’s “Stranger Things” returned for a third season July 4, balancing some of the darkest episodes yet with comedy and heartfelt scenes to reach new heights of storytelling.
After the events of the first two seasons, the protagonists start adjusting to a normal life. Although a year has passed, nothing in Hawkins is as ordinary as it seems while the town prepares to celebrate Independence Day. While at first the plot seemingly repeats itself, the new season is full of twists to the very last moment.
The coming-of-age aspect of the series is front and center this season as characters who are now teenagers discover who they are, as the characters are more open about romantic feelings.
Season three reintroduces the main characters as teenagers during their summer vacation. The romantic aspect of the relationship between Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), is important this season, although the fact that the actors are 16 and 15 makes this dynamic strange yet important to the story nonetheless.
Returning characters from season two include Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), now an important part of the group, and her brother Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) returns as a bad boy turned lifeguard. Mayfield is much more likable in season three, having become close with her new friends, particularly Eleven.
Similar to season two, “Stranger Things” adds new characters to the mix such Robin (Maya Hawke) as a potential love interest for long-time series mainstay Steve Harrington (Joe Keery). Season 3 also features more screen time for popular minor characters from previous seasons, giving characters like Lucas’s sister, Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson) a more important and comedic role in the story.
Like in previous seasons, the writers use various types of nostalgia from the ‘80s, such as its music. My favorite song the showrunners used was “Material Girl” by Madonna as it perfectly expressed Eleven’s mood while she shopped for the first time with Max. Starcourt Mall also features a cinema, where the characters watch “Back to the Future” during a pivotal scene, which adds to the overall nostalgic feel that makes the series fun to watch.
The overall setting is different compared to past seasons, featuring multiple new locations for the series. One such location, the Starcourt Mall, plays a central role in the storyline, as well as its effects on the economy of small-town America. Parallel to real life, the characters grapple with the arrival of large corporations that threaten the welfare of small-town business owners adds to the corruption of Hawkins’ politicians.
The writers of “Stranger Things” worked strenuously this season to develop storylines and characters that the viewer could resonate with. One thing that “Stranger Things” does flawlessly is how it creates multiple story threads for each group of characters, and during the final episodes, these storylines and characters all converge together for a thrilling conclusion.
The talent and chemistry between the actors, particularly the portrayal of the dysfunctional relationship between Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) add detail and realism to the overall storyline. More so, Millie Bobby Brown’s acting reaches new heights this season as her character, Eleven faces the challenge of becoming part of normal society and the overall issues that come with being a teenager.
The cinematic quality of the series really shines in the third season. The CGI is some of the best I have ever seen in a television or web series, showing realism in unrealistic moments. Adding to the special effects, there are also some grotesque moments that are not for those with a light stomach this season. Dead animals are not a new concept for “Stranger Things” as a series, in season two, Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) found his cat brutally murdered. Season three takes the concept of death and violence to whole new levels with dead animals and brutal killings.
Overall, the third season of “Stranger Things” brought compelling new characters, sets, and storytelling in what felt like a new environment despite still being set in Hawkins. Despite all of the seemingly complex moments in season three, the story was simple to understand. The story also features an abundance of action that will leave audiences on the edge of their seats.
With no word of a fourth season yet, there is a scene after the final episode’s credits that may suggest a continuation.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
TV Rating: TV-14
The Arkansas Traveler Score: A