Warning: Minor Spoilers Throughout
The anticipation and excitement amongst fans of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” was palpable when season three premiered on July 4, 2019. For my own part, I wondered the following: What would take place over the course of the eight episodes of the new season? For instance, would The Upside Down, still feature prominently in the show, or would our group of Hawkins’ heroes have a new enemy to contend with? How would new characters fit into the series? Well, if you’ve seen the third season, you know I got my answers to those questions. From the opening credit score, composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, I was hooked, and eagerly waiting to find out what the creators of the series, Emmy nominees Matt and Ross Duffer, were going to delve into for the new season.
The third season begins during the summer of 1985. The town of Hawkins, Indiana is busy preparing for a Fourth of July celebration. The newly introduced character Mayor Larry Kline, played by Cary Elwes (Saw), wants the celebration to be the most entertaining event the residents of Hawkins have ever taken part in. Not giving much thought to the upcoming celebration, nor the new Starcourt Mall, which is helping to eradicate local businesses, are Mike Wheeler, a role acted by Finn Wolfhard (IT), and the powerful telekinetic, Eleven, portrayed by two time Emmy nominee Millie Bobby Brown (Godzilla: King of the Monsters). The two teens are spending a great deal of time together. Their relationship is something which irks, Eleven’s adoptive father, Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper, played by Golden Globe nominee David Harbour (Quantum of Solace). His unhappiness with the situation prompts him to seek advice from Joyce Byers, who is portrayed by Golden Globe winner Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence). She gives him good advice on how to handle Mike and Eleven’s teenage romance; whether Hopper takes it or not, I’ll let those of you who haven’t seen the show yet, find out for yourselves.
In addition to Mike and Eleven, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink), are an on again, off again, couple, according to Lucas, who lets it be known that Max has dumped him on five separate occasions, only to take him back when he’s apologized for the errors of his ways. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), who has been away for a month at science camp, also has begun a budding teenage romance with a girl named Suzie, who lives in Utah, or so he claims to his skeptical friends. Dustin’s relationship, if it does exist, leaves Will (Noah Schnapp), as the only member of the original quartet of friends, who is not involved in a relationship. Will still wants to sit in Mike’s basement and play marathon sessions of Dungeons & Dragons, replete with costumes and a musical accompaniment, his friends, however, seem less than enthusiastic about the idea.
The Mind Flayer has returned once again, thanks to the involvement of Cold War era Russian scientists, who have managed to open the gate to the Upside Down, that Eleven closed at the end of the second season. This time, however, the creature’s conduit for unleashing its destructive force, isn’t Will Byers, but rather, Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), Max’s step-brother. Billy, perhaps thought he was going to be able to have a relatively stress free summer. He’s working as a lifeguard at the Hawkins community swimming pool. Furthermore, he’s attempting to make his fantasies of having a relationship with the married, Karen Wheeler, played by Emmy nominee Cara Buono (Mad Men), a reality, but the Mind Flayer, has something else in store for him.
There are other characters working to oppose the malevolent force during season three, whether they know it’s in conjunction with fighting the Mind Flayer or not. For example, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and her boyfriend, Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), are interns at the Hawkins Post newspaper. One evening, Nancy, whose been relegated to menial tasks, and whose ideas for stories are continuously belittled and dismissed by Post staff members, such as Bruce (Jake Busey), who enjoys making fun of her by calling her Nancy Drew, receives a phone call. The woman she speaks to, a Mrs. Driscoll (Peggy Miley), relays a story about an unusual rat, that has eaten through multiple bags of fertilizer. Sensing an opportunity for a story, she enlists Jonathan’s help, and goes out to interview the woman. Unbeknownst to Nancy and Jonathan, the rat, and it won’t be the only one that will be shown, is all part of the Mind Flayer’s master plan.
Fans hoping to see the continuation of the friendship between Dustin and Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), that began in season two, fear not, it does continue. While Steve was very popular in high school, he’s not such a big deal in the real world. His poor grades, have diminished any chance he had of getting into college, and his prospects, at least at the moment, are slim. He takes a job at Scoops Ahoy, a new ice cream shop, that has opened at the mall. Some of the best banter of the season takes place between Steve and his sarcastic co-worker Robin (Maya Hawke). Robin, however, is not just there for comic relief. After Dustin intercepts a coded Russian message on his high tech radio, Robin becomes entangled with Dustin and Steve, in attempting to decode it, and find out what the Russians are doing in Hawkins. Furthermore, they will need the help of the most unlikely person imaginable, Lucas’s sister, the self-described, nerd hater, Erica (Priah Ferguson). Additionally, working to uncover what is taking place in Hawkins, without getting into spoiler details, are Hopper and Joyce. They are joined by private investigator, Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman), whose remarks provide comic relief, but whose skills, especially when it comes to translating the Russian being spoken by Dr. Alexei (Alec Utgoff), are very much in need.
Will the combined forces of the teenage protagonists, and the adults who love them, be able to stop both the Mind Flayer and the Russians? What exactly is the Mind Flayer trying to accomplish this time around? Why do the Russians want to unleash a literal hell on earth?
Netflix upped the ante on all levels for the series’ third season. The horror elements are more graphic and gory, the action more intense, and the realization for one character, in particular, that no matter how desperately an individual might want to cling to their childhood, and avoid the emotional angst that is a part of growing up, once that period of a person’s life has concluded, that’s it, sadly; there is no going back to start again. Please, don’t get the wrong idea, there are some good positives that take place during the season. For example, the friendship that forms between Eleven and Max, without the involvement of their respective boyfriends. Season three of “Stranger Things” held my interest from start to finish, and my only complaint was that there were only eight episode, which took me next to no time to watch. I will state, in closing, however, that I hope a certain someone, is the person, I think it is, sitting in the closed off Russian jail cell, in the very last scene of season three of the series.