ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Last week was the 4th of July, which meant barbecues, fireworks and baseball – and for many rabid fans, the release of season three of Netflix’s hit “Stranger Things.” The series follows a group of friends in the small, possibly not-so-sleepy town of Hawkins, Ind. as they battle supernatural forces.
I’ve been working to re-watch the series these past couple weeks so I wouldn’t forget everything that happened and then this past weekend, I took myself and my laptop to my sofa to watch the most recent season of the show. I’d been waiting for quite a while for the third season to be released and I was so excited – and as it turned out, I had every reason to be.
Season one followed the investigation into the disappearance of young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) amid supernatural events occurring around Hawkins, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps Will's friends in their search. Season two is set one year later in October 1984 and deals with everyone’s attempts to return to normality after the events from the year prior. Season three is set in the summer of 1985 and follows the group of friends as relationships blossom and as they deal with yet more otherworldly forces.
One of the first things I noticed for season three is how utterly 1980s it is, from the stores in Hawkins’ new Starcourt Mall (which include The Gap and other favorites) down to the fashion choices of the characters. The overall vibe is really cool and should invoke a lot of nostalgia for the show’s viewers who grew up in the 1980s. I also love how the show overall is accurate of the time period as far as the movies that get referenced, and it shows the producers actually took the time to research what movies and other pop culture were prevalent back then – it’s those extra details that make the show so great, and season three did a great job as well.
Something else I have to give praise to for season three is how the story is set up. There are essentially three stories the season follows – the first story follows characters Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) as they try to prove Russians are infiltrating Hawkins, the second story follows Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Will Byers’ mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder) as they investigate whether or not Hawkins Lab was truly closed after the events of the year prior, and the last story follows our original group of friends as they investigate whether or not they’re still in danger from the Upside Down. All three stories (which turn out to be connected) each get the perfect amount of focus time and viewers get to see how they all connect as the season goes on. The pacing, just like the previous two seasons, is solid and strong and and tight, and everything gets wrapped up really well.
Another thing I liked about season three is how the show gave more opportunities for the younger actors to actually be children. In the other two seasons, the kids have had to focus more on defeating the big bad, but season three really allowed the chance for them to actually be regular kids, which was very refreshing and actually gave a more fun vibe to the show. I also liked how everyone got their chance to shine. And while I enjoyed the acting overall, there is one gripe I have, and that’s Hopper’s character – in seasons one and two, he was more realistic and understanding but in season three he’s become a loud, drunk jerk who easily loses his temper, and I don’t like it mostly because it’s unrealistic and the character’s now basically a caricature. I really hope, if there’s a season four, there’s some type of redemption arc for him where he becomes more of a real human again, because the devolving of this character is wrong and overall poor storytelling, I feel.
One of the themes season three tackles is growing up, and I felt this was handled really well. There’s a particular scene where Will breaks down in his clubhouse becasue he just wants to spend time with his friends like before, but his friends have somewhat moved on from their more “childish” endeavors. And I totally understood where Will was coming from because he just wanted a fun weeked with his friends like the old times before everything had happened to him in the prior two seasons. We all have that feeling on occasion where we just want it to be like when we were younger and everything was so much simpler, and I feel like that was handled really well.
Overall, I very much enjoyed the third season of “Stranger Things” and would give it a B-plus. The pacing for the episodes was great, the acting was as excellent as the first two seasons and made for an overall enjoyable binge-watching session for this past weeked. “Stranger Things” is currently available for streaming on Netflix and if you liked seasons one and two, you will most likely also enjoy season three.