Stranger Things Season 3 was more uneven than its predecessors. There were some highs, but some avoidable lows kept it from reaching the level of the first two seasons despite having maybe the two best episodes to close a season yet.
Let’s see what rocked and what was lame for Stranger Things Season 3.
Rocked: Scoops Troops crew
C’mon, was there any doubt this wasn’t the most obvious choice? The clear MVPs of the season were 1000% Steve, Robin (Maya Hawke), Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Dustin. Without them carrying some episodes through rough patches this season would have been a lot less fun if not outright a chore.
With newcomers Robin and Erica added to the mix there was a sense of freshness with characters unaccustomed to the bizarre events others found commonplace. Cracking the Russian code subplot seemed ridiculous, but it made for comedy gold and some unexpectedly sweet moments. This season catapulted Steve to one of my three favorite characters.
Lame: Annoying Lovestruck Hopper
Oh my gosh. Hopper acting like a jealous boyfriend around Joyce wasn’t even cute the first time. True, there was some foreshadowing he was interested, but their almost sibling-like dynamic was infinitely better especially since it reduced Hopper and Joyce to doing a terrible Moonlighting impression.
Clearly someone peed all in Hopper’s cereal at the start of the season and he never managed to recover. He was having Male PMS all season being grouchy about Elle and Mike spending so much time together.
Rocked: The creepy factor of the Mind Slayer
Smoke clouds can be eerie, but seeing the Mind Slayer in action instead of his demodogs was impressive. Bad guys with no real discernible shape can be tricky in actually making them look good, but the tentacles and a mouth full of teeth that would make Pennywise envious helped make The Mind Slayer look hecka scary.
Lame: Rats and more rats
Seriously, did The Duffer Brothers know nothing they could conceive would be as personally creepy to me as endless scenes of rats running around? Get out of my head and use anything else like cockroaches.
Rocked: Making Billy a real monster
Billy was beyond annoying in Season 2 and was just mad for the sake of being mad. At least he wasn’t a racist, which is a big bar to clear these days. In Season 3, he was the pawn of the Mind Flayer and was an effective puppet as he led a lot of Hawkins residents to their deaths. But an even stranger thing happened as the season played out and as Elle dug deeper into his mind, I actually felt a tinge of sympathy for the jerk and then when he sacrificed himself to save Elle it was a fitting conclusion for one of the series’ most complicated characters.
Lame: Favorite Star Wars
Nerd gripe here. No child of the 80s EVER referred to Star Wars as A New Hope. Maybe that branding works on late-arriving fans who started watching around Force Awakens, but the first Star Wars film to the generation established in Stranger Things would never call it A New Hope. That was a total “wait, this is just a show set in the 80s not actually written in the 80s moment.” Also, the correct answer is always Empire Strikes Back, Steve.
Good grief. The two-year break from Season 2 to Season 3 showed the challenge of shooting a series with children. On one hand it allowed the series to take a more mature approach with the now teens, some of the charm of watching these precocious kids battling monsters was lost. In a lot of ways, Season 3 felt like a standard teen horror film when it focused on Mike, Elle and crew. Monsters chasing teenagers isn’t as effective as it is when they’re chasing little kids (see It: Chapter One).
Rocked: Independent Elle
Max was the best thing that could have happened to Elle and the show graduated to having the girls talk instead of being the only one surrounded by boys. The result? Some fun scenes including Max and Elle’s nerve-wracking encounter with Billy, Max dropping essential comic book knowledge and a little montage at the mall.
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Lame: Reliance on Elle
The Duffer Brothers probably didn’t realize how much they’d back themselves in a corner making The Mind Flayer so powerful that only Elle could stop him. With so many supporting characters that left them helpless way too often. There’s a delicate line in having a formidable villain and one that’s so invulnerable the heroes have to fluke their way to a victory.
Rocked: Saving Elle
No hero has had to do as much as Elle this season. From going on surveillance basically every episode for basic intel to holding off the Mind Slayer on her own, the gang used her as a crutch too often so it was nice to see the crew rally around her in the home stretch of the season. From holding off the Mind Slayer at Hopper’s cabin thanks largely to Nancy and Lucas.
The fireworks attack didn’t just look visually impressive — and was a testament to the much bigger budget of Season 3 — it showed the rest of the gang could actually have their pal’s back for once.
Lame: Terminator Russian
At first it was pretty funny that the 80s theme season had a bad guy clearly inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the dude really wasn’t a cyborg y’all. Of course Hopper should have gone for the head as Thor would have told him.
Photo Credit: Netflix