‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 TV Review – Strong Characters, Repetitive Plot
Stranger Things Season 3 is a wonderful conclusion to many storylines and character threads. While also providing compelling storytelling that doesn’t feel too tired or cliched. Yet.
Season 3 of Stranger Things returns us to Hawkins, but with many different changes. The nostalgic sci-fi adventure show featuring a group of kids has now evolved into much more, while still being steeped in its own lore. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer, however, always give us one character through which the story can be retold for newer fans.
This season we fast forward one year from Season 2 to find our main group of characters, relatively happy. The most amazing aspect of this is that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) are finally together! Not that Hopper (David Harbour) is too happy about it. Oh, the Dad-life!
Note: This will be a Spoiler-Free review of Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 3. However, I will be spoiling Seasons 1 and 2.
Everyone starts off this season being pretty happy having moved on from all the events of the Upside-Down, the Mindflayer and the creepy secret lab.
Max (Sadie Sink) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are pretty happy together, while Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) are also officially together working for the local newspaper. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) just returned from camp, where he had a pretty significant summer, as he’ll reveal to his friends.
Steve (Joe Keery) also has a new job in the new mall, wearing a cute hat, and has made a new friend in Robin (Maya Hawke). Robin is our proxy character, the one unaware of the previous seasons. Also, she’s Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter, which basically blew my mind when I found out about it. 4 episodes in!
The big bad of Season 3 seems to be Russians. Well, of course, it’s Russians. The show’s inspiration is the 80’s and is about secret government experiments. Russians were a natural progression. The shocker here is that the Russians seems to be attempting to re-open the gateway to the Upside Down. Cue dramatic music!
Stranger Things Season 3 realizes that the last two seasons featured tragic and ominous events happening at breakneck speed. Will (Noah Schnapp) was missing, a monster was on the loose and then Barb (Shannon Purser) died. Then Season 2 saw Eleven and Mike separated, Will possessed and then Bob (Sean Astin) died. Sadness all around! So Season 3 gave us a lot of happiness and gave many of the characters a chance to move on.
The plot of Season 3 revolves around the Russians’ experiments bringing back something from the Upside Down. And coincidentally, Billy (Dacre Montgomery) gets caught up in it all. He makes for an evil villain by the way.
The new season sees a lot of action and a lot of tension. But also a lot of light-hearted moments. The character arcs of Joyce (Winona Rider) and Hopper are incredibly sweet. Mike and Eleven deal with many relationship dramas, which is where a lot of the comedy comes from. As well as a lot of endearing moments.
We finally get to see Eleven as an everyday girl, and not the crazy strong mind-weapon that she’s been in the past two seasons. The montage between El and Max as they go shopping, and El being just a pre-teen, is one of the best moments of this season. The dynamic between the two young co-leads is also incredibly fun, as Max teaches El how to just be a girl. It’s sweet as hell.
The stand out of this season for me has to be Nancy. From episode one, Nancy is shown as having urgency and agency and a storyline of her own, independent of her boyfriend Jonathan. Working in a newspaper, Nancy is a secretary, but she wants to be one of the journalists.
This dramatic need carries throughout the season for her, motivating most of her actions. And it’s especially more bad-ass when it hits the fan and Nancy is constantly acting as the conventional hero of the story; taking charge, telling people what to do, and over-all saving the day. The best part about this depiction of Nancy? That Jonathan is just along for the ride.
Most of the time, the gender dynamics are quite flipped. The guy doing stuff, wanting stuff, needing stuff, without the girl just there with him. Whereas Season 3 of Stranger Things sees Nancy as the true hero of most of the group action scenes, while Jonathan is just in the background. And it doesn’t take away from him at all, but it definitely adds to Nancy’s full circle arc as a character, and finally separates her character’s storyline from the men in her life.
Season 3 of Stranger Things is pretty great, if not a little repetitive. The story recalls many of the elements and plot points set up in the previous two seasons, albeit in a different setting and scenario. I would love if they explored the universe a bit more, beyond Hawkins.
Season 2 showed us that Eleven has a spiritual sister in Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) who was also experimented on and has similar powers. Are they more? Was Hawkins and El the first experiment into the Upside Down? The scope of the world feels incredibly small when we keep returning to Hawkins over and over, and Season 4 may benefit by expanding the universe a bit more.
Overall, Stranger Things 3 is a must-watch for fans invested in the series, but maybe a bit over the head of new audiences. But the best thing about Netflix is that you can binge on the two seasons before, before jumping into Season 3.
Stranger Things Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.