This post contains mild spoilers for Stranger Things season 3.
Stranger Things is back and more '80s than ever! It’s also a little mid-'90s (hello, Jurassic Park nods), but that’s probably besides the point. As the show grows, so does its cast. That’s been a positive experience for the most part, but it also means that we’ve gotta split some folks up into different plotlines. Don’t worry! All of them have a woman’s ideas being ignored.
Season three was ultimately solid, but going out of the way to question every female in the show felt like it was less leaning into the times and more, well, exhausting. We meet up with Nancy in episode one as she and Jonathan struggle through their internship at The Hawkins Post. She experiences all of the stereotypical sexism expected, and at first it looks like an interesting arc as she struggles to be taken seriously in a male dominated field. Then we see Hopper doubting Joyce every opportunity, then Max is constantly questioned, and then El. All of it does serve a narrative purpose, it’s just little much.
That narrative purpose mostly revolves around El and Max, whose newfound friendship is one of the high points of the show. Said friendship starts when Max rightfully points out that El’s entire personality and style revolve around Hopper and Mike, and only blossoms more after the breakup and subsequent shopping trip. Meanwhile, Hopper and Mike are both pretty big jerks for the majority of the eight-episode arc, and not just to each other. Unfortunately, only one of them has the excuse of being a teenager.
The plot splits into three parts, giving us the opportunity to meet series newbies like Robin, Alexei, and Murray. Robin’s story finds itself attached to Steve, and introduces us to the first gay character in the show. Alexei and Murray go hand in hand by nature of their characters, but both of them manage to be endearing in their own right.
With the kids splitting up more than they have in previous seasons, we do spend more time hearing little recaps than we have in the past. Sometimes it’s needed, others less so, but there’s certainly a lot going on. Steve, Robin, Dustin and Erica deal with a Russia problem; Hopper, Joyce, Alexei and Murray have some communication issues, and more than a few struggles closing doors; and El, Max, Mike, Will, and Lucas have to fight some goopy neighbors and a giant spider/hydra/Upside Down kinda monster.
This season keeps up with the other two in terms of humor and heart, but the first two chapters don’t have a thing on three’s heartbreak. Since we’re still so close to the release, we’re going to avoid any major spoilers, but be sure you’ve got a box of tissues handy as you get into those later episodes. There's also more gore than we've seen in past years, but not in any gratuitous kind of way. Really just a lot of, um...goo?
Hawkins, Indiana gets weirder than ever before in the show’s third season, and it’s to Stranger Things’ benefit. It lets jerk characters like Billy shine, while allowing Will Byers to spend his first season not completely incapacitated. It’s a big jump from the previous stakes, which makes you wonder question where they could possibly go next (there’s something of a stinger at the end of episode eight, be sure not to walk off). That leap may be to their detriment in future seasons, but it did help them avoid the same kind of pacing issues that the show experienced in the middle of its second set of episodes.
On the whole, season three is a great addition to the Stranger Things story, albeit a little sad. Episode eight closes with a large hunk of the characters headed on a strange new adventure, leaving a lot of emotional questions as we look ahead to season four. In the meantime, shout out your favorite moments in the comments. If you haven’t finished watching, and you care about spoilers, that means probably don’t read past this point until you’re done!