‘Stranger Things 3’ brings what worked best for the past two seasons to create an emotional and satisfying season that is sure to please most fans of the Netflix blockbuster.
More than a year after the events of season 2, the gang finds itself in the middle of puberty with Mike and Eleven having an official romantic relationship, much to the chagrin of Hopper, who himself is trying to win over Joyce. Meanwhile, Steve, Billy, Nancy and Jonathan all have new jobs after High School, now dealing with the struggles of adult life. When an old threat seems to resurface and potentially put everyone at risk as never before, it’s up to them to stop it once again.
After amping up the scale of the series with last season, this new chapter brings a whole new level of spectacle for this Netflix show. The Duffer Brothers, once again acting as showrunners and directors for several episodes, cleverly choose to take their time with the first few episodes, building up the relationships that will later come to serve a purpose. It’s in these episodes where you realize what the biggest threat the children are facing this season: growing up. Yes, a real, physical sci-fi threat is present as expected, but the way our main characters have grown up and deal with new issues in their life is the heart of the story this time around, and brings another layer to the show as we’ve been seeing them grow up in front of us. Dealing with puberty, friendships, romantic relationships, adulthood, and many more themes serves the story very well, and the Duffer Brothers excel in eventually meshing all storylines planted from the beginning of the season in the end, injecting a much more affectionate connection with the main characters.
As mentioned before, getting to spend more time with these characters is the best part of the season, and it’s thanks in large parts to the cast. Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder and David Harbour remain excellent in their respective roles, but it’s newcomer Maya Hawke, Dacre Montgomery and Joe Keery who get to do a lot this time around and surprise the most. As for other standouts, Cara Buono and Sadie Sink have some genuine special moments for the characters that is not worth giving away.
Despite all of this, it’s not without its flaws. The Duffer Brothers, in an attempt to homage 80’s movies, tend to tarnish the seriousness of the story sometimes, making it a bit too silly for my taste, even for this show. The obvious examples are the whole over-the-top Russian storyline involving Steve, Dustin and Robin, that ultimately only works because of the performances, and the Terminator homage with a certain villain that gets too ridiculous.
In the end, the season culminates in a satisfyingly emotional conclusion that sets the bar high for what’s to come next.