Stranger Things Season 3 is an improvement on Season 2, but it’s still the best look at both the best aspects of the show and what is now becoming a huge obvious flaw, in my opinion. Stranger Things’ biggest strength has always been its focus on the eccentric and colorful relationships between all of its main characters, whether it’s Eleven and Mike, Jim Hopper and Joyce or Will Byers always worrying everyone around him.
That was the initial hook for this hugely popular show, and in season 3 it has remained its biggest strength without a single doubt. But the threat of the upside down is beginning to feel too predictable and stale. Right after season 2 ended I highlighted the issue of the Demogorgon and the big spider and everything that occurs in the upside down.
In season 1 it was a cool and interesting threat at first, especially with Eleven’s father experimenting on her. But it seems the more the show has gone on the less appealing the upside down is becoming. Without giving away any plot spoilers, what transpires with and inside the upside down works, but that’s pretty much it. That’s not what you’ll take away from season 3.
Instead, the big change is all of the kids growing up and going through puberty. Eleven and Mike, for example, are going out and that brings with it its own hue of the source of comedy. Eleven was already socially awkward because of the way she grew up, but then there’s Mike basically clueless when it comes to interacting and understanding women. And Jim Hopper isn’t too happy to constantly watch Eleven and Mike make out.
Dustin comes back from vaca and claims he has a new girlfriend living in Utah somewhere, Jim is struggling with fatherhood and is asking Joyce for parenting advice, while the both of them have their own relationship issues. This extends to the rest of the series as they all try to cope and understand each other in a summer that will change their lives. But it’s not the upside down that’s changing their lives, it’s just life in general. And that is what’s most fascinating here. All of the battle sequences and threats have now been relegated to the background in a sense.
There are more stakes and drama involved with seeing Eleven and Mike trying to understand each other rather than Eleven being able to once again kick monster butt. The human villains here, which I can’t give away, aren’t too surprising. We get it, Eleven has special powers and the government wants a piece of her. Instead, I’m more fascinated with what that psychopath Billy Hargrove is planning with his new lifeguard gig rather than worrying about another monster messing with Eleven or Will for example.
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But why season 3 is a bit better than season 2 is that it seems the show is now more aware than ever that the regular normal everyday aspect of the show is what’s most appealing. The summer setting isn’t just for show. It’s used as an excuse for Stranger Things to be even more lighthearted than ever, and use it as a perfect backdrop for all of these kids, and even adults to find themselves and grow up.
Just seeing Eleven and Max hang out in the mall, one of the new settings this season, is an absolute joy. I guess the biggest takeaway with this new season is the growth all of these characters show. By the end of the eighth episode here, they all feel slightly different, changed, not the innocent kids that we grew to love in season 1. Don’t get me wrong, season 3 probably also features the most action out of any of the 3 seasons without a doubt.
The budget certainly got bigger, there’s more CGI, and a lot more subtle and definitely not so subtle references to classic movies like Terminator and Die Hard. The upside down still very much needs to be dealt with, but by the end, you’re left wondering what more can these threats do. Instead, we’ll be wondering what Eleven and the rest of the gang are gonna be like when they’re even older the next time around.