Review - Stranger Things 3
The Duffer Brothers excel themselves in the latest instalment of the impending doom of Hawkins, in Stranger Things 3. Expertly paced, with the courage to split up the core cast in order to keep the show from becoming stale, the show remains both humorous and horrific.
Feeling like an overwhelmed parent, unable to come to terms with their child growing faster than a Demodog morphing into a Demogorgon, its clear the band of kids are most certainly not children any more. The hormones are so high, that the Mind Flayer needed to up their game in order to pose a bigger threat than the constant mind games of young love, and my goodness, does it do this frighteningly well.
Despite the more lighthearted, quirky start to the season, (apart from Billy’s most unfortunate run-in) season 3 is most definitely the most terrifying so far. No longer is the Mind Flayer confined to being a ‘shadow monster’. The threat seems all the more real, now that those other than Will have seen it in the flesh (pun intended).
The sheer horror of it being ripped away from El’s wounded leg was reminiscent of the chestburster scene in Alien; one of those ‘you don’t want to watch, but you cannot peel your eyes away’ moments. Finally giving the viewer the ‘gore’ factor that has been so perfectly done in previous seasons.
The 80’s vibe is once again skilfully weaved into the episodes, just like the previous seasons. The wardrobes of the cast members is particularly alluring this season, with extra attention paid to the garish, bright neon colours that encapsulated that era. Dustin’s rendition of The Neverending Story, set against the climactic battle of the season was hilarious in both its timing and content. However, the risky, blatant ode to ‘The Terminator’ franchise was slightly painful to endure.
Talking about risks, it was somewhat refreshing to see that the writers wanted to incorporate real-life ‘teenage trauma’ into the show, even if we were all as uncomfortable at witnessing it as Jim Hopper (David Harbour). Even Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) makes his feelings clear of alienation and unease surrounding them morphing into young adults.
Regardless of the speculation that he may never have a girlfriend, his constant plea to play Dungeons and Dragons with the rest of the somewhat disbanded party highlights the grief that is adolescence, and how hard it is to finally take the heart-wrenching leap from childhood, something which all viewers of the show can relate to. As an isolated Will literally smashes the last of his childhood into pieces, his last-ditch attempt as ‘Will the Wise’ surely will break everyone's heart.
Steve Harrington’s (Joe Keery) lack of wardrobe change is a brilliant way of showcasing a worrying contrast to the woes that the younger ones were experiencing. Steve’s popularity in school held no importance. His days of adolescence are over, his entire life revolving around work, (and infiltrating secret Russian bases) forever clothed in his uniform: a sobering insight into how quickly things can change from seemingly terrible, to just plain awful.
Given that the show is intended for older audiences, the writers ensure that the sudden shift in what seems to be important in life is covered in all areas, even going as far as Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono) realising the true importance of her family.
With what was clearly a bigger budget than the first two seasons, the creators pull off something that can be hard to achieve; a highly engaging third season. The introduction of the ‘Starcourt Mall’ was a stroke of genius. Yes, it was added to provide a suitable backdrop to teenage angst, but it never gave the impression it was just slotted in absent-mindedly, or simply to add a new location to Hawkins.
*potential spoilers ahead*
The negatives to come out the season were minor, such as the ‘is he actually dead’ trope. As heartwarming as it would be to set eyes on our beloved Chief of Police, nobody ever likes a cheesy cliche. Speaking of Hopper, it appears that he has also had somewhat of a personality transplant. His utter devastation from the absence of Joyce Buyers (Winona Ryder) did not meld well with the clear frustration she caused in the previous two seasons. A ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship has been clear since season one, but Hopper’s deliberate seeking out for Joyce is not the disgruntled, agitated Hopper we know.
Stranger Things 3 is not just binge-worthy, it is binge necessity. What definitely feels like the second part of season 2, it brings closure to the door that was left open, yet leaves us with the knowledge that there is a door elsewhere that is still very much left ajar. The season boasts highly adept character development, stunning visuals, another soundtrack to die for, and a story-line that none of us saw coming.