EJ Moreno reviews the third season of Stranger Things…
One of the beauties of Stranger Things is not only watching these characters grow throughout the years but also seeing the show grow itself. In the first episode of Season 3, there is a clear difference between this and earlier seasons. Not only in terms of the visual effects, which see an upgrade here but the storytelling is much stronger now as well. It doesn’t let up as each episode outdoes the other, making Stranger Things 3 one of the best seasons of any Netflix show.
While nostalgia still plays a significant role in the show, it now feels comfortable making its own memories instead of relying on those from the past. This season feels like the first time Stranger Things is trying to secure its legacy, creating moments that fans will talk about for years and images other filmmakers will try to replicate.
The Duffer Brothers are finally starting to feel the iconic directors they’ve homaged for years. No longer does it feel like they are making their version of The Goonies or Stand by Me, but making an original Duffer Brothers production.
A major shift in this season of Stranger Things compared to others is the love affair it’s having with the horror genre. While the show is no doubt inspired by some great works of ’80s horror, season three of the show feels like it doubles down on the scares with some of the darkest and most thrilling moments yet.
There’s a moment late in episode two that sticks out as one of the darker moments for the show, and those type of moments make appearances throughout the season. Not to spoil anything, but Dacre Montgomery does up the ante in terms of his creep factor with a significantly stronger outing here than in season 2. Look for him to make your skin crawl nearly every time he appears on the screen, making him one of the human faces for all the other-worldly terror.
Montgomery isn’t alone in the horror department as the creatures are all upgraded this time as well. From exploding rats to smoke monsters, Stranger Things is making sure it creates iconic monsters you won’t soon forget. And don’t worry, everyone’s favorite kaiju-sized monster The Mind Flayer is still roaming around, making sure to bring the scares.
Still, the heart and soul of the show is the amazing young cast. Besides seeing how much the actors are growing (Finn Wolfhard looks so grown!!!), it’s wild to see how much the characters we know and love are growing. Eleven and Mike’s relationship feels like so many teen summer romances, while Dustin’s growth away from the group is all too real. Even Nancy and Jonathan don’t come off as the apparent “B-story” distraction as much this time around.
Little moments like this sprinkled throughout the season’s overall story keeps you compelled at every turn. Millie Bobby Brown is still the show’s centerpiece with her acting feeling even stronger than before. That’s not to say others aren’t shining as the previously mentioned Dacre Montgomery and stellar Noah Schnapp do shine bright, but the show finally feels like it knows what to do with Eleven’s character. That in turns allows Millie Bobbie Brown to explore her range a lot more from the action scenes to her beautiful array of new emotions.
Sadly, some of the new and old characters are criminally underutilized with Cary Elwes and David Harbour seeing the worse of that. Harbour’s Hopper is regulated to a relatively annoying dad of a teenager, wasting most of the early episodes drinking and acting strange than doing anything of real importance. Then they regulate Cary Elwes to a boring trope of a role, and he ends up feeling like a very extended cameo instead of a supporting role.
The season is bookend with a strong opener and even stronger finale. The final episode of Stranger Things 3 is one of the series best and proves this show has no plans of slowing down. Also, the mid-season slump that most series go through isn’t here as the tighter storytelling helps overcome any speed bumps.
Fan of the shows will surely feel delighted to see their favorite characters return in such heightened fashion, while I believe newcomers or less than diehard fans can easily fall in love with the show after this season.
Stranger Things is working on a different level than most television shows, and it’s making the same waves early seasons of Game of Thrones did with far less of the latter’s massive scale. Keep this up, and the Netflix Original Series will find its place in the history books of “prestige television” next to The Sopranos and Mad Men.