Stranger things season 3 was released on Netflix just a few days ago but it has already taken the world by storm by shocking its fans with its finale.
In my (modest) opinion, this third season succeeds to be as high in quality as the second one because it uses the same formula: it is “different but also the same”.
In Stranger Things season 3 (just like in season 1 and 2) the theme is essentially “growing up”. All 3 seasons are centered around a group of kids who try to understand what’s going on in the world around them.
Every season is a coming of age story, but it doesn’t feel boring or repetitive because each one deals with a different aspect of growing into adulthood:
- Season 1: encountering tragedy for the first time
- Season 2: dealing with things out of your control
- Season 3: accepting changes that are inevitable
The first episode establishes that both Hawkins and its inhabitants are not the same as before: the new mall has caused many local businesses to close and the characters are all in different situations (Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve are no longer in school, Dusting spent the summer away from his friends and both Lucas and Finn have girlfriends).
During the course of the series, we see Will feeling excluded from his friends’ new “adult” lives, Joyce is clinging on to the past, and Eleven transforms herself becoming more confident.
In the last episode, Hopper’s “heart to heart” speech expresses perfectly the theme: despite the fear, the changes that both adults and kids have to go through in life are inevitable and should be embraced rather than avoided.
What I’ve always found fascinating about Stranger Things is its use of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, the show often gets mixed in with other movies or TV series that have basically no originality and simply rely on references to be entertaining. But the truth is that Stranger Things doesn’t really do that.
Yes, there are a ton of references to ‘80s movies and TV shows, but they are just a “decoration” that doesn’t get in the way of an original story.
Take for example the big bad Russian guy with the leather jacket. He is obviously a reference to the 1984 movie Terminator.
Hopper: “Who is that guy?”
Mayor Kline “Arnold Schwarzenegger”– Stranger Things season 3
But he is not JUST a reference. This character influences the plot by becoming the antagonist of the Hopper/Joyce storyline and indirectly causing Hopper’s death.
Stranger Things managed to avoid the blatant name dropping that many other recent TV shows (especially revivals) rely on and place fun homages here and there that fans of both the original work and the new series can actually enjoy.
Fixing past mistakes
As much as I love Stranger Things, I have to admit that the first two seasons had a problem in common: El’s dependence on Mike.
Sure, their relationship is so darn cute and adorable, but it’s kinda sad that most of her lines were “Mike…”. Despite her superpowers, Eleven was always depending on Mike for one thing or another.
Obviously, this makes sense. She grew up in a facility where she was used as a lab rat and the few human contacts she had were with a sociopathic scientist, so it’s perfectly understandable that Mike would be her tutor and guide to the outside world.
But still, her character was dangerously close to the trope that the youtuber Pop Culture Detective calls “Born sexy yesterday”, a female character (usually an attractive one) who presents childish traits and has to be educated by the male protagonist.
And from the point of view of an anime fan, she’s similar to a dandere.
This season manages to give the Mileven shippers the love story they desired, while also giving both Eleven and Mike strong character arcs that put them on the same level and help them build a stronger relationship.
Thanks to Max, El gains some confidence and clearly expresses her disappointment when Mike lies to her (she’s REALLY sensitive about people lying to her).
Meanwhile, Mike (again, thanks to Max) realizes that his overprotectiveness was getting in the way of his love for El and learns how to change for the better.
Is Stranger Things season 3 worth watching?
Yep! Despite the changes that occurred during this season, it appears that the Duffer Brothers managed to find the perfect recipe to keep their show fresh without being too different from its origins.