Stranger Things is the Sci-Fi / Horror series to watch. This hit-show by Netflix has been going since 2016 and so far had a remarkable record with connecting to its audience. Set in the middle of the 80s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana it follows a group of teens as they uncover the various mysteries that affect them.
The first two seasons dealt with the Upside Down, the result of an experiment to open a portal to another universe. The teenage cast includes characters such as Eleven (who has telekinetic powers), her boyfriend Mike and their eclectic set of friends Will, Dustin, Max and Lucas. The grown ups consist of Joyce (played by Winona Ryder), Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour) and Steve. Though there is a much larger cast if supporting characters.
Season 3 is set in 1985 and is set about 8 months after season 2. The group of friends are enjoying their summer holiday ostensibly carefree of the experiments and demons that plagued them before. Mike and Eleven have developed a relationship which is becoming too serious for her surrogate father Jim Hopper. However, it isn’t long before she develops a taste for shopping at the Starcourt Mall and actually being separate from Mike.
Russians in Stranger Things
Meanwhile we see the Russians taking an interest in the town of Hawkins and they restart the experiments of the first two seasons. It is not long before resident serial delinquent Billy starts making people disappear in the name of some satanic power. And despite its sci-fi and horror elements they do not dominate the story. The characters do. The teenage characters in particular show a lot of growth, we see how they react to adult situations on sexuality and ethics.
So why is Stranger Things so entertaining? Its because it characters are not stupid, they make mistakes but they are all intelligent people. It is a joy to watch Mike, Eleven and Dustin correctly deduce what is happening and effectively do something about it. Stranger Things does not linger and leave us waiting for plot development. During the course of 8 episodes the pace is high.
That 80s humor
What make Stranger Things special is its off-beat humor. It is a mixture of the sardonic, the 80s and teenage angst. The humor works on several ways. The 80s setting helps to create situations that could scarcely happen now. One example is when Eleven and Max uncover Billy’s Penthouse stash. Another is when the boys: Mike, Will and Lucas accidently walk into a lingerie store. In fact, this is part of a much longer scene set at the new Starcourt Mall. We also see Max and Eleven shop for clothing, with the latter never having been to a mall before.
Season 3 also introduces a number of new characters, chief among them are Robin, the new co-worker of Steve and Lucas’s sister Erica. The latter did have a recurring role last season but manages to come into her own this season.
Things I did not like about Stranger Things
So are there any negative things to say about Stranger Things season 3? There are a few minor gripes, the backstory underwhelms mostly because it is hardly mentioned. How did the Russians manage to set up this scheme in the first place? How come nobody noticed? Explaining this just a little more would have anchored the story more.
My second biggest gripe is that the list of characters is becoming too long. Nancy and Bruce for example, did not hold my interest much. Their angle at uncovering the deeper plot about what was happening felt like a side-show. That said, neither criticism dominate. There is a reason why the show does not focus on the backstory, it would dilute from the character development.
I can only give the third season of Stranger Things my thumbs up. Its characters, humor and setting are almost too much to bare. I have no idea when the show will return, probably 2021 (though the cast is not getting any younger) as is common with high-concept shows such as Westworld, The Expanse and Altered Carbon.