I’m far from a critic, but I enjoy acting like one when given the chance.
I was completely oblivious to Stranger Things when it was first released to Netflix in the Summer of 2016. But in the Fall of 2017 when Season 2 came out — and the immense publicity it received — I joined the party.
It was without question — one of the two most enthralling media experiences of my life. I watched all 17 episodes (8 from S1 & 9 from S2) in less than a week. Both seasons were a bona fide A+ for me. So naturally, season 3 brought much anticipation. And that’s where our blog takes shape…Full Disclosure: I had wanted to go back and watch Seasons 1 & 2 prior to 3 being released, but I simply didn’t get around to it. Therefore, it’s possible some of my recollections may be slightly off.
I should also note that I purposely have not read any reviews online, listened to any podcasts, or talked to anyone who has watched it. So these opinions are pure – for better or worse.
Let’s just get right to it… I thought Stranger Things 3 graded out a few notches below the first two seasons. I think the overall plot was weak. I get that the show is set during the Cold War, but Russians??? I thought it was a very questionable choice as the season’s antagonist. No good explanation was given for them wanting to open the gate.
With the exception of the Mind Flayer — who had some pretty cool characteristics I’ll touch on later — there was very little alternate-world obstacles in Season 3, which is obviously a huge departure from the first two seasons. Instead, we get Russians.
With all this said, you may think that I was disappointed. But I was predicting a downgrade in the story-arc for this season. The Duffer Brothers (the show’s creators) likely have an end for the show already in mind. So in the meantime, we will probably get sub-optimal plots until the final season.
Therefore, I was not disappointed. At the end of the day, I was entertained. I still considered the show binge-worthy. (I watched all 8 episodes in a 2-day span.). If Seasons 1 & 2 are an A+ (which they are), then Stranger Things 3 is a B+, a very solid grade from me.
Here are some more specific aspects of the show that I liked and disliked:
What I Liked
- The kids are growing up. Despite obvious sci-fi spin to the show, I feel like the writers do a great job of making these characters as real as possible. The kids are 18 months older than they were in the last season. And they acted like it.
- How the Mind Flayer created himself. Yes, it was gross. But it was a cool effect. It also arced well throughout the season.
- Elle did NOT save the day. Yes, she saved the group plenty of times throughout the season. But in the final episode her powers were gone. And it was a nice change of pace to see the Mind Flayer defeated by someone without superpowers.
- The addition of Robin. She was great. It was also a fantastic twist by the writers to make us think she and Steve were falling for each other when that was obviously not the case. This was the biggest surprise of the whole season for me.
- Will finally got to be “himself”. In Season 1 he was trapped in the Upside Down. In Season 2, he was inhabited by the Mind Flayer. It was nice to see the real Will for a full season.
- Suzie and Dustin’s singing duet. By far the funniest moment of Season 3.
- The pop culture references sprinkled throughout the season. From Coke to Back to the Future to Shopping Malls. It was littered with 80’s nostalgia.
- The acting — led by David Harber (Hopper) — was very, very good.
What I Did NOT Like
- Too much Erica (Lucas’s little sister.) She had WAY too much screen time… more than Lucas himself I believe. I found the character to be quite annoying.
- Dustin was not with the group. My favorite thing about Season 2 was the bond that Dustin and Steve had with each other. So while I enjoyed seeing them together for nearly the entirety of Season 3, it unfortunately came at the expense of him not being with his friends.
- The Russians. Have I mentioned this yet?
- Billy’s role. It seemed like a cop out to make the “bad guy” from Season 2 be the Mind Flayer’s minion in Stranger Things 3.
I think that pretty much sums up my thoughts. Despite it’s flawed storyline, Stranger Things 3 was a great watch. I can’t wait until it’s successor!