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This review is written in two parts: the first part is a no spoiler review and the second a spoiler-filled rant fest. Make sure you don’t read the second part unless you’ve already watched the whole season.

It’s been almost two entire years since we were graced with Stranger Things 2. I figured the third season would have come much sooner than it actually did, but I guess we’re all wrong occasionally. So, Stranger Things 3 ⁠— what kind of animal (more like monster) are we dealing with here? First, let me start off with the safe Stranger Things Season 3 no spoiler review.

Stranger Things Season 3 No Spoiler Review

 

Stranger Things 3 cast

Stranger Things Season 3 is beautiful, shocking, colorful, harrowingly suspenseful, fully engrossing, satisfying, and devastating. There were a lot of storytelling decisions throughout this season that I wasn’t expecting. At the same time, there were some familiar tropes and plot points that were repeated from the previous season. Though not necessarily a bad thing, it did rob this season of a little originality. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed our third trip to Hawkins, Indiana.

Hawkins Is Brighter Than Ever

 

One of the first standout impressions that hit me as the episodes blazed by was the bright, colorful aesthetic of this season. While the first two seasons were predominantly visually dark, the third season is full of a more cheery palette. You’ve got neon greens, hot pinks, stunning yellows, and much more, all of which remind you that this series is set in the 1980s.

Stranger Things Season 3 Kids

Just like previous seasons, Stranger Things 3 wants you to embrace the era  from its real 80s music tracks to the film references and common storytelling tropes, this show is confident as hell in what it’s trying to accomplish. Releasing the season on Independence Day makes perfect sense for the show, as the vibe of the show fits the holiday quite nicely (some of the show even takes place on July 4). It led to some strong set pieces, where some of the most critical action took place.

Your Favorite Squads Are Back

 

I won’t go into specifics, but there are some new pairings (I’m not talking romantic) of beloved characters that hadn’t been explored yet. While time-tested friendships, such as Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers, are developed further, characters like Eleven get some new interactions that will leave viewers smiling like dinguses. Stranger Things Season 3 shines in that it doesn’t retread the same character narratives; it gives new arcs and character growth.

You’ll meet some new faces throughout the eight-episode season that you’ll fall in love with and others you’ll grow to hate. One thing I noticed (particularly on my second watch-through) was that the actors were more animated this season. This is the most obvious in David Harbour’s portrayal of Jim Hopper, who’s quite frequently yelling like a madman. It’s just one of the dozens of instances where characters’ actions lead to some great laugh-out-loud moments. In the end, it’s the characters that keep me invested in the best (personal opinion) of all the Netflix Originals.

Netflix Originals Got Nothing on Stranger Things

 

How’s the plot this time around? Well, I think Stranger Things 3 has a solid plot all the way through, but the problem is that it doesn’t push the narrative as far as I would have liked. I won’t tell you what that means exactly, but I think that the importance of the overarching Stranger Things-narrative fell a little on the underbaked side. It’s still an amazing season, with some expected and unexpected plot points, but I just wish we knew more at the end of the season. We still have at least one more season to go (this was revealed a while ago by producer Shawn Levy), so there’s still plenty of places to go with the story.

The Hawkins, Indiana Mayor

Overall, Stranger Things Season 3 is yet another shining badge on the series’ metaphorical uniform. I personally think that Stranger Things is the best that Netflix has to offer. Although this is just my opinion, I think the visuals, music, cast, cinematography, and basically everything else speak for themselves. You can scroll down to the bottom of the review for the final score; make sure you look out for spoilers in the next part of the review.

Stranger Things Season 3 Spoiler Review

 

Now that we’ve got all that dodgy vagueness out of the way, we can finally get into it with my brief Stranger Things Season 3 spoiler review. Beware, since I will go into depth with some of the most insane Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers here. Proceed at your own risk.

The Players at Starcourt

 

Let’s talk about my favorite trio this season of Stranger Things: Dustin, Steve, and newcomer Robin. Holy hell did these three have some amazing moments, despite Steve and Robin wearing the same freaking Scoups Ahoy outfits the entire season. The chemistry between these three characters (portrayed by some stellar actors) and later, Erica, is unparalleled in modern television. I think some of my favorite moments were the scene between Robin and Steve (the man can’t catch a break) where she reveals she likes herself some ladies. Other favorites include Dustin ribbing Steve about never winning a fight and Steve later winning his first fight and also, Erica learning that she is, in fact, a nerd.

Dustin, Steve, and Robin at Starcourt

Other character interactions weren’t left far behind — Alexei and his cherry Slurpee have to be “couple of the year” — Nancy and Jonathan and Mike and Eleven’s dating drama (“I dump your ass”) were both handled very differently, leading to some amazing character growth. You also got Murray being the king of matchmakers yet again, ambushing Jim and Joyce when they least expected it. He has to be one of the most enjoyable personalities to watch on this show. It’s almost like Murray is the viewer, peering from outside the screen.

Stranger Things Than Dating

 

My biggest gripe with Season 3 was the fact that we still aren’t closer to the final battle with the Mind Flayer. The gang has closed the gate yet again, and although we got that tease at the end of the last episode, it feels like not much narrative progress was made. Sure, the fleshy Mind Flayer was done away with and Hawkins was saved again, but do we really know much more about the shadowy antagonist? Besides the vague comment by Shadow Billy about doing everything for El, not much.

Mike talking to Will in the rain

But that still didn’t stop the season from laying the groundwork for a very different fourth season. Yes, we know that Stranger Things Season 4 will inevitably make its way to viewers’ thirsty eyeballs, despite not being confirmed by Netflix yet. Joyce, Eleven, and the Byers boys have left Hawkins, which provides lots of room for a bigger narrative moving forward. Will the Mind Flayer cause conflict across state lines, maybe even global? Either way, with the potential of Hopper surviving the blast (did you notice when the Russians mentioned: “Not the American” at the end of the teaser?) and Eleven losing her powers, there are some great stories being set up. I can’t wait to see what comes next for this beloved series.

At the end of the day, Stranger Things is the best series Netflix has in their catalog, with the third season capitalizing on what has come before it — there are so many incredible moments that I won’t even try to list most of them. Stranger Things 3 is the perfect blend of retro throwbacks, silly moments, romance, action, yelling, and matchmaking that you’ll watch this summer. Enjoy it while it lasts; there may not be another season for a while.

 

You can also check out my review of Stranger Things Season 2 that I wrote when the season originally aired.

 

All images provided by Netflix.

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