Netflix Now: Even Stranger Danger: Stranger Things 3 - Reviewed

After a season two that received a mixed bag of reviews from critics and fans alike, the long wait has finally come to an end as the third season of Stranger Things finally found its way out of the Upside Down and onto television screens via Netflix. 

The next set of eight episodes is a call back to the series launch and a definite affirmation of the Duffer's ability to mix science fiction, horror, and the teenage comedies of the '80s. Running at full tilt, their newest story arc for the families of Hawkins, Indiana is pure fire. Bringing back our favorite characters along with a batch of new, dynamically charged personalities, ST3 is exactly what we hoped for. This is worthy sequel that does exactly what continuations should do. It builds upon foundations we already know, but brings in fresh struggles matched with a stronger foe and a constantly moving plot line that maintains the familiarity we need to continue watching these folks battle an ever evolving and ambitious evil.  

I so mad. 

Premiering on the Fourth of July to legions of die-hards, this latest chapter in the Stranger Things saga takes several strides towards being nearly as wonderful as the original season by basically taking all of the negatives from season two and ramping up every aspect of its narrative. With no side stories to sway our attention from the main plot this time around, The Duffer Brothers are back in fine form doing what they do best: taking our sense of nostalgia for the '80s and using plot points, hooks, and bits that remind us of a better time, when we got great childhood characters played by talented actors that bring realism and dynamism to their respective roles. 

Serving as a much better puzzle piece than season two, this third set of episodes is a stronger follow up to the Duffer's first batch of shows. In fact, it almost feels like we could have skipped the last set, launching us forward with a time jump. Playing more closely to the thematic elements that made us fall in love in the first place, the dramatics and quality this year prove that they actually listened to their audience. While I've actually enjoyed all of Stranger Things so far, there are several episodes here that push the envelope, causing some known character flaws to take central focus, which in turn shows us that this is going to be an ever changing franchise that isn't always going to play it safe. 

Many have taken issue with the way Sheriff Hopper is portrayed here (myself included). He's out of sorts and cantankerous to the level of annoyance, but eventually redeems himself. And Jonathan seems to fall by the wayside, not being much of a focus this time around. But luckily, we get new support players like Robin. She steals every scene she's in. Pairing her with Steve, the two characters really add a lot to the third year, giving him time to grow emotionally as he finally enters a new phase in life where he's not the ladies man he once thought he was. And of course, there's Dustin played by the uber talented Gaten Matarazzo. He's always been one of the best actors on Stranger Things, but this year he shines through the darkness by treating us to his usual perfect comedic timing but also his skillful singing talents. 

I mustache you a question!

What was most interesting throughout these eight pieces of the saga is that a lot of focus was shifted from 11 to the other characters. While, of course, she's the most integral part of the story, it was a nice break to see so much time spent on developing other roles. Where season one was so strictly spent on her, then season two basically did the same, season three really takes the time to give us an even dose of all the kids, the parents, and the evolving relationship between Hopper and Joyce Byers. Plus, Billy finally gets a truly dark backstory that opens the doors to his emotionally charged version of the big bad bully. 

Other than some CGI work that looks disastrous, this is exactly where Stranger Things needs to be. Using their short, eight episode run to ramp up to the epic final episode, The Battle of Starcourt...this was really the season I personally hoped for. There's so much greatness that can lie in our connection to the past. The Duffers know exactly how to manipulate that. And they know how to bring us home again, to a place where inter-dimensional evil might once again challenge a batch of teenagers to mortal combat. For some reason, we'll keep coming back to that doorway to see what happens next. I cannot wait for season four. 

-Chris George