I am just going to come out and say it. I wasn’t a fan of Season 2 of Stranger Things and my dislike can be boiled down to one character: Will. I wasn’t a fan of the character or the perspective he offered. And because of that, I nitpicked every little detail that I would have ordinarily looked over. I worried that Stranger Things would become more of a procedural along the likes of Dexter, repeating the same issues over and over. Not to mention I was pretty upset to watch Samwise Gamgee, I mean Bob, be viciously eaten by dog like creatures in a seemingly shock value driven death.
I had all of these issues in the back of my mind as I tuned into Season 3. I am happy to report that those worries were put to rest by the end of episode one. Season 3 truly kicks off with a bang and I was hooked immediately. I adored the new relationships that were formed and the different character pairings and perspectives. However, two pairings stood out the most to me: Robin and Steve and Alexi, Hopper and Joyce.
The character of Robin instantly became a favorite of mine, working at the ice cream shop with Mama Steve (as I fondly refer to him from becoming a protective figure and a friend to his young wards). Their banter is so natural and their on-screen chemistry is amazing. I wasn’t in the least bit shocked to find out that the talented actress was no other than Maya Hawke, daughter of one of my favorite on screen badasses, Uma Thurman! I mean is it not fitting of the daughter of Poison Ivy to fight her own battles as well??? I actually was happy she didn’t become a romantic interest for Steve. I am really hoping that Season 4 will explore more adventures with the two exploring a true friendship. Maybe Robin could even become a wingman for Steve, because we all know he could definitely use it after watching his idea of flirting at the ice cream shop. Seeing the balance of her brain and his bravery was such a complimentary contrast and I could watch a whole season dedicated to the two.
Another newcomer, Alexi, very quickly became a favorite for me. Although he didn’t speak more than a word or two of English, he was hilarious. I was impressed with the amount of thought that could be conveyed with just a single look from him. To see Hopper in all his Neanderthal fashions go toe to toe with the smart, savvy, Russian speaking scientist was a great dynamic. I was absolutely devastated when he was killed at the carnival even though I saw it coming a mile away. I secretly keep telling myself that someone found him at the festival and he made it to the hospital in time, drinking his cherry gas station slushies and eating all the Burger King his heart desires.
On the topic of devastation, let’s do a show of hands: who sobbed like a child when Hopper disappeared off that platform? Just me? Okay, cool. I mean, I figured that a sacrifice was going to have to take place. Stranger Things has a huge pattern of foreshadowing what will come to pass. Almost the entire plot is unveiled within the first few episodes, released in tidbits, you just have to put the pieces together. A point was made to mention that anyone standing near the doorway when it was shut would be turned to dust. I just wasn’t expecting it to hurt SO BAD. His tearful look of acceptance tore me to pieces when I least expected it to. And then to hear him read his ‘boundary’ letter to Eleven made it hurt all over again. Hopper may be gruff and play into the macho stereotype but David Harbor brings such sensitivity to it that you can’t help but love him (the dad bod doesn’t hurt either, but maybe that’s just me).
However, the performance of the season squarely belongs to Dacre Montgomery playing the role of Billy. His ability to balance between monstrous rage and childlike vulnerability was beautifully done. Many moments were reminiscent of Get Out to me. Billy would have a cruel sneer on his face but his eyes would be pleading. That thought alone was terrifying. To be aware yet unable to control what you are doing is a fear I’m sure we all have had at some point or another – just maybe not at the hands of the Mind Flare. I know there was a bit of an uproar online about Billy deserving a better fate than the one delivered by the Mind Flare but let’s look at the facts. Billy has been an awful person from the beginning, tormenting and bullying everyone around him. I thought the one moment of decent humanity coming at his end was a just conclusion.
The way Stranger Things was able to capture the innocence of being a teenager, still wrapped up in the happenings between friends while also trying to simultaneously save the world is truly awe-inspiring. When Dustin broke out into the Never Ending Story theme song I absolutely lost my mind. Although I am a 90’s baby, I so heavily relate to the deep seated nerd culture in the show because these are the things my mom raised me with. Season 3 is by far my favorite season and I am so excited as so many possibilities opened for future seasons.