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Stranger Things season 3 review: Millie Bobby Brown returns with Netflix series’ best season ever, it just doesn’t feel like it

Stranger Things Season 3 review: The Duffer Brothers bring back what could have been called the best season of the show, if only we hadn’t already seen similar versions of it twice already.

tv Updated: Jul 04, 2019 14:17 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Soumya Srivastava
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Stranger Things,Stranger Things Season 3,Stranger Things Review
Stranger Things season 3 review: Stranger Things Season 3 review: The hit Netflix show is back with its biggest season so far.

Strangers Things(Season 3)
Creators: The Duffer Brothers
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard
Rating:3.5/5

The kids are living their best lives when suddenly a lab experiment in a distance goes horribly wrong, releasing a creepy, monstrous entity into the world. A kid’s body becomes the host for the monster but no one, other than him, seems to realise what is happening, initially. Soon, several little groups are formed, who in a series of adventures, figure out what has been happening all along, only to come together by the seventh episode and fight the evil as a group.

Did I just describe the first season of Stranger Things or the second? None, actually. This is the shortest possible plot summary of the third season. Yes, it’s virtually quite the same as ever. But why fix something that ain’t broke and Netflix knows it too.

Watch the trailer for Stranger Things Season 3 here:

With its latest third season, the hit 80s nostalgia factory is back earlier than usual to light up firecrackers on the US Independence Day. The jack o’ lanterns and the Halloween costumes from the previous seasons are replaced with ice cold slushies in jumbo packs and high riding swimsuits and blue eye shadows, which are as 80s as it can get. Our favourite Hawkins kids are not lurking in the woods anymore but have become certified mall rats. They are no longer playing board games but snogging girls in their bedrooms while their dads grow restless outside. Superficially, quite a few things have changed with the new season (in both senses of the word) but all is still quite the same at the core of it.

With Stranger Things, The Duffer Brothers seem to have cracked the code that people love it when cool characters that we love come together to fight monsters. We love watching kids go on adventures and also when their parents believe them too. In the new season, us and even the characters are so used to the formula by now, that even to them, the danger doesn’t seem unbeatable at any point anymore. They are laughing through it, making jokes, as if they know, ‘Eh. We’ve done it twice already. How bad can it get?’ Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers is no longer screaming at flickering fairy lights or crying for her missing, possessed son. She is obsessing over fridge magnets, gleefully fostering Russian scientists and avoiding Hopper’s romantic advances.

Hopper and Joyce are a lot more cheery than before. ( Netflix )

Talking about Hopper, David Harbour is no longer playing him as the loser alcoholic police chief. While season 2 explored his heart-warming relationship with Eleven, which ultimately led him to adopt her, in season 3, he is finally learning to be her father, although not in the most ideal way. He is now wearing Hawaiian shirts on adventures, busting up the Mayor’s office with a lot of confidence and a lot of humour. Even as Joyce rejects him again and again, he doesn’t seem to take it to heart. He is a happier man now and no amount of evil Russian labs can take it away.

Not just the grown-ups but for once, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven has more expressions to offer than scowls and tears and nosebleeds. She is a puppy in love, spending all of her evenings ‘exchanging spit’ with Mike and her afternoons at the mall with Max. Of course, she is still spending her nights levitating possessed pool lifeguards, but she is smiling more, feeling fly as she checks herself out in the mirror after a day of shopping. It’s a big change from her ‘bitchin’ self from season 2 and also a welcome one.

Eleven is learning to be more human in the new season.

But as lovely as it is to see these characters having a good time for once, it does take away from the horror part of the show. As they go about joking about Russians or fighting about breakups, none of the danger seems dangerous enough. Sure, there are men and women exploding in basements but should we really care if the heroes don’t?

While I don’t know if anyone really ever watched Stranger Things to feel scared or they are all in it for the friendships and the nostalgia, the threat just doesn’t feel half as threatening anymore. Maybe the show needs to up the stakes a bit, kill one of the kids? Ah, I’m just kidding; we will riot if they do that.

Steve is leading his own team of rogues in the new season.

The teams that the characters get divided in are more or less the same as ever. Joyce and Hopper are learning more science together; Nancy and Jonathan are spending their summer interning at the local newspaper and launching their own investigations into the crazy rats of Hawkins; Will, Lucas, Mike, Max and Eleven are looking for the new host body; and the best and most exciting of them all—Steve and Dustin (the greatest team of season 2) and new entrant Robin (played by Maya Hawke) bring in the most laughs as they go exploring a mall and all its evil secrets. The team-ups, one of Strangers Things’ strengths, are perfect as ever.

However, there are still a few things to complain about. The new villains are more caricaturish than ever. They do the evil laugh with dead eyes, fill up kids with truth serums or are just a pair of sunglasses away from being The Terminator. Very 80s indeed but not very intelligent at all. Of course, these are all minions and the real villain is still the Mindflayer, using slightly different tactics to take over this time. But don’t worry all you lovers of a good possession and exorcisms, there is plenty of that too.

With season 3, Stranger Things has become a happier, brighter place than ever. The scope is bigger, the teams are bigger, the laughs are bigger and sometimes, the hearts too. It could very well be the best made season of the show but it still doesn’t feel like the best. Why? Because we have seen it twice already.

Disclaimer: The reviewer was provided the first six episodes of the show for the purpose of this review.

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First Published: Jul 04, 2019 10:39 IST