Hard to believe that it's been a year and a half since our last excursion to Hawkins, Indiana. If I had to rank the seasons from worst to best, I'd probably put this one right in the middle. It doesn't drag like season 2 did, but it doesn't hit the high points that season 1 did. But we'll get into that. Hold on tight, I have a lot to say. Spoilers Obviously
Another Time Skip
A problem with casting child actors as main characters is that if the show spans for years, the children visibly age. Look at The Walking Dead. By the time season 8 comes around, Only about 2 years have passed in the story, but Carl has gone from a 10 year old to an 18 year old. To get around this, Stranger Things more or less advances the story in real time. This time around it's the 4th of July, and the Upside Down is up to no good. Oh also there's Russians. For real this time.
Wait, I've Seen This Before
In season 2, There were a lot of new things added, but there was also a level of repetition. This season it felt like we were sort of going through the motions. Season 2 upped the stakes with the Mind Flayer. It was reminiscent of Aliens, where the Alien queen was introduced and it was a lot more imposing than even a hoard of regular aliens. So what's the bigger threat here? Um, the Mind Flayer again. But this time it's less cool because instead of Demodogs, it commands the neighborhood.
A lot of the characters go through the same arcs. Nancy and Jonathan are once again trying to expose a conspiracy. Steve and Dustin are on another adventure, except this time they're joined by delightful newcomer Robin and annoying little brat Erica. This is a little off topic, but I don't know why everyone likes this girl. She gets better later on but before like episode 7, she bothered me with every line she had. Will is sitting around being sad, again. But I think the character who get's it worst this season is Eleven
We Need to Talk About El
Stranger Things has a problem, and it's name is Eleven. Eleven is actually one of my favorite characters, but she needs fixing. People always complain about season 2 Episode 7, but at least that episode let El do her own thing. She got a makeover, she learned how to use her powers a little more, and meeting her sister let her go through some legitimate character development. So what did she do this season?
She got another makeover.
No I'm kidding, but she didn't do a lot else. She had a couple of fights, and during the last few episodes we see that she's pushing herself a bit too far with her powers. The problem with Eleven is that she's a simple solution to any problem Stranger Things comes across in the plot. Can't find a character? Turn on some TV static and have her use her internal GPS. Need to fight someone bigger than you? Telekinesis time.
Characters and Flanderization
Flanderization is when a character is reduced to a single trait over time, often exaggerating it. A lot of characters suffer from this over the course of this season, notably Joyce and Hopper. Joyce was on her way to becoming a good character last season, but now she's right back to screaming her thoughts and feelings at everyone. Hopper went from being smart enough to know Will's body was a hoax to being a bumbling baffoon who is even described as nothing more than a brute by Murray. Remember how much Jonathan cared about his brother in the first two seasons? Did they even have one conversation this season? Jonathan has become a Nancy enabler.
The best moments of the season are when we're reminded of how far our characters have come. Robin's story about Steve when they're stuck on the floor in the Russian lab is a real highlight. You can see the pain on Steve's face when he realizes how he wasn't always a good person. Billy is another character that got a lot to do this season and became more than just the Stephen King-esque bully he was in season 2.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
Season 3 ends on an interesting note. Everything we know is different. Hopper and Billy are dead, along with a lot of townsfolk. Eleven doesn't have her powers anymore, and she's moving away with the rest of the Byers family. There's (presumably) another gate open in Russia. All of these things are interesting lead ins for season 4, but if I had to guess, I'd say the chances of us getting another Mind Flayer repeat are pretty high.
Stranger Things is still a good show. I'm still invested in this show, but if the next season doesn't do something wholly original (the thing that made me fall in love with this show in the first place) than I might be out. Guess we'll see in 2020.