STRANGER THINGS (S3) gets 7.5/10 Mall rats

S3 ep1-8

Created by Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer
Starring Millie Bobbie Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Winona Ryder


It’s the summer of 1985 and strange things are afoot at the Starcourt Mall, the new shopping centre that has become the controversial heart of the town of Hawkins. As Will (Noah Schnapp) becomes increasingly aware of an otherworldly incursion, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) uncover a strange radio transmission, and Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) and Max (Sadie Sink) notice that something is off with some of the town’s inhabitants. As the different groups investigate the various oddities around town, they begin to discover that the rift to the Upside Down may not be as closed as they once thought.

This season of Stranger Things skirts close to self parody, stuffing itself full of retro references and sacrificing some tension and originality to achieve this. However season three manages to pull it off, perhaps because of the sheer charisma of the show and the talent involved in bringing it to us, perhaps as audiences are overly forgiving due to a love of the initial concept. Having said that, watching the cascade of 80s references, as the cast battle against the latest apparition from the Upside Down is entertaining viewing. Some of the characters have even benefited from this, with a few getting to showcase the development that they have gone through since that first season (Dustin and Steve especially).

Stranger Things does manage to stay true to its initial core of horror though, in more ways than just name checking The Thing and Day of the Dead. It also threads elements of both tales into its plot, adapting and riffing on them (the paranoia of The Thing, and the besieged mentality of Day of the Dead). Although initially light on the gore, this season also manages to shift gears and provide some startlingly effective body horror in the latter half, as “the Flayed” show their true potential.

This third outing delivers all we could want from Stranger Things, but it doesn’t seem to be doing this by innovation, but instead by refining the popular formula. However there is also the sense that the season marks the last time that traditional formula can work. There’s only so many times you can tell the story of a town threatened by variations of the same threat before it loses its lustre. Introducing characters and differing locations can only go so far – although the mall does work well as a central location, and a symbol for the changing face of America. There’s at least a sense by the end of this season that the Duffer Brothers acknowledge this, and are shifting gears for the following season, with some significant steps taken in the finale.