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Stranger Things 3 Review - Horror, Humor and Heartache

Season 3 covers all bases and sets up future challenges.

By: Lynn Barker

If you haven’t heard by now, Netflix’s “Stranger Things 3” has shot the streamer network’s ratings off the charts. The eight episodes contain everything from a Broadway style musical duet to soul-searing tragedy. Your fave characters are all back and their challenges run the gamut from relatable teen relationship drama to presenting questions like “Can we use fireworks to destroy the Mind Flayer monster?”. 

Millie Bobby Brown says hi off cameraMillie Bobby Brown says hi off cameraCourtesy of Netflix

The teens of 1985 Hawkins are trying to have a “normal” summer. The gate to the Upside Down was “successfully” closed by powerful Eleven or “El” (Millie Bobby Brown) and with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) dating her, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) pairing up with Max (Sadie Sink) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) claiming a summer camp sweetheart named Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo),  poor Will (Noah Schnapp) is left playing beloved Dungeons and Dragons alone and wondering how everybody grew up so fast. Even Will’s mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) is playing the dating game with Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour).

Jim is stood up for his date with JoyceJim is stood up for his date with JoyceCourtesy of Netflix

Of course, we know that the horrible, giant spider-like “Mind Flayer” monster will have to return with new tricks up its slimy sleeves!

"Stranger Things 3" Final Trailer



Warning: This review contains spoilers!

Chapter 1: Suzie Do You Copy?

In 1984, Soviet scientists are given a year by their military to develop the tech to open a gate to the Upside Down.  In 1985, the kids in Hawkins are enjoying summer break, hanging out at the new Starcourt Mall that has basically shut down local stores, angering the owners. El and Mike spend their time smooching which upsets Jim. Joyce helps him create a “talk” to give the teens. Dustin returns from a summer science camp claiming to have a new boo named Suzie who is hot, hot, hot. Nobody believes him. He sets up a powerful Ham-style radio that can reach her in Salt Lake City, Utah. But, so far, she doesn’t answer his calls.

Eleven and Mike are a coupleEleven and Mike are a coupleCourtesy of Netflix

One night, when the power goes out all over Hawkins, interrupting a screening of Back to the Future, Will senses the presence of the Mind Flayer and we see that, at a nearby abandoned steel mill, something creepy materializes. Weird events involving rats and fertilizer occur and would-be reporter Nancy (Natalia Dyer), now working as an intern at the local paper, is on the case. Dustin overhears some weird transmission with a guy speaking Russian. His transmitter isn’t that powerful. It was a local guy! Hottie Billy (Dacre Montgomery) drives by the old mill, hits something with his car and is dragged inside.

Will knows the Mind-Flayer is comingWill knows the Mind-Flayer is comingCourtesy of Netflix

Chapter 2: The Mall Rats

In the Upside Down, Billy comes face to face with his duplicate! Jim tries to cool down the Eleven/Mike relationship but, since Mike is so busy with his buds, and with Max’s encouragement, Eleven breaks up with him. Nancy, with fellow intern/love Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), tracks the case to Mrs. Driscoll who complains of a rabid rat eating bags of fertilizer. We see later that the rat “blows up”, morphing into a mushy “blob-like” critter and oozes away. Joyce misses a date with Jim because she is busy researching why all the magnets in town seem to have lost their magnetism.

Nancy researches strange rat storiesNancy researches strange rat storiesCourtesy of Netflix

Dustin, with aid from ice cream store workers Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke), translates the Russian transmission but it’s a code and there is music in the bkg. from the mall. Meanwhile, “possessed” Billy has daymares while lifeguarding at the local pool. He grabs fellow lifeguard Heather (Francesca Reale) and takes her to the mill where the weird creature there approaches her.

Chapter 3: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard

Max and El are now besties and El learns how to use her power to spy on the boys. When spying on Billy, his new invaded (“Flayed) self senses her. She “sees” him holding Heather down. She and Max can’t find Billy or Heather at the pool. Nancy’s discoveries about weird “rat” behavior make her the target of ridicule by the guys at the newspaper. She and Jonathan discover the “new” Mrs. Driscoll, now a wild, mild-Flayed fertilizer eater!  Will feels abandoned by Lucas and Mike who don’t seem interested in D &D anymore. After Robin decodes more of the message, she Dustin and Steve see armed Russians unloading a strange shipment at the mall. Joyce and Jim go to the seemingly abandoned Hawkins Lab where Jim is attacked. El and Max find a seemingly normal Billy and Heather having dinner with her parents but later they attack them.

Steve and Dustin spy on the RussiansSteve and Dustin spy on the RussiansCourtesy of Netflix

Chapter 4: The Sauna Test

At the mill, Heather’s parents are taken over by the new Mind Flayer entity. Nancy and Jonathan are fired from the paper by the flayed version of Tom (Heather’s dad). At the hospital, Nancy visits Mrs. Driscoll and sees her transform. Will believes that part of the Mind Flayer is still in the real world and has found a new host, the “Flayed” Billy. The kids reason that the entity can’t stand too much heat so they trap Billy in the pool sauna but he breaks out, attacks them then runs away. 

There is something wrong at Heather's houseThere is something wrong at Heather's houseCourtesy of Netflix

Jim and Joyce learn that Jim’s attacker, a thug named Grigori works with town Mayor Klein (Cary Elwes) who has a deal with the owners of Starcourt mall. Jim and Joyce check all remote properties owned by Starcourt.  Dustin, Steve, and Robin use Lucas’s little sis Erica (Priah Ferguson) to get into the storage room at the mall where the Russian shipment was taken. It’s an elevator lowering them far below Starcourt. We see that Billy and the “new” Heather are with many other controlled townspeople at the mill.

Chapter 5: The Flayed

Jim and Joyce find a secret lab, get into a fight with Grigori and escape with Dr. Alexei (Alec Utgoff), who built the new gate to the Upside Down. Since Alexei speaks only Russian, Jim and Joyce get Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) to translate. Nancy and Jonathan meet with the other kids and decide to follow Mrs. Driscoll to the HQ for the “Flayed” people. Steve, Robin, and Erica try to find a communications room but discover a large testing area where scientists are trying to re-open the portal to the Upside Down. At the hospital, Nancy and Jonathan are attacked by Tom and Bruce, Nancy’s newsroom coworker. After finally destroying the two, they see the bodies dissolve and reform into a scary beast.

Joyce and Jim escape from the labJoyce and Jim escape from the labCourtesy of Netflix

Chapter 6: E Pluribus Unum

The new beast gets into the sewers but Nancy and Jonathan escape it. Meanwhile, Dustin and Erica escape the Russians, but Steve and Robin are drugged and interrogated before Dustin and Erica save them. Jim learns from Alexei that the Russians have been building machines to open gates to the Upside Down. They learn how to stop the one at Starcourt. Jim tells the U.S. government about the machine under Starcourt. Mayor Klein is told by the Russians that he’d better find Joyce and Jim.   El, trying to learn where the big Mind Flayer is hiding, reads some of Billy’s memories; good ones of his mom, not so much of dad. The HQ is the steel mill. The Mind Flayer now knows where El is. More “possessed” townspeople go to the mill and meld into a larger creature.

Hot lifeguard Billy pre-Mind Flayer controlHot lifeguard Billy pre-Mind Flayer controlCourtesy of Netflix

Chapter 7: The Bite

El realizes that the Mind Flayer is really after her since she closed the previous gate. The gang has to fight it while Dustin and Erica take a wacky, drugged Steve and Robin to a movie to keep them out of sight. El is bitten by the Mind Flayer so the gang breaks into a mall store to get supplies to help her.  Dustin finally reaches them on a walkie talkie and explains but loses battery power. El uses her power to find Dustin, so the group takes off for the mall. Steve admits that he likes Robin, but she reveals that she's gay.

Robin, Dustin and Steve have to figure out the codeRobin, Dustin and Steve have to figure out the codeCourtesy of Netflix

Jim and Joyce go to a big 4th of July carnival to find the kids but Klein alerts the Russians and Alexei is fatally shot by Grigori. Jim and Joyce learn that the Russians have found the kids at the mall. El and her gang arrive to save Dustin, Steve and Robin from the Russians but El’s leg is badly throbbing. Everyone sees that a strange little creature is inside her!

Chapter 8: The Battle of Starcourt

El and friends remove her Mind Flayer creature as Jim, Murray and Joyce arrive. The adults plan to invade the Russian base and stop the machine opening the portal as per Alexei’s instructions.  Dustin will use his high-powered radio transmitter to guide them. El and the group are cornered by Billy and the Mind Flayer at the mall. Dustin finally reaches smart Suzie (yes, she’s real) who helps break more codes so that Jim and Joyce can get the keys that destroy the big machine.

Dustin tries to reach girlfriend SuzieDustin tries to reach girlfriend SuzieCourtesy of Netflix

El makes Billy have happy memories of his mom in childhood which breaks the Mind Flayer’s control over him temporarily allowing El’s escape. Joyce and Jim stop the machine but Jim appears to give his life. The portal is closed. El’s powers seem to have gone. Months later, some of the friends will move away, changing relationships forever.

DemogorgonDemogorgonCourtesy of Netflix

At a secret Russian base, guards talk about “the American” but feed another prisoner to a dreaded, captive Demogorgon!

Wrapping Up

The third season of the beloved series doesn’t disappoint. There are great horror moments, cool SPFX, races against time, humor, '80's nostalgia and even fun music including Gaten Mazzarato's duet of the theme from "Neverending Story" sung with perfection with Dustin’s sweetie Suzie.  Most people don't realize the young actor's Broadway background. He was in “Les Miz” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”.

Dustin and pals get ready to set up his transmitterDustin and pals get ready to set up his transmitterCourtesy of Netflix

We can so relate to the teen characters’ life changes. Young Will hates the fact that pals Mike and Lucas have paired off with Eleven and Max while he doesn't date and is content to continue paying Dungeons and Dragons with his guy pals, hopefully forever. As you all no doubt know, a group of friends hitting their teens rarely consists of members who all start "liking" others as more than friends at the same time. It's a common problem and someone always feels left behind. 

Will shares his feelingsWill shares his feelingsCourtesy of Netflix

All this relatable stuff is smoothly folded into the plot as various members of the group of main characters team up for separate adventures and try to solve mysteries that will defeat the Mind Flayer.  When all the "pieces" come together in the last few episodes, everything meshes smoothly as the teams combine and share their info resulting in a battle royale at the town mall.

Erica will help break into the Russian strongholdErica will help break into the Russian strongholdCourtesy of Netflix

The "body snatcher" style plot development in which the dreaded Mind Flayer monster takes over various human hosts is Sci-Fi “old hat” tried and true but it really works here so I’m okay with it.

Joyce has discovered that magnets don't stickJoyce has discovered that magnets don't stickCourtesy of Netflix

The ending in which Eleven loses her powers, we hope temporarily, some of the key characters move away, Sheriff Jim appears to have been killed in a final explosion and the Russians appear to have a trapped Demogorgon really sets us up for more adventures in Season 4. Although some of the humor seems a bit forced and coming at odd times, we really enjoyed the season. We award four stars.

"Stranger Things 3" Rating: [RATING 4,tv show]

Stranger Things 3 Show PosterCourtesy of Netflix

Check out all of “Stranger Things 3” now on Netflix!


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