‘Stranger Things’ proves it’s the best TV series currently running
Eleven and the gang are back in the newest season of Netflix's mega-hit original show, "Stranger Things." The third season was added to the streaming service on July 4.Image By: Courtesy of Netflix
Not since Halloween of 2017 have we last visited the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. But after the painfully long wait, Netflix’s hit sci-fi series “Stranger Things” has returned in its most exciting and emotional season yet. To put things simply: the new season of “Stranger Things” is almost absolutely perfect.
I will admit I had my fears that the show would take a turn for the worse this season, despite promising trailers. I feared that the creators would potentially have to come up with new material that wasn’t based on a long-term idea and was more of a randomly composed story that was rushed just to keep the show alive for the sake of money.
Luckily, my doubts were completely untrue and this season did an absolutely tremendous job of creating exciting conflicts that were fresh, thoughtful and creative but also built upon the past story arches, making this season overall much more relevant and well thought out. Season three isn’t made for the sake of being made. It’s made because the show runners have a clear direction where they’re going with this story and have more conflicts they want their characters to face in order to further grow.
Not too long after the seemingly resolved conflict that ended in season two, our group of friends that we’ve followed so far are now teenagers; their drastically changed lives now changing even more as they adapt to new friend dynamics and romances. Despite having superpowers and quite literally saving the world from a destructive parallel universe monster, Eleven is now adapting to life as a normal teenager — her sweet romance with Mike Wheeler a nice change for Eleven’s character.
Part of what makes this season so special is how it deals with its romances in general. Not just for Eleven and Mike, but for several other couples as well. Jonathan Byers and Nancy Wheeler prove to be a strong couple, the two growing as characters and as a pair. Nancy, in particular, has her best season yet, breaking out of her shell to break boundaries and become a fearless leader.
While not a couple, the romantic tension between Sheriff Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers is infectious. We as an audience can’t help but want them to be together desperately due to the humor and fun they exert when on screen. Additionally, Lucas Sinclair and Maxine (Max) Mayfield are together, with Max usually criticizing Lucas for his stupidity and carelessness. Their dynamic is a constantly fun and fitting gesture that serves as a wonderful comedic relief despite being somewhat overdone.
From a storytelling standpoint, “Stranger Things” is a textbook example of how to do science fiction in the right way. In order to be a truly effective science fiction story, fiction must blend with realism. While new plots emerge following the still-alive Mind Flayer and newly introduced evil Russian scientists operating a secret mission below the newly built Starcourt Mall, what grounds “Stranger Things” and makes it such a special series are its characters. From start to finish with each season, “Stranger Things” has been dedicated to developing its characters, whether that be broken men like Jim Hopper seeking a deeper purpose in life, goofy kids coming of age and slowly gaining more responsibility or redemptive arcs like the once cocky Steve Harrington has embarked on.
In season three, we find our beloved characters further growing and becoming more vulnerable to conflict both familiar and foreign, fictional and true to life. Few stories have dealt with fictional world-building that transports audiences to fascinatingly original settings while also staying grounded in an emotional reality that allows viewers to truly connect with the characters. The smart plot that is developed this year functions as a mechanism to allow the characters to get closer to pour hearts and put them in danger, allowing us to truly be scared and excited when they’re in danger, just like this show has previously done.
Jonathan and Nancy intern at the Hawkins Post and investigate the strange occurrences regarding chemical-consuming rats. This proves to be a story line that not only tests their relationship but allows Nancy to shine as a character. The rest of the teenagers end up seeking the truth behind a dangerously familiar appearance of past conflicts, as the Mind Flayer has a new host to possess, which happens to be Max’s older brother Billy — the heartthrob bully with a troubled past that is explored intimately and powerfully, making him more than just an antagonist who causes trouble. eve and less time with his younger friends, the funny sidekick once used primarily for comedic relief transforming into a brave leader who is not only enjoyable to watch but convincing as a child hero.
Jonathan and Nancy intern at the Hawkins Post and investigate the strange occurrences regarding chemical-consuming rats. This proves to be a storyline that not only tests their relationship but allows Nancy to shine as a character. The rest of the teenagers end up seeking the truth behind a dangerously familiar appearance of past conflicts, as the Mind Flayer has a new host to possess, which happens to be Max’s older brother Billy — the heartthrob bully with a troubled past that is explored intimately and powerfully, making him more than just an antagonist who causes trouble.
Lastly, Joyce and Hopper team up to also investigate the Russian presence in Hawkins, the two facing a perilous quest in doing so and testing each other along the way by constantly bickering, but also finding room for the heart.
These four subplots fuse together neatly in a perfectly organized fashion that never forgets this show is about the characters and not just the plot. The Duffer Brothers could not have figured out a smoother way of connecting all of these mysterious conflicts together in a way that not only tests our minds but constantly takes advantage of our emotions. Perfectly paced, season three goes in a direction you won’t be able to see coming, leaving you in constant suspense and anticipation of what’s to come. Yet never forgetting to have fun along the way and have us laughing as these seemingly ill-equipped heroes figure out how to save themselves and each other yet again.
While I had a few minor issues with the season such as Nancy and Steve never having a moment together after their breakup to catch up, Hopper yelling virtually the entire season, Jonathan and Will not having any emotional moments together or having enough dialogue with each other and Max rolling her eyes too frequently, season three is storytelling at its finest, built on brilliant writing, stunning film making and deep character explorations. This season, in particular, is visually arresting, the editing and cinematography higher in stylistic value, the visual effects a stunning spectacle of color and sound.
Season three of “Stranger Things” will without question get talked about for quite a while due to its bittersweet and pursuing ending that plays out with both destruction and beauty. Ending on a note that will without a doubt leave any fan of the show choked up, we end on an engaging end-credits scene that promises future conflicts to be explored as our characters enter the next shift of their complex lives, giving up hope that we’ll see them further grow and fight for survival against both man and monster in the future.
Needless to say, “Stranger Things” proves after this season that it is the best show currently running on any network or streaming service and is in a league of its own for its ability to transport audiences in ways almost unimaginable.
Final Grade: A+
Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter