Does Stranger Things Season 3 Still Hold Up?

James Logie

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Photo by Puneeth Shetty on Unsplash

Warning: spoilers contained throughout.

Stranger Things season 3 made a big impact when it came out a few years ago, but is it still worth watching, and does it hold up?

This is a look back at the plot for Season 3, and some notable things regarding the themes and characters of the show.

Plot Summary

We start by finding out the Russians are involved in their own attempt to open up the gate of the Upside Down.

They use a giant laser that they call a “Key” but it has a bad design flaw: It vaporizes any humans around it. The scientists are told they have one year to get this thing up and running properly.

That brings us to around four days before July 4th, 1985. We are introduced to The Starcourt Mall which has been killing the downtown business and making the locals unhappy.

Dustin has been away at summer camp and Eleven and Mike have been getting serious--to the dismay of Jim Hopper. Nancy and Jonathan are working for the Hawkins Post but getting treated like garbage.

Dustin has created a giant HAM radio and they intercept some bizarre Russian transmissions. We also find out that Billy is infected by the Mind Flayer which escaped the gate closing at the end of season 2.

There are diseased rats in town and Billy has met himself along with an army of “zombies." It turns out these people have been “flayed” and are also infected by the Mind Flayer.

Drama begins among the kids, and their relationships, as they are all starting to come of age

Steve Harrington works at an ice cream shop with new addition Robin and the two of them, along with Dustin, crack the Russian code. They discover the Starcourt Mall is a front for a Russian organization.

Billy aka the Mind Flayer, now knows who Eleven is and uses the flayed to create a super monster with the intention of destroying her.

We find out the Starcourt mall organization is trying to buy property in Hawkins and corrupt the evil Mayor Kline. Turns out deep beneath the mall exists another one of those lasers and they’re trying to cut into the Upside Down.

Eleven is infected by an attack from the Mind Flayer and a battle culminates at the Starcourt Mall. Billy makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Eleven. Hopper also does the same thing as he and Joyce blow up the key.

At the end of episode 8, The Byers family--plus Eleven--finally leave Hawkins for good.

Some of the Themes Explored In Season 3

One big theme has to do with the paranoia that faced everyone during the Cold War of the 80s. This is reflected in the paranoia experienced by many of the characters throughout this season.

The Mind Flayer represents this Russian threat and the attack on freedom as we know it.

The other big underlying theme of this season is a classic coming-of-age story. The kids are now growing up and have begun to mature.

People realize they’re not kids anymore and you can’t protect them forever. They’re turning into adults and they have to experience life in their own way and follow their own path.

We also see the yearning for childhood not to end as Will refuses to grow up and accept that everything is changing.

The Mind Flayer also represents this attack on childhood and the fear that comes from the unknown future.

There’s also the theme of what a real hero looks like. We see how the true hero is the one who neglects themselves for the good of others. Along with Hopper, we ultimately see that Billy is a hero.

Character Development

As mentioned with Billy, we realize how tortured he is and we actually feel sympathy for him. We see how vulnerable Eleven is and how her powers can weaken. She has to come to terms with something she never experienced before.

We see the evolution of Joyce from pretty much crazy to more commanding and authoritative. Same thing with Dustin; he seems to emerge as a true leader and almost like the most adult among the kids.

The notable standouts are Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven who gives a powerful, emotional, and intense performance

Then there's Dacre Montgomery who plays Billy. He captures this same emotional intensity and is really one of the backbones of the whole season.

Movies Referenced This Season

There are many movies acknowledged this season that also have a big influence on the series. Some of these include:

  • Dawn of the Dead - an obvious influence about a town overtaken by the walking dead in the same way Hawkins is by the flayed. We see a Dawn of the Dead poster in Jonathan's room
  • Fletch - The story of a reporter who goes rogue and uncovers an incredibly serious story and we see this mirrored in Nancy's arc for the season. We see Fletch playing at the Starcourt theatre
  • The Thing - another huge influence on Stranger Things. Not only do we see a poster in Mike’s basement but we get a full commentary comparing the original to the John Carpenter remake.
  • Cocoon - an 80s classic we see on the marquee about infected people just like what's happening in Hawkins
  • IT - we see a funhouse at the city fair that has a clown on it that looks a lot like Pennywise. It’s thought that IT and Stranger Things exist in the same universe and Bob might have had a run-in with Pennywise as referenced in season 2.
  • Endless Summer - this is a movie from the 60s but the poster is on Max’s wall. It’s the story of surfers leaving California and the comforts of home which is the exact case for her and Billy.

Back to the Future

We see a poster for Back to the Future at the movie theatre in the Starcourt Mall. It opened on July 3rd, 1985 and the first few episodes take place just before this.

In a pivotal scene, Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin try to hide from the Russians and walk right into one of the first screenings of Back to the Future.

There have been various references to it over the other seasons including the similar JVC camcorder that Doc uses and is used by Bob in Season 2.

Earlier in season 3, we see a similar black and white cat clock with moving eyes at Mrs. Driscoll's house.

In another scene, we see Dustin calling the others by walkie-talkie while in the projector room for Back to the Future. We hear Alan Silvestri's iconic score and the scene plays out like Dustin is Marty McFly who is also communicating by walkie-talkie.

There is also Steve referring to a girl as “Kind of cute n’ all” which mirrors the same phrase used by Lorrain when she describes George McFly

The Post-Credit Scene Explained

We realize things are still happening in Russia and they feed a prisoner to what is revealed to be the Demogorgon.

While deciding who to feed to it we hear them say “not the American." There’s no way to think this isn’t Jim Hopper who somehow got sucked into--or escaped into--the Upside Down only to come out through the Russian gate.

With the knowledge of a Season 4 coming, teaser trailers have shown that Hopper, indeed, is alive.

This sets up a new highly anticipated season of the highly acclaimed series.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.

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