Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, then you might have heard about this little show called Stranger Things.
Bursting onto Netflix in 2016 with a fresh take on horror, Stranger Things has secured itself as one of the top TV series of the decade – if not the century. Making instant stars of its cast – and catapulting firm favourite Winona Ryder back into the starlight – it’s been Netflix’s biggest success story.
And it’s not hard to see why.
The world of Stranger Things has come back with a vengeance, mixing old baddies with some new, very human ones. Full of heart and comedy, as Stranger Things always excels at, it’s no surprise that this season has lived up to the hype of previous seasons. Here are 10 ways that, with season 3, Stranger Things proves it’s still the best show around.
1. The 80s aesthetic
If there’s one decade that we’d want to live in, for the aesthetic alone, it would surely have to be the 80s, right?
Okay, so, there was a lot of questionable fashion going around back then. Perms and hair crimping? No thanks. But the 80s gave us a lot of cool stuff – bright clothes, differently shaped styles, the ever-glorious mom jeans. The Hawkins kids are decked to the nines in 80s glory, and their style is to die for. Of course, let’s not forget Hopper’s incredible Hawaiian look either.
Will’s bowl cut is definitely one of the downsides to 80s’ fashion, however. Sorry, Will. Can we play D&D with you anyway?
Season 3 took the 80s vibes from the previous seasons and ramped it up to ten. Everything is bigger, and brighter, and gaudier than ever. And it paid off – it’s garish, and glorious, and it’ll make you want to go back to a time you weren’t even alive for.
2. Sublime soundtrack
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that Stranger Things is the home of one of the best TV soundtracks of all time – not to mention one of the most iconic title sequences ever known to humanity.
Let’s face it – as soon as pulsing synths start playing, the hairs on the back of your neck have already risen. The title sequence has the ability to make you dread what’s coming and be delighted for what you’re about to see at the same time, which is a confusing mix of emotions to experience.
You’ll find more synths in Stranger Things than you’d find in a music studio. The series’ soundtrack relies on it. But whereas that might be a bit too much for any other series, it always works for Stranger Things. Not only does it help cement that real 80s’ vibe, but the synths are also used in the best way possible, kicking up a storm inside of your heart at all the right moments. When you want to punch the air, they’ll be joyous. When you want to sink down into a pit of blubbering grief – they’ll only exacerbate it.
Hats off to the music team – you’ve really knocked it out of the park!
3. Incredible world building
Going hand in hand with the time of the series, it’s inevitable that historical events were going to settle into the series sooner or later. While Season 3 uses many different techniques to knock you over the head with just how 80s it is, there’s no better usage than its subplot, which puts it firmly in the time period it’s in.
It’s not just Billy’s mullet that tells us what time we’ve been transported to. The season’s second big bad is quintessential of its time, and reflects on how America saw itself. While some may criticise that it was a needless baddie, it is a pretty good way of expanding the world of Hawkins even more. After all, every story is only ever as good as the world it’s set in – and, like previous seasons, season 3 stretches out its world building in a big way.
4. Max’s and Eleven’s storyline
Spoiler for season 2!
As someone who found the rivalry between Eleven and Max pretty unnecessary – surely Eleven has bigger things on her mind than fighting with a girl over a boy? – one of the best things about this whole season has been how the two girls’ friendship has completely flourished.
Instead of pitting them against each other, the writers have, thank goodness, made them good friends. We get lots of adorable shots of Max and Eleven being teenagers – having a sleepover, reading comics, going to the mall together.
Their dynamic is so fresh and funny, and it’s a nice break from having the testosterone-filled conversations between the four Hawkins boys. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas too, but the girls are the real scene-stealers here. Max is just the coolest, and it’s wonderful to see Eleven get to be a normal teenager for once!
5. Dustin and Steve’s friendship
Dustin and Steve are the ultimate father-son/brother-brother dynamic we never knew we needed on our screens. In season 2, we saw the beginnings of that brilliant, bonkers friendship emerging, with Steve giving Dustin a pep talk on how to get a girlfriend.
Season 3 is bursting to the brim with this friendship – all the cuteness and the hilarity get cranked up a gear. These two utterly lovable guys are just as silly as each other, and their scenes together are a large part of what make this season so entertaining. Their banter is unparalleled by anyone else. I’d love a spin-off show of just these two nerds goofing off and saving the world.
6. Robin, in all her glory
Spoiler for season 3!
Introducing a new face on a show already bursting at the seams with brilliant, rich characters can be a hit or miss. Everyone on Stranger Things is so unique and complex that the risk of not letting them shine is a big risk to take. Thankfully, the introduction of Robin has been seamless, and super rewarding.
As his co-worker at Scoops Ahoy, Robin seems the perfect date material for once-ladies’ man Steve. And, yes, that’s addressed quite a lot in the show – Dustin eggs Steve on to ask her out; Steve himself is pretty much enamoured with her. And who wouldn’t be? She’s fun, she’s snarky, and she’s damn clever. She’s instrumental when it comes to Dustin and Steve’s side – the world would be in danger without her.
But where the writers could have stayed on the beaten path and coasted all the way to Predictability Avenue, they instead decided to take a sharp turn and really solidify Robin’s character as completely separate to Steve. There’ll be no love story between them, no way. Although Steve tells Robin about his feelings, she has to turn him down – [spoiler] she’s gay, and she’s never seen him that way.
That’s a big thing for Robin to do, particularly in the 80s. America wasn’t a great place for the LGBTQ+ community then, especially with the AIDS epidemic getting underway. It’s, therefore, a relief that the writers chose not to make it an issue, like so many period pieces about LGBTQ+ characters have done beforehand – Steve just questions her taste in women and they laugh, the best of friends. It’s arguably the most heartfelt scene of the entire series.
7. The Scoops Troop – but especially Erica
I really do love Eleven, Will, Mike, Max and Lucas, but the decision to let other characters shine was a really inspired one.
This season ramped up the comedy feel, and it absolutely paid off. With Steve and Dustin sticking to the mall, they swung the comedy over to their area of action. Robin’s involvement added some much-needed level-headedness – not to mention coolness – but it’s Erica, Lucas’ little sister, who brings the big guns of comedy to this ragtag bunch.
Any other little girl would have backed out of these escapades, but not Erica. She’s too cool. She wants her reward. She brings to the team a whole new dynamic that forces them to work together, delivering some of the best lines of TV, possibly ever. All whilst wearing a My Little Pony backpack. What an absolute queen.
8. Alexei – the sweetest, most dangerous man
Spoilers for season 3!
I’ll try not to give too much away, but Alexei’s involvement in the plot was a huge bit of comic relief in a series saturated with body horror, death and generally very nasty things.
Although language barriers stopped him from communicating with Joyce and Hopper, his conversations with Murray were comedy gold. Sure, he was at first on the opposite side to our favourite characters, but that made him all the more interesting.
Plus, no one should ever look that adorable whilst drinking a Slurpee. His pure joy about American things was delightful to watch – a glorious contrast to what we know about him.
I’ll still never forgive the writers for what happened to him, of course.
9. Joyce and Hopper’s will-they-won’t-they
We’ve been shipping Joyce and Hopper since season 1, frankly, when Hopper lumbered into Joyce’s life over her concerns about Will. There’s something about these two that makes them such an appealing pair. Maybe it’s the height difference. Maybe it’s the different personalities. Maybe it’s the fact that Hopper’s usually the angry one – but Joyce’s ability to give as good as she gets puts her on a level similar to his, and that’s always fun to watch regardless.
Whatever it is, they’re a shippable couple for sure. With things appearing to have calmed down a bit in Hawkins since the end of season 2, it’s not surprising that the space for romance has been created.
It’s utterly hilarious to watch unspoken feelings start to unfold throughout the series, then, between these two. Equally stubborn, their bond only gets stronger even as they start to argue more and more – and, honestly, it’s just as gripping as any Upside Down action on the screen. We can never resist two people falling for each other, can we?
10. THAT ENDING
Dammit, Stranger Things! I said I wasn’t going to cry!