Are you finished with Stranger Things 3? Do you need someone to talk to? Well, Nicole and Erin had a spoiler-heavy conversation about the most recent season of the Netflix original, so if you’re ready to take a trip to the Upside-Down, the Starcourt Mall, and the world of Hawkins at large, keep reading!
Nicole: So! My initial thoughts are WOW. I really enjoyed this season. It felt a lot creepier to me, which isn’t typically my speed, but I think it worked! I was kind of dreading going into it . . . mainly because I dread starting a new season of anything. But I was pleasantly surprised. And then I was HORRIBLY DEVASTATED BECAUSE THEY KILLED HOPPER. But up until then, they really had me! It was moving at a great clip.
Erin: I really enjoyed the pacing of this season, too! I think it really moved, and I loved the concurrent plotlines of “weird Mind Flayer zombies” and “holy shit, there’s a secret Russian base under the mall.” And yeah, there’s NO WAY Hopper is dead. Netflix knows what they’ve got on their hands in David Harbour, plus we didn’t even get a Hopper/Joyce kiss?? C’mon. Speaking of kissing—I loved El and Mike! I thought their relationship was SO cute this season, plus El and Max bonding during an incredible shopping montage. MORE KISSING!
Nicole: I had the opposite reaction to El and Mike! Mainly because I find Mike incredibly annoying. Typically, Hopper’s reaction to their dating isn’t something I would condone in a parent, but he was right to put the fear of God into Mike after that little shit was just straight-up disrespecting him in his own damn home!! But yeah, it would be INSANE for Netflix to just be done with Hopper/Harbour. It’d be like of HBO had killed off Tyrion.
I was a big Hopper/Joyce shipper in the first season. Then, with her dating Sean Astin’s Bob in season two, I was like “You know what, it’d be cool if they were just friends.” But now I’m back on the ship and devastated that there was not one kiss between them!!!
And yes, the mall montage with El and Max was my favorite scene of the whole season. Maybe even the whole show. Just some wholesome 80s fun and some spectacular fashion moments on Miss Millie. That rainbow-colored romper she wears?? A+ Meanwhile, everything Mike wore made him look like his body was 75 percent arms and legs.
Erin: All of El’s outfits were fantastic, and I have a feeling we are going to see a lot of the yellow shirt/suspenders combo this Halloween. Speaking of fashion, I LOVED all of Nancy’s internship dresses this season. I liked that she was trying to dress more grown up as a part of her wanting to be taken more seriously, and I really liked that she was the focus of that journalism/sexism subplot (no offense to Jonathan).
We also have to talk about the other teens: Steve and newcomer Robin. I thought their dynamic was a lot of fun from the start, and I especially enjoyed seeing what it evolved into. Also, I was extremely distracted for most of her performance, thinking about how Robin is played by Maya Hawke, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman’s daughter, and how she looks like a perfect 50-50 split of their genes. It’s freaky!
Also, I would die for loopy Steve Harrington and his friendship with Dustin. The relationships in this season got to deepen in interesting and unexpected ways. Also, shoutout to Erica, who I think is my MVP of the season.
Nicole: I actually wish they’d closed the loop a little bit more on the journalism/sexism plot. What exactly did Nancy learn? That she’s never wrong? That’s a dangerous lesson for her, especially because I would’ve preferred she learned to acknowledge her privilege. Yes, she’s a woman and people are going to underestimate her or treat her like shit as a result. But did she clock ANY people of color, regardless of gender, in that office? Being white and wealthy means she’s already got a foot in the door, and it’s ridiculous that she was essentially throwing a tantrum because no one was listening to her.
I didn’t know Robin was played by Maya Hawke until halfway through when my husband looked up who she was after I asked if we knew her from anything then he was like “She’s Uma Thurman’s daughter,” and I saw it immediately. But yeah, I loved the addition because I will always applaud bringing more girls into this story and actually having them do things. And I was actually surprised by the reveal that she’s a lesbian; I can normally feel it coming a lot earlier than I did with her. And I’m glad that Steve didn’t turn it into a whole thing. He’s really been earning his Fan Fave status. I laughed so hard when Robin told him that his kids were there when the gang went to sneak into the movies.
I knew they were going to have a bigger role for Erica this season, but I didn’t think they’d have her getting into the shit. So that was fun, though at a certain point, it’s like “We get it. You’re the wisecracking precocious black girl. Have another mode.” I guess that’s why they built in the “She’s actually a nerd” tangent. But still.
God, there’s so much to talk about! Let’s move to the Mind Flayer. Because I have many thoughts/questions. Mainly: what happened with the whole “The Flayed are eating fertilizer/chemicals” subplot? I feel like that ultimately went nowhere.
Erin: That’s a good point about Nancy, she didn’t really learn anything. Although I did like that Jonathan did the bare minimum in making her think about her privilege for half a second before they had to go back to solving the mystery. But I agree, there definitely could be more of that type of exploration/perspective opening in Hawkins!
Honestly, I was surprised at the Robin “reveal” as well, since it felt like the show was just setting her up to be Steve’s love interest, so I was happy that was subverted, and it felt natural as well.
Okay—the Mind Flayer. I thought it was weird how it essentially boiled down to “Well, we didn’t actually kill it last time, so it’s back!” But then it also had the weird and different zombie element that culminated in everyone (except Billy?) melting and turning into a mega Mind Flayer. That felt a bit rushed and just seemed as though the creators thought, “Okay, we’re done with this and just need it to be a monster again.” I thought they were going to take it to a zombie killing showdown in the mall at the end, instead of all the kids and adults vs. a monster. The sequences of Billy kidnapping people to get zombified by the Mind Flayer were genuinely scary, as well as the moments where you see all of the zombie hordes, and it was disappointing to see that just kind of crumble and not really matter in the end.
I also didn’t really understand when the Mind Flayer through Billy was saying it was doing everything for El, and also how Billy was able to miraculously fight back in the end. I mean, I get it, not everything always gets a neat explanation, but it did seem pretty convenient.
One more point about Billy—a lot of last season was spent showing how much of a bully he was, and also how abused he was, and how his bullying was perpetuating that abuse. It seemed like this season was just retreading that, and I don’t think his heroic moment was necessarily earned. Either way, I am going to miss his signature dirtbag energy, and I thought when he was the Mind Flayer, he was a scary villain.
Nicole: Yeah, I found it really curious that Billy was able to avoid turning into a fleshy goop pile. Which, by the way, was TERRIFYING to watch happen. I thought we’d only have to see the rats writhe and explode into goop, so to see that presumed zombie horde getting absorbed into the Mind Flayer was soooo creepy and gross. I had to look away lol
But you make a good point; why have them be zombie-esque at all if ultimately the only thing that came of them was that they added to the Mind Flayer’s bulk? Seems like they could’ve just kept it at Billy going around and luring people, instead of having multiple people going around and luring people.
Which brings me to something I read the other day that I have to partially disagree with. A woman wrote a review complaining that the show did nothing to prepare people for the rape allegory that was Billy/the Mind Flayer collecting people. She said it took watching these scenes to realize that the Mind Flayer entering Will in season two was also a rape allegory, and therefore she deemed it problematic. Am I wrong in thinking that it’s her own fault that she didn’t notice it till now? I feel like once you have a villain whose main source of terror is body snatching—something that’s been happening since season one—one of your first thoughts would be comparing it to rape or, in the case of Will in seasons one and two, child predation. So I don’t think the show’s allegorical use of the Mind Flayer is problematic. She did, however, make a good point that Billy’s dialogue when bringing people to the Mind Flayer is much rapier than Heather’s when she’s talking to her recently captured parents. That’s very true. But I don’t think that’s enough to demonize the whole show.
And you’re right. Billy’s saving El in the end wasn’t super earned. Nor did we really see a good explanation of why his Flaying and eventual death had such an effect on Max. Their season two interactions ended with her threatening him with a nail-covered baseball bat. So how did they reach this not-quite-amicable peace they seem to be in this season? And when did she start seeing him as her brother who just needs someone to believe in him? It’s something that could be believable if they’d spend enough time with it.
And your question about “Why El?” touches on my feelings about the overarching “evil human scientists” element across the whole show. Now, I haven’t watched the first two seasons since they were released, so it’s likely that I’m just forgetting a lot of important details. But it seems like the connection between El’s “Papa” in season one, the US government in season two, and the Russian government in season three is tenuous. What are the Russians up to? What is the government up to? Is it truly just scientists discovering another dimension and feeling compELled to explore, or is there a sinister motive behind it all? And what does it have to do with enhanced children? Are the children a result of experiments about the Upside Down, or vice versa? Is the full Russian government involved in the secret base under the mall, or is it a Hydra situation? WHY do they know Cary Elwes?
Erin: As always, it seems like Stranger Things is leaving us with more questions than answers—and definitely has given us a lot to think about. Also: Cary Elwes was probably the most underrated part of this season. His whole corrupt, cowardly Jaws mayor on drugs thing was fantastic, and I hope he’s back for the next iteration!
Now, all that’s left to do it wait another year or two for Stranger Things 4. #HopperLives