Worth Watching? – Stranger Things (Season 3)

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We show you everything ‘Stranger Things’ is offering this summer

Boy, it’s been quite a roller coaster for the youth of Hawkins, Indiana, hasn’t it? Corrupt government officials, psychic children, otherworldly monsters- really, it’s all quite too much for a handful of pre-teens. Unfortunately, as the third season of Stranger Things rather succinctly illustrates, life doesn’t particularly care who you are or what your situation is; things just go south sometimes. But if you’ve got trusted allies, well, it may still not turn out ideal in the end, but you can definitely weather it together.

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It’s been about a year since Will was freed from the influence of the “Mind Flayer” and the gate to the Upside-Down closed, and life has gone on. Specifically, it’s gone on to the new Starcourt Mall, a fancy shopping center that has taken up residence in Hawkins, attracting its youth and driving small shops out of business. Mike and Eleven have been going steady for a while now, (and as an aside, hearing El speak in complete sentences warms my heart), though his friendship with Will, Lucas, Dustin, and Max has suffered somewhat. However, as has become the norm, strange occurrences begin to besiege the small town once again. People have been going missing, rats seem to be mutating, and the town is bombarded with rolling blackouts. There’s a whole mess of spooky-ness going on, and it’s going to take every last Hawkins citizen with even an iota of Upside-Down knowledge to deal with it.

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The story regularly shifts between multiple groups. Mike, Will, and Lucas are trying to figure out the whole teenage romance thing while Max and El are on the trail of Max’s brother Billy, who is engaged in potentially paranormal activity. Nancy and Jonathan, interning at the local paper, and trying to crack the case on the mutant rats. Dustin, back home from science camp, enlists the help of Steve and his coworker Robin to decode a mysterious Russian transmission. Joyce and Hopper (the latter having his own frustrations about Mike and El’s relationship) are trying to discover the source of the rolling blackouts. All of these plot threads eventually coalesce, and without giving anything away, things escalate quite a bit from your standard teen drama.

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Speaking of which, the first couple episodes of the season do drag a bit at parts. The focus of the series is supposed to be the paranormal stuff, so taking time out to see the cast just being teenagers can be a little boring by comparison, though it is good to get a little levity now and then. Once the gas starts pumping , though, it doesn’t stop. The rest of the season is a thrill ride of action, mystery, a few splotches of horror, and a liberal dose of drama.

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The cast has gotten older, but they’ve all become better actors for it. While everyone turned in fantastic performances, I’d like to give a special spotlight to Joe Keery and Maya Hawke as Steve and Robin. While their role in the overarching story is comparatively minor, they have a fantastic, almost buddy-cop-like chemistry together, and every time they were on screen was an absolute treat.

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The third season of Stranger Things is a huge step up from the somewhat lukewarm beats of season two, and I can’t wait to see how it’s all going to end in the last season. No spoilers, but there are definitely a few threads that still need resolving.

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