Stranger Things 3: the guts, the gore, the glory

The new season of Stranger Things has broken Netflix viewing records with 40.7 million accounts streaming the show since its release on July 4.

After waiting what felt like forever for the new season, fans couldn’t even be mad because the Duffer Brothers delivered a binge-worthy masterpiece. There were (literal) guts, there was gore, and there were many, many tears shed.

Let’s just dive right in, shall we?

There were so many storylines to follow this season and each one was intense in its own ways. We had Nancy and Jonathon working on the mystery of the rapid rats; Joyce and Hopper uncovering the magnet situation; Eleven and Max figuring out Billy and Heather weren’t really Billy and Heather; Will, Lucas, and Mike realizing the Mind Flayer was back in Hawkins; and Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica (AKA the Dream Team) were busy fighting Russian spies and saving lives.

Right off the bat, we fall in love with this season’s new girl, Robin. Her ability to crack Russian codes in a day and keep Steve on his toes are enough to make us stan her as one of our new favourite characters. Although she likes to make jokes at Steve’s expense — “How many children are you friends with?” — their friendship is wholesome, vulnerable, and honest. She brings out the best qualities in him, and in turn he creates a safe space for Robin to be real about who she is.

The true friendship we deserved this season was Max and Eleven’s. Max encourages El to be herself without anybody else’s influence. No more Hopper or Mike telling her who to be, because well, girl power. Eleven finds her style and develops her own personality with Max’s help, who tells her, “There’s more to life than stupid boys.” Preach, sister. I personally love how the new BFFs went out and had the best day ever while the boys stayed at home, stressing over how to get their girls back. As they should.

Can we take a minute to appreciate Millie Bobbie Brown rocking the 80’s looks? I’m so glad the costume department gave her something to work with other than hospital gowns and flannels this season. A day at the mall with her best friend did her great.

And while we’re on the topic of female empowerment, Nancy deserves more praise for the bullshit she had to endure while working at the newspaper with a bunch of misogynists. She’s busy fighting the patriarchy and trying to keep Hawkins safe. The scene in the kitchen when Nancy and Mrs. Wheeler discuss Nancy’s strength was one of my favourite scenes throughout the series. Nancy was entirely relatable as a woman trying to navigate her way through a man-dominated industry, and it was nice to see Mrs. Wheeler show her loving-and-nuturing-mother side, instead of her horny-for-Billy side.

Although on that note, I must admit my jaw hit the floor when Billy says to Mrs. Wheeler, “It’ll be the workout of your life.” Damn. Anyway, moving on.

The flashback of the boys playing Dungeons and Dragons shows how much they’ve all grown up over the years. This season proves they aren’t little kids anymore — they’re teenagers now, and well, teens are sexually charged and hormonal, which was very apparent this season. Everyone was boo’d up, except poor Will.

The scene when Will destroys Club Buyers after Mike says to him, “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls,” was probably the most emotional throughout the season (aside from all the deaths in the last half of the finale). He’s lonely, anxious, he clearly has PTSD, his friends are moving on with their lives, and we find out he’s maybe gay? Okay. This scene ripped my heart out of my chest. Noah Schnapp deserves awards for this one.

Thank goodness for Dustin, who is funnier than ever this season. His humour lightens the emotional load, and his friendship with Steve only gets better. “Touch my butt, I don’t care! HARDER!” As much as I adore Dustin, however, I do blame his duet with Suzie for Hopper’s death. If they weren’t singing and had given him the code instead, Hopper and Joyce would have had more time to accomplish their task and escape the underground Russian lab.

But the character who takes the cake for funniest one-liners this season goes to Lucas’s younger sister, Erica, who teaches us about capitalism and how to negotiate free ice cream for life in exchange of child endangerment.

As funny as this season was, it was also the most devastating. We fell for Alexei, AKA Smirnoff, who absolutely stole our hearts while trying to live his best American life — Looney Tunes and cherry slushies included. He was flourishing… and then he got shot. They really did that to us.

Look at that smile on his face. He was so pure and adorable. RIP Alexei. You deserved better.

Immediately after we suffer the loss of Alexei, Eleven and Billy share a moment when she reminds him of his childhood memory, the one of his mother on the beach. El goes into detail about that day: the seagulls, her dress, her shoes, how very pretty she was.

Eleven manages to save Billy’s soul from the Mind Flayer, only for Billy to sacrifice himself as the monster rips through his body and kills him while Max watches in horror.

As if that wasn’t enough, then we have to watch Hopper die. Or did he? Either way, it was absolutely devastating for so many reasons: Joyce is the one that turned the keys and caused the room to explode; Eleven had a family in him and it was taken away from her; he’ll never have his date with Joyce. It’s safe to say that there was so much loss in this season, Hawkins will never be the same.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any emotional, Joyce finds a letter Hopper wrote after she taught him how to feel his feelings and confront Eleven and Mike. The letter was so uncharacteristic of Hopper, it goes to show how much he loved and cared about El.

“Keep on growing up, make mistakes, learn from them, and when life hurts you, ’cause it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good, it means youโ€™re out of that cave. But please, if you donโ€™t mind, for the sake of your poor old Dad, keep the door open three inches.”

Actually me during this scene:

In short, this season was the most heartbreaking, hilarious, painful, and aesthetically pleasing season yet. The Starcourt Mall made me want to go back in time and visit, from the stores, to the neon lights and sounds, to the crowds of people. Remember when people used to go to the mall just to hang out? Or when the local pool really was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon? The Duffer Brothers nailed the 1980’s nostalgia in this season.

I almost thought they were going to leave us without a preview of next season and I began panicking at the thought that maybe there wouldn’t be one. Then the credits started rolling and cut to the clip at the Russian prison. If you somehow missed this, stop reading right now and go watch it.

If that American prisoner is somehow not Hopper, I am suing Netflix and the entire cast and crew of Stranger Things for getting my hopes up. And this tweet from the Stranger Things writers? I guess I’ll have to re-watch the entire season.

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