Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Five major spoiler-free takeaways from 'Stranger Things' season three

It looks like things aren’t going to get any less strange for the long-suffering residents of Hawkins, Indiana

The upside down is all sewn up but there are still weird happenings in 'Stranger Things'.  Courtesy of Netflix
The upside down is all sewn up but there are still weird happenings in 'Stranger Things'.  Courtesy of Netflix

Stranger Things crashed back onto Netflix today, and despite Eleven having closed the portal to The Upside Down at the end of season two, the first two episodes suggest things aren’t going to get any less strange for the long-suffering residents of Hawkins, Indiana third time around.

Here are our initial takeaways from the first two episodes — there may be some mild spoilers ahead, but we’ll avoid major plot points, and with six episodes still to watch, we’re a good six hours away from any major plot reveals anyway.

1. The characters are growing up, some very awkwardly

Inevitably, two years after we were first introduced to the central tween gang at the heart of the show (and three years for the actors playing them), things are beginning to change for them. The boys and girls in the group don’t find each other quite so icky anymore — Mike and Eleven are in a relationship, and Lucas and Max are too. Even geeky Dustin claims to have found a girlfriend who is “a genius and hotter than Phoebe Cates” at science camp, although she lives with her strict Mormon family in Utah. Dustin, being Dustin, builds a giant radio tower in an attempt to communicate with her.

Poor Will seems to be developing more slowly than his hormone-riddled buddies, and just wants to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Of the older (young) cast, school bully Billy is now a lifeguard at the municipal pool and proving quite a hit with Hawkins’ bored housewives, though his first interaction with Mrs Wheeler suggests his newfound heart-throb status may not be an entirely helpful thing.

Nancy is now a trainee journalist at the local paper. This role looks like it could prove crucial to solving the newest mystery in Hawkins, though judging by the way she rushes out on what may be the biggest clue to what’s going on to follow up another lead, she may have some training left to do yet.

2. Fatherhood isn’t easy for Chief Hopper

Chief Hopper is still trying to juggle running the local police department with being the adopted father to a teenage top-secret military experiment with super powers, and now she's a teenager too.

He’s not finding it easy. Winona Ryder’s Joyce tries to coach him in the ways of being an understanding modern parent, but in the end he reverts to his usual hard man tactics to put a lid on Mike and Eleven’s blossoming romance. This is unlikely to end well.

3. The evil Russians are in town

Russian agents have been alluded to in previous seasons, and Eleven’s powers have even been used as a weapon to spy on Russian communications. Despite the many hints, they’ve not yet played a major role.

This time they’re front and centre from the outset. Episode one opens in a Russian military research facility lifted straight from a Bond film, where the red menace appears to be trying to gain access to the Upside Down for itself under the control of a commander who’s read Darth Vader's Guide to Handling Careless Minions.

They’re also in Hawkins’ brand new mall, where they appear to be sending communications from somewhere in the kiddies’ play area. Dustin and Steve are already onto them, thanks to Dustin’s radio tower, along with Robin, Steve’s cod-Russian-speaking new co-worker at the Scoops Ahoy! Ice cream parlour. We have a sense Eleven’s skills with intercepting Russian communications may be needed before too long.

4. There are rats. A lot of rats.

There’s a new menace stalking Hawkins, but it hasn’t properly revealed itself yet. Except to the town’s rat population, who have developed an unhealthy habit of eating whole bags of fertiliser then flocking, pied-piper-like, to the disused steelworks on the edge of town and exploding.

The monster seems to be somehow both possessing and feeding on the town’s rodent population. It hasn’t showed itself properly yet, but from the glimpses we’ve seen it looks big, mean, and scary. We’re predicting a big reveal at the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations.

As episode two draws to a close, it seems to be growing in strength and preparing for its first human victim.

5. This show still makes us love the eighties

We may be nearing the end of the noughties in the real world, but in the creepiest fictional small town in Indiana, it’s still firmly the mid-eighties. Season three opens in summer, 1985, almost a year after we thought Eleven had put the town’s gremlins to rest at the end of the previous season.

Stranger Things review.  Courtesy of Netflix
Stranger Things. Courtesy of Netflix

From the very opening scenes the show remains an homage to eighties design, fashion, culture and music. We see formica radio-cassette players and porcelain unicorns, we hear Corey Hart and The Knack, we get treated to a fashion show straight out of a classic Madonna video courtesy of a wide-eyed Eleven on her very first shopping trip, and there are visual nods to Magnum PI and, perhaps ominously, George A Romero’s Day of the Dead.

If you’ve loved the nostalgia trips of recent movies like IT and Ready Player One you’re in for a treat. Having said that, depending on your age and attitude to all things eighties, this could either be a garish celebration of extreme tackiness, or a misty-eyed throwback to your school disco days.

Updated: July 5, 2019 03:01 AM

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