You need not worry about me spoiling any of Netflix’s Stranger Things 3. Accompanying the screeners I received is a long list of points to which I cannot refer in my review. This list is, in reality, highly ironic on two fronts. First, some of these points are strongly hinted at in the final trailer. Second, by asking me not to spoil various points, they directly spoiled them for me. A true Catch-22.
So, speaking in very generic detail as much as possible, Stranger Things 3 is a very accomplished entry to the overall Stranger Things canon. Taking place a few months after the events of Season 2, Season 3 introduces the much-anticipated Starcourt Mall, a dead-on replica of the greatest of 1980s staples. I think I may have briefly lost consciousness when the Waldenbooks comes into focus. The set design is fully realized down to the smallest detail, and it serves the series well by giving us an alternate source of nostalgia not rooted in period (are the 1980s period?) television or film. Of course, that’s all I can say about Starcourt Mall.
I can confirm that the entire cast returns and has matured into their roles nicely. One of the benefits of such a large cast is they can organically wander into various locations without feeling too isolated. It does eventually become a focal point that the kids’ group becomes separated, but it works well in the context of the story. Between characters old and new, there’s always something suspenseful to absorb.
As for the overall plot, there’s really not much I can reveal about that either. I can say that many of the earlier scenes deal with the kids’ budding hormones in sweet ways. A lot of that, though, is abandoned as the central plot really kicks in around Chapter 3. Is Season 3 scary? It definitely has its moments of tension and escalating violence. You do feel that there are genuine lives at stake here, particularly after a notable Season 2 death that emotionally lingers into Season 3. But I’m being careful because I don’t want to spoil anything.
Undoubtedly, viewers will dedicate most of their July 4th holiday to bingeing the entire 8-episode series. They probably should. There are lots of surprises – some you see coming, some not – that would dampen your overall enthusiasm for the season if spoiled. Overall, I dug the season and its tendency to dip into the darker side of 1980s sci-fi/horror. And I fully admit that I chose to ignore some of the more credibility-stretching moments as events and locales started to become more clear.
But you didn’t hear that from me.
Stranger Things 3 drops at 12:01am PT on Netflix.