‘Stranger Things’ Season Three: character development done right

A look into the latest season of the hit Netflix show and why it’s definitely worth a watch. (Contains spoilers!)

When Stranger Things first came out in 2016, I was (as always) cautious about watching something that had been so hyped up by the media. But, before I knew it, me and my uni housemates had binge-watched the entire season. When the second was released the following year, we did the same. It felt impossible not to get hooked on the show, with its synth-heavy soundtrack and blend of sci-fi and horror – not to mention its funny, nerdy and incredibly believable characters.

The personal development of these characters and their relationships is something that Season Three handles extremely well and, for me, it’s what makes the show worth watching. The excitement of an investigative drama, complete with a frankly repulsive monster and shady government cover-ups, is all well and good – but this counts for nothing if we don’t care about the people fighting to stop them.  

The classic double acts of previous seasons returned and changed for the better; it was hilarious to watch Joyce giving parenting advice to a clueless Hopper, and I admired how Dustin’s advice about real love influenced Steve’s behaviour towards his work colleague, Robin. But I equally enjoyed seeing Max and Eleven finally get closer, teaming up against the boys and offering moments of pure joy despite the evil closing in on them.

Copyright Netflix

But it’s not only through the interactions of its characters that Stranger Things highlights the contrast between light and dark. Of all the new locations introduced in this season, Starcourt Mall is the most captivating because of how it directly mirrors the plot. In the first few episodes, before the horror of the Upside Down starts creeping back in, the Mall is a child’s paradise of vibrant colours and delicious treats. As events reach their climax, however, Starcourt becomes the setting for the final showdown against the Mind Flayer, and it swaps its magic for crumbling walls and ominously flickering lights. This manipulation of typically positive locations is incredibly effective and can be seen throughout Season Three, such as with the funfair and the swimming pool.

Emotional manipulation is still the show’s main talent, though. Amongst the threats of terrifying entities and Russian thugs, the show includes real moments of humanity that we can all relate to; Nancy’s frustration at the patronising ignorance she has to contend with at work, for example, or Will’s heartbreak at his friends being more interested in girls than in their childhood games. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t only the children that had to face change: seeing Joyce, finally ready to leave her home and all its memories behind, was just as rewarding as watching Eleven and Mike maturing. These final scenes are some of the most powerful I’ve seen in a long time – the last look that Joyce exchanges with Hopper before his self-sacrifice and (supposed) death will take me a while to recover from.

Ultimately, then, Stranger Things Season Three is the perfect blend of sci-fi intrigue and engaging character development, which I would highly encourage anyone to take a look at. One question remains, though: will Jim Hopper be brought back to take his rightful place as the series’ strongest character? As far as Netflix shows go, stranger things have certainly happened.

Featured image Copyright Netflix.

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