After the copy and paste approach to an underwhelming second season of the Duffer Brothers 80s sci-fi homage, a new tactic was desperately required to freshen up Netflix’s major USP to prevent stagnation. The good news is that the show’s creators haven’t rested on their laurels and delved into their magical sack of science fiction nostalgia to “influence” and revitalise the Hawkins Universe.
There’s a sprinkling of The Terminator, a healthy dollop of Aliens and a large spoon of Day Of The Triffids that are left to simmer over the course of eight, taught, episodes and served for your viewing pleasure.
The ambition of allowing four separate strands of narrative throughout the season, culminating in an Avengers-style heart-wrenching finale, could’ve felt rushed in lesser hands but they have truly pulled off a masterpiece in storytelling here. It even has a Marvel-inspired post-credits scene to whet your appetite for season four.
We pick up the story a year after the defeat of the Mind Flayer to find our plucky heroes in disarray, some are trying to discover a vocation after graduation, others establishing hormonal-rich romantic relationships whilst the rest are desperately trying to cling on to their childhood for as long as possible.
Unfortunately what has let down previous seasons continues here and it’s what separates Stranger Things from the truly timeless TV shows of recent past. Specifically the lack of depth in its acting talent and the over-reliance on the children to carry the burden of the show in its entirety on their growing shoulders. The introduction of sci-fi alumni’s Jake Busey and Carey Elwes is heartily welcome, as was the case last season with Paul Reiser, to bulk out the acting pool. However the former is criminally underused and arguably pointless to the arc of the story. The position could’ve been filled by the milkman!
The re-introduction of Erica Sinclair from season two, the sassy sister of Lucas, is a masterstroke and reinforces herself as the best character in the show’s history. She delivers some of the best lines in the show with venom beyond her years, bringing humour and sarcasm just when the situation requires it. In addition, bringing back Murray Bauman from season one is a very close second. He perfectly captures the anti-government Ruski-phobia of the time period and at times resembles Trevor Phillips from GTA V with his narcissism and anger.
Whilst some of the kid saviours continue to deliver; Millie Bobby Brown, Sadie Sink and Gaten Matarazzo especially, others feel as though they have reached their limit and should maybe be written out somehow. Finn Wolfhard generates as much sympathy as Theresa May and grates massively as the love-lorn ex to Eleven and Noah Schnapp does nothing but rub the back of his neck and look scared.
The Duffer Brothers have indicated that the show will continue for one or two seasons more, which isn’t a bad thing provided there’s a clear end goal and a logical path in mind to get there (ahem, “Game Of Thrones“). The Mind Flayer after three seasons is feeling a bit tired as an enemy and could do with a reboot and Hawkins is also a huge constraint for the narrative. Taking the show’s heroes outside of their comfort zone and putting them somewhere unfamiliar would really help.
Watch this if you liked “Stranger Things” Season One & Two (obviously), “Stargate”, “Aliens” or “The Goonies”