In one of the scenes in the third season of Stranger Things, Dustin calls his ‘imaginary’ girlfriend Suzie and sings the title song of the 1980’s classic “The Never Ending Story”on a radio. This scene which is essentially a duet between the proverbial braces wearing nerd like Dustin and his equally nerdish girlfriend Suzie invokes a feeling of nostalgia and passion. But what stands out in this moment is the journey that Dustin and his buddies go through to protect each other from ‘things’ which are much bigger than them. They may see and look like normal kids but their adventures and challenges are extraordinary. And its these challenges and their interconnected lives which highlight the “STRANGER THINGS” universe.
Stranger Things stars Mille Bobby Brown as “Eleven”, Gaten Matarazzo as “Dustin”, Finn Wolfhard as “Mike”, Caleb McLaughlin as “Lucas”, Noah Schnapp as “Will”, Sadie Sink as “Max”, Joe Keery as “Steve” and Maya Hawke as “Robin”.
This teenage cast is supported by Winona Ryder as “Joyce”, David Harbour as “ Jim Hopper” with starring roles from Cary Elwes, Mathew Modine and Paul Reiser. The show is created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Netflix is the producer of the show. It’s been streaming in India since 2017.
What is essentially “Stranger Things” show about?
The show chronicles the lives of a bunch of teenage kids in the town of Hawkins in the 1980’s USA. El,Dustin,Lucas,Max, Mike and Will are close friends who stumble upon extra terrestrial presence in their town. With one of their friends vanishing, they all go on to find him.
In this journey of discovery, they stumble upon an alternate dimension which comprises of aliens and creatures who prey on the minds of its victims. This dimension is called “The Upside Down”. They end up finding El/Jane who is a regular kid like them but has supernatural powers to fight these alien creatures. Together they fend off any threat which comes to them and the town of Hawkins. As their adventures progress we are introduced to the adults of the show.
Jim Hopper is the police chief at Hawkins, Joyce is the mother of Will and Mike. Hopper is also the adoptive father of El. Its their trials and tribulations as parents and how the kids react to their challenges that forms the narrative of the show. The show also puts a concerted effort to the production design and popular culture reference points of the 1980’s as a whole. In fact 80% of the conversation amongst the lead characters will have a reference to a TV show/Film in it to amplify the perspective.
The Third Season
Following the events of the Second season, Will is now back from “The Upside Down” with Mike and his friends/family in Hawkins. El and Mike are madly in love with each other and are finding it difficult to get past through the Hawk like eyes of Jim Hopper as he is very possessive of El. All things are normal as the kids feel that they have successfully closed the entrances to “The Upside Down”. But yet another monster invades the city who preys on minds of people. Meanwhile Dustin picks up a Russian radio signal on his frequency talking of a secret base of the Red Army in the US. He takes it to Steve and Robin who work at the local “Southcourt Mall”. They decode the signal and locate the base which is just under the mall itself. It turns out that the local city Mayor has been bribed by the Russian. As this is ensuing, Hopper bumps into a Russian defector called Alexy who is ready to ‘help’ them in finding the base and a machine which is establishing contact with “the upside down” again. The Mind Slayer monster grows bigger and absorbs many local residents and is poised to end the world.
The season follows how the “Super 6” try their best in stopping The Mind Slayer. In the process, there are many collateral damages which are heart breaking. The season ends in an uplifted mood!
The Storytelling Of “Stranger Things”
The Show owes its allegiance to the narrative of “E.T.”, “Stand By Me” , “Super 8” and many other shows/films like that. “E.T” put forward the idea of kids in a small town encountering an alien; “Stand By Me” on the other hand created the story of a bunch of teens in a small town going out to find a friend who has been rumored to be murdered. “Super 8” in fact went on to create a visual very similar to “Stranger Things”. It features an alien life form and the kids/families are up against it. Although it showcases a group of friends who love filmmaking with the “super 8” camera. They all feel and look very similar to each other.
The Jim Hopper Season
If there is any character this season who will rule the hearts of viewers, it has to be Jim Hopper. David Harbour very beautifully plays a trinity role of sorts. He is seen as this over possessive father of El and doesn’t approve of her relationship with Mike, he is also having a secret and yet ridiculously suppressed love for Joyce with whom he has seen many adventures and has the hots for her since the last season. It is only after Bob passes away, he amplifies his love for Joyce but fails miserably. In addition, Hopper is seen as the relentless cop/lawmaker in Hawkins who punches a corrupt city mayor in the nose in his own office! He also develops a deep emotional bond with Alexi, the Russian defector. Its this ultra complex emotion roller coaster which makes Jim Hopper a feast for the senses!
The 1980’s as story palette!
Stranger Things uses 1980’s as its canvas for story telling. 1980’s has been considered as a “purist” era of American history. It chronicles the end of the Cold War, it talks of the glorious Ronald Regan era.
It was also the time of pop music, electronic music and video games madness to name a few. It was a period when science fiction films led by filmmakers like Steven Spielberg were catching up. There are many references to “The Terminator”, “Star Wars”, “The Never Ending Story”, “Back To The Future”. “Stranger Things” is a show made for the 1980’s.
Millie Bobby Brown is fascinating as El once again. She kissed her boyfriend, mourns for her Dad and fights the big monster with ease. The rest of the kids cast also impresses and I was particularly impressed by Noah Schnapp who plays Will. David Harbour delivers a cracker of a performance as Jim Hopper. Winona Ryder is not that effective as Joyce. New actor Maya Hawke is superb as Robin who works as an ice cream parlor employee and can also crack Russian codes.
I will give Stranger Things - Season 3, a 7 out of 10. It can’t be missed!