'Stranger Things' Season 3 Release Date, Characters, Plot, and Episodes

We're all heading back to Hawkins, Indiana.

Everyone’s favorite Netflix sci-fi horror series returns for a third season this summer. Stranger Things Season 3 will bring us back to the fictional Hawkins, Indiana soon, but the story itself is still shrouded in mystery — despite a handful of leaks.

Perhaps the best way to pass the time is with a new Stranger Things-themed Dungeons & Dragons starter set, featuring a brand-new fantasy adventure akin to the one that Mike creates on the show: “Hunt for the Thessalhydra.” A newly-released prequel novel called Suspicious Minds also details the personal history of Eleven’s parents.

But for anyone looking for the hard facts when it comes to Stranger Things Season 3, you’re in the right place.

When will Stranger Things Season 3 return? How many episodes will there be? What have the kids been up to since the end of Season 2? What about the Mind Flayer? What sort of interdimensional horrors await the gang on their next terrifying adventure?

Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things Season 3, from new plot details to episode titles, mixed in with plenty of realistic speculation. Be sure to check back soon as we continue to update this page with new information.

The December 31 trailer revealing season 3's July 4 release date.

When Is the Stranger Things Season 3 Release Date?

A trailer released on December 31 announced that Stranger Things Season 3 will be released on July 4, 2019.

Stranger Things
Will 'Stranger Things' Season 3 leave behind the arcade?

How Does Stranger Things Season 2 Set Up Season 3?

Most of Season 2 involved battling the Shadow Monster (or Mind Flayer) that exists in the Upside Down as it tried to corrupt and invade the real world. The interdimensional rift at Hawkins Lab grew bigger and bigger, allowing demodogs to move into Hawkins proper. The Shadow Monster even invaded Will’s body.

Ultimately, Hopper and Eleven were able to close the gate together and save Hawkins, but it might’ve attracted the attention of the Shadow Monster more than ever before. As part of a deal Hopper made with Dr. Owens, the Sheriff was also able to formally adopt Eleven as Jane Hopper, legitimizing her identity as more than just a government experiment.

The utterly charming final scene of Stranger Things 2 takes place at a school dance where Mike and Eleven shared a kiss while Lucas and Max also get together. But looming over them, just a half-dimension away in the Upside Down, was the Shadow Monster watching closely.

Season 3 of 'Stranger Things' has been in production since April.

How Far Along Is Production on Stranger Things Season 3?

In early November, filming officially wrapped for Stranger THings Season 3 — at least for the child actors that make up most of the main cast. Series star Millie Bobby Brown even shared a few emotional goodbyes on social media, which some took as a sign that Season 3 could also mean the end of the series entirely.

Is Stranger Things Season 3 the End of the Show?

Thankfully, the answer is no. Soon after those online goodbyes caused the internet to freak out about the end of Stranger Things, Brown appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert where she set the record straight.

When Colbert asked if the series was over or her character had died, Brown responded emphatically.

“No! I’m just a very emotional person,” she said. “When it comes to my closest people, like, I’m not good at goodbyes.”

She added that the photo in question was taken during the last day of shooting for Season 3, but not of the entire series.

“Of the season, not the show,” she said. “The season.”

'Stranger Things 3' focused on a mall

Is There a Stranger Things Season 3 Trailer Yet?

Sort of? Netflix released a “commercial” for the Starcourt Mall in July 2018, but it definitely takes place in the Stranger Things universe because of its location in Hawkins and the appearance of one familiar character.

Because this is the summer of 1985, Steve has graduated from high school and now works in an ice cream shop. Hence his appearance in this commercial.

Sheriff Hopper in 'Stranger Things'
Sheriff Hopper in 'Stranger Things'.

What Is the Plot of Stranger Things Season 3?

During PaleyFest in March 2018, Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy confirmed that Season 3 would take place a year after Season 2 during the summer of 1985. He also revealed that the romantic pairings of Eleven-Mike and Max-Lucas remained steady.

In Worlds Turned Upside Down, a companion book to the Stranger Things TV series, Levy also said, “We ended Season 2 with a clear signal that the Shadow Monster was not eliminated, and maybe he’s even identified his foe. And that darkness, and the battle that it requires, only grows in Season 3.”

So the Big Bad from Season 2 will carry over.

David Harbour, who plays Sheriff Hopper, told The Hollywood Reporter that everyone on the cast was “taking a lot of risks.” These may or may not include Hopper’s new dynamic as Eleven’s adoptive father.

Much like how Season 2 riffed on the release of the first Ghostbusters movie, Season 3 is aiming for something closer to traditional horror in its focus on movies from directors like John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing), David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome), and George Romero (Night of the Living Dead). Does that mean zombies, mutants, or murderers? Who knows.

Stranger Things Dungeons and Dragons
'Dungeons & Dragons' is really important to the 'Stranger Things' kids.

What Characters Are New or Returning in Stranger Things Season 3?

All of the young actors are returning for Season 3, including Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Sadie Sink (Max), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), and Noah Schnapp (Will). There’s also the teenagers Dacre Montgomery (Billy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Natalie Dyer (Nancy), and Joe Keery (Steve). Adult actors Cara Buono (Karen), Winona Ryder (Joyce), and David Harbour (Hopper) also return.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that some newcomers include Maya Hawke as “a woman on a collision course with a dark secret in Hawkins.” Jake Busey plays “a Hawkins Post journalist with questionable morals,” and Cary Elwes “is playing Mayor Kline, described as a slick and sleazy politician.”

Busey tells Inverse that his role on Stranger Things Season 3 is a “big one,” adding that his character has “a sick sense of humor.” In another interview with MTV, he revealed that he mostly interacts with the older kids, specifically Nancy and Jonathan, after Jonathan gets a job working as a photographer at the same newspaper.

Bonus: Co-creator Matt Duffer reportedly said at Vulture Festival in November 2017 that Season 3 might include the return of Kali, Eleven’s older “sister” who also has her own powers.

'Stranger Things' Season 3 teaser reveals all eight episode titles.

How Many Episodes Are in Stranger Things Season 3?

TV Line reported in February 2018 that Stranger Things 3 would be eight episodes long, and Netflix confirmed the news on December 9 with a new video revealing the episode titles for all eight episodes.

By comparison, Season 1 also had eight episodes and Season 2 had nine, so fans can expect a story of similar length.

What Are the Episode Titles for Stranger Things Season 3

Here’s the full list of episodes:

  • “Suzie, Do You Copy?”
  • “The Mall Rats”
  • “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”
  • “The Sauna Test”
  • “The Source”
  • “The Birthday”
  • “The Bite”
  • “The Battle of Starcourt”

What do the Stranger Things Season 3 Episode Titles Reveal?

It might not reveal much, but this list does offer a couple of hints. “The Mall Rats” seems to confirm that the new Starcourt Mall teased in an earlier trailer will play a major role in Season 3, especially since it also features in the season’s final episode.

The last two episodes, particularly “Bite,” might also hint at a zombie theme. Stranger Things co-creators the Duffer brothers previously revealed that Season 3 will take inspiration from Night of the Living Dead-director George Romero. The film’s sequel, Dawn of the Dead also takes place in a mall. Coincidence? We think not.

Stranger Things 3 will be released on Netflix July 4, 2019.

Media via Netflix, Netflix / Inverse