When Stranger Things first arrived on Netflix in 2016 it felt like a revelation, something daring and weird with legitimate scares and a killer soundtrack. Three years later, the show isn’t quite as fresh, but it’s still just as enjoyable to watch. Stranger Things Season 3 manages to ratchet up the horror and the comedy in equal measure, making it the perfect summer binge even if it drags in a few rare moments.
Arriving on July 4, Stranger Things Season 3 reunites the entire gang, only to send them off on their own separate adventures before ultimately coming together for an epic final conflict. It’s incredible to watch the way the story clicks together like a Rube Goldberg machine. What starts slow quickly gains momentum, and by the end of Episode 3 you won’t be able to look away.
With the promise of a four day weekend ahead of us, I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix breaks new records for the most-binged TV show premiere.
By now, you know the cast, and Stranger Things Season 3 doesn’t need to do much when it comes to character development. All our favorites are back, from Poilice Chief Hopper to Steve Harrington to Lucas’ little sister Erica, a Season 2 standout who gets an extended plotline in Season 3 across from Dustin Henderson. There’s also a few additions, including Steve’s new co-worker Robin, plus a fleshed out storyline for Max’s douchey older brother Billy.
Everyone has an important role to play, but Stranger Things Season 3’s biggest flaw is that it spreads the cast too thin. One of the best parts of this show has always been watching various characters interact and bounce off each other, but Season 3 keeps them separated until the very end.
The other best thing about Stranger Things, however, has always been the monsters. The Duffer Brothers have an uncanny talent for creating terrifying new creatures, which is particularly impressive in an industry where the only clear path to success is to adapt something that’s already popular. By Season 3, Netflix isn’t taking much of a risk, but the show still introduces some bold, new monsters rather than simply relying on old favorites.
Be warned, Stranger Things Season 3 is a lot more violent and gruesome than previous seasons. The Duffers Brothers tried to warn us, revealing back in November 2018 that the new season would take inspiration from gross-out horror master David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome). Trust me when I saw they weren’t lying. Season 3 is gross in the best way possible, but if the thought of blood and guts makes your stomach queasy then you might want to skip this one.
The new eight-episode season (one shorter than Season 2, but without the poorly received bottle episode never drags, but there are a few moments that feel unnecessary — it’s almost as if Stranger Things feels the need to stretch each episode to an hour. Most of these extraneous scenes are played for laughs, and none of them are particularly offensive. Still, Season 3 might have been even better with a slightly tighter edit.
None of this should dissuade you from diving straight into Stranger Things Season 3. Everything you loved about Seasons 1 and 2 is here, plus a whole lot more, including new conspiracies, new monsters, and a shocking ending that will leave you begging for Season 4.
Stranger Things Season 3 hits Netflix on July 4.