Stranger Things Season Three is Total Nonsense

by thethreepennyguignol

Alright, I’m going to be real with you here: I didn’t give a shit about the new season of Stranger Things.

That first season was awesome, sure, but the second felt like a self-congratulatory victory lap that left me uninterested in the show as a whole. The kids started to grate, the teenage love plots just bored, the plot was mushy and underformed. I really didn’t like it, so when the third season came out, I found myself dragging myself towards it with all the enthusiasm of having to get up in the night to the sounds of my cat “hyuk-hyuk-hyuk”-ing all over the carpet.

But as it turns out, that similie-cat was actually horking up chunks of television gold. Alright, maybe not gold, I’m not going to go that far – but with my expectations lowered, I could come at Stranger Things’ third season with a little less criticism and a bit more…fun.

Which, okay, let’s get it clear right here at the top: there were still big problems with this season, problems which, had I come in a little more besnark’d, might have taken over the actual goofy fun this season had to offer. This season, more than any other, is just a bare-faced regurgitating of random eighties movie tropes. We’ve got the boy v girl dichotomy, evil Communist bastards trying to disrupt our wholesome lil small-town capitalist hellscape, the storylines reflecting the subtlety of the neon-bright sets and clothes. Johnathan Wheeler, my personal mortal enemy, is basically there to look down the camera and shake his head Looney-Tunes style at the end of every episode. The emotions were big and crudely drawn, the character work reliant on the consistently-great performances as opposed to any actual nuance and – oh, look, here’s Cary Ewles turning the scenery into synthentic-fruit-flavoured gum for your enjoyment! Don’t think too hard about anything else! Everybody join in for the karaoke bit now!

In fact, most of the plots felt like straight-up capers, episodes taking goofily ridiculous twists and turns as we dived into underground Russian laboratories and breaking codes and girly sleepovers. Hopper and Joyce were nothing more than a screwball comedy duo, while Nancy’s investigative nonsense was little more than an excuse for Natalia Dyer to have some fun for a change. Villain Billy (an already-behearthrobbed Dacre Montgomery) is a classic cutout Stephen King secondary villain who might as well have wandered off a casting call for a new Carrie movie. To call it broad strokes would be to redefine the meaning of the word broad; these were huge, gargantuan, stampeding great steamrollers of nonsense.

I’ve seen a lot of people who didn’t care for this season and I understand why. Stranger Things has divested itself of the more thoughtful of its influences and has tapped in to a lot of stuff that doesn’t even bother to pretend that it thinks it’s anything serious. Those somewhat-nuanced character moments are out the window for Scoody Doo-style reveals and characters that are nothing more than brooms with “scary dad” or “funny hair” pinned to them in peeling tape.

But you know what? Those eight episodes were some of the most I’ve had watching TV this year. Stranger Things is a show that is really built off the groundwork done several decades ago by filmmakers with more skill than the Duffer Brothers (at least, more than they have right now). Any version of these is going to feel watered-down – so ramping up the daftness feels like the only way to keep the saturation where it needs to be. When it tries to step away from those influences, it feels tetherless, bloated – but when it fully leans into them, no matter how silly they might be, it feels like the truest version of itself that it can be now that the dense ideas of the first season is behind it. True to the eighties era it’s trying to emulate, the third season of Stranger Things is bubblegum – bright, zingy, and even if the flavour only sticks around for a few minutes, man, it was good while it lasted.

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(header image via People)