Tim Tan Huynh

Stranger Things 3

8 Jul 2019 — The latest season of the popular Netflix show is true summer fun.
Stranger Things 3
The poster for the third season, like the ones before it, depicts the ensemble cast as though it’s a poster from the 80s. Besides Nancy and Erica, the renderings are true-to-life.

I was late to the proverbial party, but at least I didn’t have to wait as long between finishing Season 2 and starting Season 3, compared to other people. I binge-watched the first two seasons over a weekend a couple of months ago. I was bored, so I decided to watch something on Netflix. I remembered positive reviews about the show when it was released, and I gave it a chance.

The show is entertaining and leans heavily on its 1980s setting, which is the ideal period for the premise. Only in the pre-Web era could inter-dimensional monsters, psychic prodigies, and government conspiracies be kept hidden from the town in Middle America that serves as the backdrop. For viewers, the 80s is a decade that is either really nostalgic or really exotic. That’s why it’s so prevalent in pop culture right now.

My understanding is that Season 1 is like Stephen King’s The Mist (1980) mixed with Stephen Spielberg’s ET (1982) and The Goonies (1985); honestly, I’ve never read that book or seen those popular movies. Season 2 definitely has an Aliens (1986) vibe, as opposed to an Alien (1979) one. I suppose that Season 3 is like The Thing (1982) with Red Dawn (1984) and The Terminator (1984) added to it.

The concepts are so familiar that even if you haven’t seen or read these works, you can appreciate the interesting conflicts that they bring. Enough time has passed that, for example, a story about belligerent Russians operating on American soil isn’t as common anymore. The show gets a pass for being derivative because the creators obviously care about the source material from which they draw.

The writing, production, and acting are high-quality, though not perfect. The consensus seems to be that Season 3 is on par with Season 1 and that Season 2 is below them. I like Season 2, although I agree with the near-universal opinion that the sub-plot about Eleven’s fellow prodigy is out of place. I’ve enjoyed watching Season 3 the most, but my attitude might be subject to recency bias.

I wanted to pace myself this time. The first trailer featured the town celebrating the 4th of July, which was the premiere date of the season. I planned to watch only that episode, and any episodes leading up to it, and then watch the rest later. I assumed that the celebration would be at the start of the season instead of at the climax of it. I ended up watching four episodes on Thursday, one on Friday, two on Saturday, and the finale yesterday.

Like Forrest Gump 25 years ago, Stranger Things 3 is a summer blockbuster that’s premiered near the 4th of July. I doubt that the summer of 2019 will be remembered for Stranger Things like the summer of 1994 is remembered for Forrest Gump, The Lion King, and another movie, but for now I’m enjoying the buzz about this pop-culture phenomenon in the era of at-home Web-streaming.