[Warning: Some Limited SPOILERS ahead!!]
Back in the summer of 2016, I remember having no real intention to watch this new Netflix series “Stranger Things”. Unlike so many of my friends, I just dismissed it as a teen drama that had somehow managed to nudge its way to the front of my ‘suggested feed’. But with a little clarification from Reddit about its premise and themes, I chained that first series like a pack of Lucky Strike. Satisfied – yet irritated in it’s absence! Every aspect was astounding! From the casting, to the original score, the visual effects, to the creative character development. It was just fantastic television.
And so the long wait preceded a slightly disappointing second series and I found myself worried for the future of the show.
I’m not saying the second was terrible, it was great, it just didn’t grab me like the first series did! Still, it was a much appreciated visit to the town of Hawkins, Indiana that saw the introduction of several new characters as our kid heroes slowly begin their transition into teenage years. Max was the hard edge the party so desperately needed in Eleven’s absence, and Billy became a worthy human antagonist that only scraped the surface of what he’d likely become in the following seasons. To summarise, Halloween 2017 gave us dip in quality with series 2 (albeit a small one).
So, almost two years later, series 3 approaches with it’s 4th July release, and I find myself watching the first episode on my phone in bed! Even on my tiny screen, I was blown away at the show’s ability to hook me immediately! Since watching Chernobyl, I have been a sucker for a Cold War plot, and it was great to see the show finally take full advantage of the time and political climate it’s set in. So seeing a large Russian force operating out of the new Hawkins Mall tickled my soviet g-spot!
But even with the heightened commie/capitalist presence within the series, I found the show took less a step toward “Bridge of Spies” and was barreling much more towards “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “Night of the Creeps” with it’s massive use of horror tropes that vastly outshone the two series previous. This turn is quite obviously foreshadowed in the first episode as the gang sneak in to “Day of the Dead” which Hawkins’ Independence day celebrations would soon become. The choice to go full gore was a welcome one as the Hawkins townspeople soon find themselves turning to a bloodied Cronenberg sludge, bringing nostalgic callbacks to horror heavyweights of the era like “The Thing” and “The Fly”. Cementing the fact that this show is not for kids, and it’s not afraid to throw some punches that could screw with an iron constitution.
Character development saw a massive uptick not just in the main party, but also the greater group as Hopper struggled humorously at first to come to terms with his daughter’s imminent entry in to womanhood and the change in relationships that it brings. I was worried that his writing would become too clownish in the first half and would be carried throughout. This concern was quelled, however, in a blaze of submachine gun fire as Hopper still remained the classic action hero we have grown to love.
Billy’s character also deserves big praise; both for the Duffer Brothers’ writing, and Dacre Montgomery’s excellent portrayal of the complex anti-hero. Of whom the series shows both his most human, and inhuman sides of the character. The only drawback to this season would be Mike’s inability to grow with his peers, and aside from brief admissions of his unquestionable love for El, he remains the same teenager from series past.
But this is a review for a record label, so it would be remiss of me not to mention the stellar score once again provided by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein! These boys have managed to deliver exponentially better music since they won the Emmy for the first series.
The soundtrack is the perfect sidekick to the fantastic writing and acting, never once failing to accentuate the tension and emotion that presents itself through the show. This is why I must recommend any fans of the show and it’s score listen to SURVIVE’s Album “RR7349”. This is Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s band and the album is very reminiscent of the Stranger Thing’s score featuring many of the same hard synths. Definitely worth a listen.
Overall, the Duffers, the cast, and the music have combined once again to bring Stranger Things fans a nostalgic trip of televisual storytelling. Beating out my expectations of a “Big Yawn” that the second series suggested. This without out a shadow of a doubt proves the show has longevity and I for one can’t wait to see what this team can deliver next.