Stranger Things Season 3: Unoriginality Outdone by Amazing Production Design And Character Interplay

Hopper and Joyce in Stranger Things Season 3
David Harbour & Winona Ryder in Stranger Things: Season 3

Netflix can’t stop boasting the monstrous viewership of its monumental original series. Stranger Things: Season 3 was binge-watched by nearly 9 Million viewers on its first day. It is truly a big accomplishment. Being one of the 18 million viewers who have watched this season in its entirety, I can argue that this is by far the best one.

The charm and energy lost two years ago are present here by the truckload. There is a tremendous improvement over the largely dark and joyless season 2. It’s fast, extremely funny, and very tightly plotted, even though the story is a rehash of what we have seen previously.

There is a sheer lack of logic and inventiveness in how things proceed. To recapture the magic of the first season – the narrative follows the defined formula. Characters are staged to die in every episode – only to escape at the very last minute. Wicked things happen at the start, send shivers down your spine, then reappears for another show-stopping entrance at the end until it is time to move onto the next chapter.

Duffer Brothers’ have mastered the art of crafting binge-worthy content. They have superseded all of their previous work, understanding that it is not the monsters or the ending viewers crave for. The joy lies in the character interplay. It is why Harry Potter has been one of the most beloved franchises of all time. The love for characters gripped the viewers in the films. This season emphasizes the characters over the plot.

Well-Rounded Characters Harmonized with Great Performances

The first two episodes are reminiscent of the previous season. They begin unhurriedly but picks up pace later on. Though, nothing significant happen in these episodes. You only get hints of the approaching threat. But you enjoy watching every second of it only because you love the characters so much. The fundamental reason as to why the world is crazy about the show gets justified as you watch the delightful union of kids and the adults. 

Whether it is Eleven & Max’s fun-filled friendship. Or Will’s heartbreaking realization. The writers understand these moments count the most. And these moments are way above the threat of the upside down world. It’s like using it as a plot device, similar to how Voldemort in Harry Potter helped provide a definitive course, with some unexpected deaths, making up for the emotional punch.

The story comes to full acceleration only by the end of the fourth episode, in a bone-chilling confrontation between two of the most powerful characters. Though, there is nothing specifically out-of-the-box about this confrontation. It is the performances that raise the bar by a considerable margin. 

Due to the elongated cast, not everyone gets enough screen time. However, everyone appears just about enough to validate their presence. And each actors performs fabulously. The performances are, as a matter of fact, the biggest selling point of the show. The first season entertained through its originality. This one amazes with uniformly excellent performances. Despite what the characters say sounds moronic, you believe in them.

The add-ons (Lucas’s sister, Steve’s new side-kick, the Russian Scientist, the cheap Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dustin’s girlfriend) are all delightful. They steer the second half of the story with numerous funny moments that evoke good laughs. 

Crowd-Pleasing Nostalgia Peppered with a Dash of Silliness

Robin Buckley, Steve Harrington, Dustin Henderson from Stranger Things Season 3
The Sassy Trinity: Maya Hawke, Joe Keery, and Gaten Matarazzo

The charm of Stranger Things lies in embracing its cheesiness, specifically of the ‘80s, by finding different ways of referring to that era. Whether it is the exuberantly lit Starcourt Mall; the riff on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator; the specific focus on classic movies, such as Back to the Future and Day of the Dead. Or simply the selection of music. This whole season is jam-packed with acutely crowd-pleasing nostalgia.

But again, the real strength of the show lies in its storytelling and the character interplay. And the excellent performances make the nostalgia secondary. If the show had only been about nostalgic moments, the chances are slim for Stranger Things to receive the appreciation it gets. But since the characters are so well-developed and well-acted, people want to see them more. As a result of which, nitpicking about the plot being a replica of the previous seasons becomes sort of irrelevant.

Stranger Things has always been about our love for these characters and it is great fun seeing them doing their stuff. 

All said and done, Stranger Things: Season 3 is a tremendously entertaining show on Netflix, which underlines from its very first episode that characters matter more than the story. It is the primary reason why it is so successful. And you will be coming back for another season, regardless of what they have done at the very end (do not miss the post-credits scene).

Rating: 8/10

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