Spoilers Beware: As summer 2019 begins to heat up, whether you’ll be outside at the beach or watching the fireworks, I will most likely be watching Strangers Things Season 3 or Stranger Things 3 when it premieres on July 4th of this year on Netflix. Yesterday, as a means of recuperating from a wild night, I sat in front of my television set and binge watched all of Stranger Things Season 2, then started Season 1 later that night. I’ve already watched both seasons, but wanted to reacquaint myself to the world of Hawkins, Indiana (not a real place) during the 1980’s. Season 1 takes place about a week into early November of 1983 and Season 2 takes place nearly a year after, the end of October, into Halloween, and then a few days in November of 1984, right before the Reagan vs Mondale election. If Season 3 follows the same year gap as each season, technically, Season 3 will take place in the summer of 1985. However, it’s possible that it could take place in 1986 due to the fact that The Duffer Brothers (Producers, Writers, and Directors of the titular show) skipped 2018 to release Season 3 in 2019 and seeing based off on the trailer, the Losers Club/The Goonies like ragtag group of middle school-high school students are now significantly in the throws of puberty.

From Teen Vogue

Based on the trailer, each of the boys voices have dropped, Mike Wheeler (played by Finn Wolfhard) seems to be over-towering everyone in an awkward growing body along with a taller Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) whose caught up in size, and a deeper voiced Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo). Eleven or Jane Ives (Millie Bobby Brown) and Max or Madmax (Sadie Sink) are becoming more distinctly feminine. Eleven now looks nothing like her Season 1 post-traumatized lab rat appearance and Max looks much less tom boyish as she dishes the skateboarder and bad attitude persona for a more conventional teenage girl. I don’t see Madmax playing any more Dig Dug. Mike even quotes, “We’re not kids anymore,” then pans to the group of them in two different photos, each from Season 1 (Science Project Trophy) and Season 2 (The Ghostbusters). Dustin presumably gets a surprise welcome home from his friends after being away. Not sure where he was, but after the events of Season 2, maybe more time has passed where Dustin’s emotionally driven mother took him away from Hawkins. The trailer showcases the essence of an American Summer: fireworks, carnivals, beaches, fun houses, barbecues, pools, lifeguards, and the mall. Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) are sitting at Hawkins Post, maybe as a continuation of trying to break the lid on the scandal, the fact that Hawkins Laboratory (now abandoned) was hiding an inter-dimensional portal leading to the Upside Down filled with freaky Demogorgon monsters and Lovecraftian beings like the Mind Flayer. Also to bring more justice to Nancy’s best friend Barb (Shannon Purser). Then Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), Nancy’s Ex, is seen working at a mall food court with a new character named Robin (played by Maya Hawke, who is Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter) while bromancing with Dustin in a secret handshake. They formed an unlikely bond in Season 2 as Steve went from one of the most hated characters in Season 1 to one of the most beloved ones, being a super babysitter for the ragtag team against the macabre and unknown Demo creatures within the vine underground map of Hawkins. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) is looking afraid once again in her home while her supposed love interest, Chief Hopper (David Harbour) is smoking in a restaurant, dealing with a criminal, and trying to keep the kids safe from harm.

Like each season before it, Stranger Things always had a 1980’s veteran actor cast, Season 1 had Mathew Modine as the villainous Papa or Dr. Martin Brenner, Season 2 had Sean Astin or Bob Newby as Joyce’s goofy, quirky, intelligent, and easygoing boyfriend until he met his demise while attempting to escape Hawkins laboratory during an infestation of Demodogs. Now Season 3 is introducing actor, Cary Elwes to the show. Cary Elwes seems to be playing the town’s mayor. Elwes is best known for The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, and Saw. Lastly, we have Billy (Dacre Montgomery who also played the Red Ranger in the newer Power Rangers movie) the psychotic stepbrother of Max/hair metal bad boy turned summer lifeguard hunk and presumably a future love interest for Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono) as her husband Ted Wheeler (Joe Chrest) sits around in the house doing nothing but asking, “What did I doooo?” Lastly, we see Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson) , Lucas’ feisty younger sister, seem to have more involvement with the outcome of things as she crawls through a ventilation shaft wearing a helmet over her head.

After watching a very underwhelming series finale of Game of Thrones, I fell into a show hole and needed my Stranger Things fix once again. I re-watched Season 2 and began re-watching Season 1 after. Let’s discuss how things have occurred thus far in the series.

Will Going Through Too Much

Image: YouTube

In Season 1, Will was kidnapped by a Demogorgon and brought into the Upside Down where for the length of 8 episodes was on the run for his survival. Most of this was all off screen, but we can presume that this was a traumatic experience for him. Will’s multiple attempt to try and reach the physical world while avoiding being devoured by a inter-dimensional bear must’ve been terrifying. Then he got trapped and was injected with a vine egg that impregnated a slug in his mouth so he’d puke it out where it was brought into the real world, to grow into a fully blown Demodog. Then on top of that, his time inside the Upside Down caused him to have a psychic connection with the dimensional world where the Mind Flayer used him as a vessel and host to connect both world’s further so the Mind Flayer could try and make its way on Earth and destroy that world, like a fungal virus. In Season 2, Will had to experience being possessed by an inter-dimensional monster who probably has been alive for eons. He was burned alive, bullied by being called “Zombie Boy” and was presumed to be dead in Season 1 where a whole funeral service was held. I really hope that in Season 3, Will finally gets some redemption for what he’s been through and becomes one of the heroes in the group, not the victim. This poor kid has been through enough. I’m poised to call him the Kenny of the group. Ah, South Park reference.

Eleven’s Story Arc

From Syfy

Eleven or Jane Ives has been another focal point of the show and it is unclear where her evolving psychic abilities will take her or how her life’s decisions will change her. Eleven was the product of a governmental experiment to try and listen in on the Russians during the Cold War. However, in attempting to use her as a weapon of espionage, it lifted the barrier of existence and enabled another dimension to break into our world. A cool way to explain fake science. Eleven was forced to test her new abilities on cats and soda cans to see how far her powers would take her. Early in Season 1 we discovered, very far, as she could kill fully grown adult humans by snapping their necks, throwing them into concrete walls or exploding their brains, she can even disintegrate an inter-dimensional being, flip a van over about twenty feet into the air, can save someone from falling off a high cliff with her mind, communicate to others across far distances and across the span of time in what I like to call “The Void Highway”, a black endless space where one section of the specific person is present while the ground is flooded with water. In Season 2 we see her able to move a train car, have a tantrum, choke a grown adult, destroy a pack of wild Demodogs and close a dimensional gate the height of several stories. All in all, she is quite powerful. And in Season’s 2 most controversial and cyberpunk inspired episode titled, “The Lost Sister”, we saw how Eleven could have easily fallen down a dark rabbit hole. Someone with that much power and superhuman abilities can become a major threat to mankind if their intentions are morally wrong. You either get Superman or Brightburn. Luckily for everyone’s sake in Hawkins, thus far, Eleven has demonstrated good over evil. But what happens when those scales tip and someone like Eight or Kali Prasad (Linnea Berthelson) comes along and tries to literally manipulate and hallucinate her mind in following down a vengeful path to redemption against the very people who created (abused them) their inherited gifts? We’ll we discovered that Eleven’s love for Mike and the friends she had met and discovered from Season 1 saved her from beginning a path of darkness, think of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader or Daenarys Targaryen becoming the Mad Queen. Ironically, had Eleven escaped the Hawkins laboratory as her sister did, she would have ended up like Eight, a damaged and young rebel outcast from society, using violence as a means of getting back at the people who have scorned and ruined her life. It was interesting seeing how Eleven has evolved into a normal civilized human with the team in Season 1, her father-daughter relationship with Hopper, her voyage to discover her real mama, having to make rash life or death decisions with Eight and her gang, and then reuniting with her Hawkins family to take down the real evil. That bottle-cap episode had derailed from the main narrative of the story in Season 2, but was important to explore how Eleven could have wound up or a what if she had not met any of the people from Hawkins. We also discovered when communicating with her vegetative mother (Terry Ives played by Aimee Mullins) that she was kidnapped by the scientists at Hawkins Lab for this experiment and that when her mother tried to get her back, she was lobotomized by Dr. Martin Brenner and his team. Yet, when revenge was staring in the face of Eleven, such as encountering one of Brenner’s co-workers, she was unable to deliver the death blow as she noticed he had a family (a wife and two little girls). In doing so, she also managed to stop Eight from murdering the man. If you were Eleven, would you have made the same decision? Would you feel guilty for that decision? It is a hard call, but I think she realized that she was in danger of getting caught up with the wrong people. Let’s not forget how she also went from eating just plain Ego Waffles to Ego Waffles with M&M’s, Reese Pieces, chocolate syrup, and ice cream.

What is the Upside Down?

Photo Credit: Vulture

This will probably be something that will hopefully be answered in the series finale. They better not pull a Lost and decide to make it about heaven and God. No, explain what the Upside Down is. Why is this dimension a mirrored version of Hawkins? Or is an exact mirror of our entire universe? Why would a giant dimension only have these weird creatures and some freaky looking shadow monster? I feel like there could be so much more to this other world and I’m hoping that eventually the world will open up more. Season 1 had Hopper and Joyce go inside briefly to find Will, in Season 2 the team of friends were only inside the vines which formed a bridge between both worlds. When will we finally see the characters all together inside the Upside Down discovering more of its secrets, meanings, and motives? Why is the Upside Down covered in snot, dandruff, and colored in a dark blue? Why were there Christmas lights on in the gymnasium of the Upside Down as the Mind Flayer hovered over? Based on both series, it is likely that the Upside Down copies and mirrors everything from our world. Notice when Will is on the street and then warps to the Upside Down, see how all of the cars are in the same exact spot or that the Arcade Palace exists like an abandoned building of a ghost town inside the Upside Down, but exists? If objects and structures exist equally in the Upside Down from our world, then is it possible that there are alternative versions of each character? A darker version of Will, a dimensional version of Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, the list goes on. What if the Will we think we know is actually still inside the Upside Down and the Will we keep seeing now is the dark Upside Down version? That would be some twist. Also, is there any other connections between psychic abilities, the Hawkins Laboratory experiments and the Upside Down? I doubt that it is only what caused the Upside Down to open, could it have created the mirror world or was it always there? So many unanswered questions.

Relationships and Romances

From YouTube

Besides all of the science fiction jargon that happens, there are plenty of romantic relationships sprouting like wildfire. You have the most common one which is Mike and Eleven, then as of Season 2 you got Nancy and Jonathan, and Lucas and Max. Hopper and Joyce have a consistent “will they or won’t they” thing going on. Now people keep trying to pin Dustin and Steve together. Look they’re bros. Bromances are different as their bond are like close brothers. Could they do an Anakin-Padme romance between Nancy and Dustin? Nancy does tell Dustin at the dance that Dustin is her favorite of her brother’s friends. Will dances with some random girl at school who never had been introduced, so I doubt they will run with that. I have some odd inclination that somehow there will be a love triangle between Eleven, Mike, and Will. Will’s two year stint with trauma could create a bond with Eleven due to her trauma. Mike would be unwilling to relate. Sorry Mike. And apparently, in real life it’s rumored that actors Noah Schnapp (Will) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) are now dating. Something also tells me that Dustin is destined to follow in the footsteps of Steve, acting like he doesn’t care. Is Dustin over Max? Will his new ability of not caring spark an interest in Max? Then of course, the show seems to be playing with the idea of Billy and Karen (Mike’s mother). Will they start an affair in Season 3? What will Ted do, probably nothing. The one character who is so out of the loop of what’s going on. Based on the trailer, it seems like Steve met a new female friend, Robin. Will Steve start a romance with Uma Thurman’s daughter. Watch out Steve, her mother was in Kill Bill.

Those Who Have Left Us

Image Credit: The Ringer

In Season 1, thankfully the psychotic scientist turned abusive father, Dr. Martin Brenner saw his demise by the Demogorgon, the very thing he accidentally caused. Then in Season 2, we had a heartbreaking death from Bob Newby as he sacrificed himself so that the Byers could escape the laboratory compound. I hope his death won’t be in vain. Also, after Season 1 we have not seen Lonnie Byers (Ross Partridge), the asshole biological father of the Byers boys and ex-husband of Joyce. Will he return in Season 3? Based on the trailer alone, it seems likely that Steve Harrington might die since he is passing on all of his knowledge to Dustin. Will a Demothing/Demospider get him? What will become of Billy? I don’t think he will become a good person, he’s always seemed to have an Antisocial Personality Disorder, easily willing to murder a group of kids and abuse his stepsister. Will Steve or Jonathan stand up to him?

All the Nostalgic References

From JACK 96.9

One of the major things that bring fans to the show is the nostalgic value it encompasses. First it takes place during the 1980’s, which is easily one if not the highest decade to cover old pop culture references. The music, the clothing, the toys, the video games, the American culture, the politics, the movies, the sports, the lack of cell phones and computers which bring us back to a simpler yet majestic time. Season 1 brings several influences from Steven Spielberg and Stephen King with the likes of E.T., Stand By Me, The Goonies, The Ghostbusters, and It. The Duffer Brothers are huge fans of both Steven Spielberg and Stephen King’s works as it clearly shows. You have all of the 1980’s old commercials, La-Z-Boy home furniture, and Dungeons & Dragons which was extremely popular at the time. References to Star Wars, Firestarter, and even Carrie. If you replace Eleven with an alien, you get E.T. as Mike shows Eleven his action figures just like when Elliot shows the friendly alien off his stuff. You also have direct to shot references to these films as well as John Carpenter’s Halloween. In Season 2, Bob Newby is talking to Will in the car and mentions a scary clown named, Baldo as a way to overcome his fear of the Mind Flayer by telling it to “GO AWAY” multiple times. His depiction of this entity was very reminiscent of Pennywise the Clown from It. There are references to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Alien, Aliens, Nightmare On Elm Street, Evil Dead and Jaws along with many other familiar tropes that have appeared in cult classic films throughout the 80’s and 90’s. These elements are what bring us back to our childhood. I remember how colorful my childhood was in the 90’s and how my brother’s interests from the 80’s were brought into my 90’s childhood. These eras in time bring the adults of today to a time before the digital age of computers have eroded our sense of self and our compassion for our friends, family, and people we meet. Ironically, in Stranger Things, where there were no cell phones, kids were on bikes riding through town all day experiencing all kinds of things, scraping their legs, getting into minor trouble, and yet being more connected than the kids of today who are unfortunately glued to a screen at home and lacking the human interaction of learning what society is like among their peers. Let’s not forget too that life back then seemed less threatening due to the fact that mass shootings and terrorism were nonexistent in the United States.

The Ragtag Team

Image Credit: Ars Technica

Another wonderful thing about this series is the sense of teamwork from the ragtag crew of kids from Hawkins Middle School and the AV Club. First you had Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas, then they got their mage, Eleven, and now Max. Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve have become slight additions to the groups core as well as Chief Hopper and Joyce Byers as the parental figures. Everyone has their own personalities and dynamics. Watching these nerds arguing and enjoying each other’s company was similar to what I experienced with my friends in Elementary school and in college. I’ve always told them, “1999 was a good year for me,” and it was. Unfortunately though, I was not riding any bikes until I was 19, so I settled for the Cutting Edge Scooter (A knock off of Razor). First you have Mike, the straight laced leader of the gang who tries to resolve all serious problems upfront. He’s the one that falls in love with Eleven and is the one that stays by his oldest friend, Will’s side during his darkest hour. Then there is Will, the loyal, easygoing and intellectual member for which all the bad stuff happens to. There is Lucas, who is like second in command behind Mike who has no problem of spewing out the truth even if it will create problems in the group. He’s the brutally honest one. Then there is Dustin, who is obviously the comedic relief, the goofy one, I refer to him as the Michelangelo of the group. Then there is Eleven, who is their secret weapon that will do everything to save her friends, and of course Max who is the non-nerdy one of the group, the cool skater girl who cares about nothing. I wasn’t initially the biggest fan of Max, as I saw her to be a bit annoying, but she did grow on me when I realized how psychotic her brother was. However, something great about them is there code of conduct in which, “friends don’t lie”.

As in my group of friends, I’d find myself between the personalities of Will and Dustin, loyal, but also very silly and awkward at times. Nancy and Jonathan have there own separate mission of getting justice for Barb and supply support for Will. Steve became the teenage babysitter of the group, I think of Josh Brolin’s character from The Goonies. Steve also created an unlikely bond with Dustin. I love the chemistry that these two characters share. Steve providing girl advice to Dustin whilst Dustin explaining the rules of these Upside Down monsters to Steve is priceless. Let’s not forget Steve’s nailed bat or his Lucile. Joyce’s character has also been through an emotional roller coaster with her son, first experiencing her missing son, then going through with her son a terrible illness. Joyce’s ability to stick with her children and do everything in her power to keep them safe and alive is paramount to her core for the love she carries for her boys. She never gave up when everyone told her that Will was dead and she never listened to her deadbeat ex-husband, Lonnie Byers. Hopper was someone struggling with the grief of his child by drinking himself, sleeping with random women, and acting cold to others as a way to close off his feelings to the world. Keeping Eleven has helped Hopper rediscover his emotions to love as a father and to empathize with these kids going through a traumatizing and horrific experience. He might not survive the series either. Hopper might have to sacrifice himself for the lives of these kids, in doing so, his story arc would be complete and he’d be figuratively back with his daughter.

The Outer Characters

Photo Credit: ScreenCrush

The list of side characters are the two cops that work with Hopper: Officer Powell (Rob Morgan) and Officer Callahan (John Paul Reynolds), Billy, Karen Wheeler, Steve’s former friend, Eight, Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman), Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), Ted Wheeler, Terry Ives, Becky Ives (Amy Seimetz), Erica Sinclair, and Mr. Scott Clarke (played by Randall P. “Randy” Havens), the gang’s science and AV Club teacher. In Season 2, Billy was nearly a main character who I felt was used as a plot device to give Max better character development. He does not do much, but to bully Steve, hit on Mike’s mom, attack Lucas, and bench press while listening to Ratt. There is a scene that explains some of his impulsive behavior, like his father physically abusing him, but besides this, not much else is explored. Will we see more of Billy in Season 3? Based on the trailer, yes, and I think they’re trying to pin a romance between Billy and Karen which would be an odd side plot. The show isn’t a soap opera, it’s a science fiction odyssey about a bunch of kids going through strange occurrences. Don’t forget that Duffer Brothers. Officers Powell and Callahan seem to continue to remain as useless characters that make random jokes to lighten up the mood. It seems like Dr. Owens, who tried to help Will in Season 2 may have a bigger part in the future. He was an interesting character who I thought was evil, but turned out to be someone who felt they were doing the right thing by not telling the public. He also had great bedside manner when working with Will. Then there is Karen Wheeler who is probably given this affair story-line so she becomes more than a conventional 80’s stay-at-home mother. We see things between her and her husband are not good as she sits alone in her bath tub surrounded by candles and reading a romance novel when Billy rings the doorbell and reminds Karen of someone from one of those novels. It seems like the series will set up Eight to be a major character in later seasons. Will the series eventually branch out of Hawkins or will Eight return to Hawkins to either join or fight Eleven? Steve’s former and douche friend will probably get written off the show. Eleven’s mother and aunt may make cameo appearances to explain more of Eleven’s passed, but other than that I doubt they will have a major impact on the future plot points in the series. The mother is incapacitated by repeating the same sequence of words as her mind is stuck inside a continuous flashback loop. Her caretaker, Aunt Becky, seems to be useless. Then of course, Mr. Clarke are the boys’ motivating teacher that they look up to for knowledge. Yet, now that they’re getting older and growing out of their nerdy lifestyle, they might not interact with their science teacher as much as they’ve been doing. Lastly, there is Lucas’ younger sister, Erica who is extremely feisty and rude to her brother. In the small amount of time they’ve showed her on screen, she had stolen the camera each time. She is hilarious with her quick witted comments and insults to soil her brother’s reputation as a goofy nerd. She goes into her brother’s room, takes his walkie-talkie where Dustin’s channel is always set, she takes his He-Man toy and pretends to fall in love with her Barbie Doll and loves pouring tons of syrup on her waffles.

Final Thoughts

This series has been nearly perfect, but with some minor issues, like the slightly off pacing of Season 2 and the fact that they won’t leave Will alone. That poor kid deserves a vacation. What makes Stranger Things such a gem is that it is a cornucopia of all stories and influences from the passed thirty years (Late 70’s to now). Star Wars was the same way, but for stories from the 40’s to the 70’s. This is easily on my top 5 list of favorite TV series which stands among Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Below, watch the trailer to the highly anticipated Season 3 premiering on Netflix on July 4th. I cannot wait. Let the 80’s summer nostalgia begin.