TelevisionTalks – Stranger Things Season 3
I know, it’s been out for a month, but I’m a little bit late to the party. Right around the fourth of July we were busy, and then we were gone for a weekend, and then I was at GenCon, so we didn’t get around to watching it until recently. I’m going to try and keep this review spoiler free, but I’m likely to slip up somewhere. I also want to spend more time talking about some things that I think are important about this season in terms of writing and being a writer.
So that we’re all talking about things from the same starting point, I want to introduce a concept that I think is important in this season of Stranger Things and that isn’t there in other seasons. This is the writing concept, but also works in other creative mediums, that you don’t want to show your audience the gears, the workings behind what you are doing. To explain this further, in a good book, the story can seamlessly transition between multiple characters having their moment or finding the information that they need (for a mystery sort of story) and it feels like it’s all part of the same story. When you start to see the gears, you can tell when it’s going to be one characters turn to be hero or the focal point, because the other characters change to foil or background roles. The story lacks that smooth storytelling consistency that you expect.
If I’m introducing this concept, that clearly means that I think that Stranger Things Season 3 suffers from this. And that would be correct. I think in a few of the relationships or pairings, Joyce and Hopper and Lucas, Mike, Max, and El it is really notable. There are almost moments where it seems like the character changes from what they were before to match what they needed for this season. This might get a little bit spoilery here, but you might have seen online about them messing up Hopper in some people’s opinions. And, I can see why people say that and in some ways that I agree with it.
In this season, Hopper is much more aggressive or angry, and I think that there are several reasons for this, but I also think that they are a bit heavy handed with it. The reason that I think it can work is because Hopper has closed himself off or a long time from feeling. And now with Eleven, he is starting to feel again, but it isn’t just the happy emotions, it’s the hard emotions, and he reacts strongly to feeling those again. He isn’t able to fully process them, but, like I said, I think that it done with a heavy hand too often. It became his personality, being the angry person, instead of having more of a complex character. And sometimes, it’s so that you can see the gears working to set-up a moment for Joyce.
With both groups, Joyce and Hopper and Mike, Lucas, Max, and Eleven, their stories are taken to the extreme reaction of things. And when it’s more extreme, you start to lose the depth of character that was created to them in previous seasons. That isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be easy to bring it back in a future season, but the writing was done to give everyone their moment, but done too obviously. Compare that to Dustin, Steve, Robin, and a surprise character, and their banter and relationships are done so extremely well. The actor who plays Steve, Joe Keery, is really good, and does a good job of playing what is now a caring but also still wanting to be popular character. He went from a jerk in the first season without much depth to a character who has a ton of depth and interest now, as compared to some of the others who are working backwards from that this season.
But let’s talk some about the whole story and the monsters. I actually really liked the season as whole, even with some rough spots with various character groups. What makes it work pretty well, in my opinion, is that you get a human aspect to a larger extent as a bad guy, like you did in season one, but you still have that upside down and monster feel. The big addition of another evil organization works really well, but what is that organization. I will say that Cary Elwes as the mayor only works so well. The main issue is that he’s clearly putting on an American accent and it’s obvious. Most of the time it isn’t an issue, but it just doesn’t work as well as it could have, which is a shame, because I like Cary Elwes, especially in Psych. This season, to me, felt a bit more like highlights of 1980’s tropes, as well. While, at times it felt a bit heavy handed with that, what they started with and how it ended, it actually worked well and made sense. I also really like where they ended the season. I’m not going to go into spoilers, but they are setting it up for season four to be a story that is potentially bigger than just Hawkins, which feels like what they need to do at this point.
Overall, I really enjoyed this season. I just think, especially early in the season, there are some things that a writer can take from the story as to what not to do. But you can also take good things from it, like how to use period piece references so it’s not too heavy handed, so like the 80’s references, versus the too heavy a hand in Captain Marvel with 90’s references. I’m at the point with Stranger Things, though, I hope that they start writing seasons that they are going to be their last, they could probably run the show for a few more seasons, but, it feels like a story that should be wrapping up soon, and while still really good, a story that I don’t want to overstay it’s welcome or overstep, like it did with the book that I trashed in review before.
What did you think of season three? Were there any fun surprises in it for you, who was your favorite character from the season?
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