‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is Slightly Older And A Lot More Horny

Everyone's growing up or mutating, and I think that's beautiful.

Stranger Things Season 3 Review

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Friends, the kids from Stranger Things are packing up the Dungeons and Dragons board and pivoting straight to horny.

*Big Ol’ spoilers follow*

Netflix’s Stranger Things has to be one of the most beloved franchises on the entire streaming giant, and for good reason.

It’s got everything you want — some genuinely creepy horror, some insanely charismatic children who love hijinks, some goddamn eighties nostalgia that will leap out and strangle you in a wash of neon and beloved filmic references. What’s not to love?

The first season was genuinely brilliant television, and the second much more hit and miss. There was an extremely good chance that Netflix would simply milk the series for all its worth, rather than let it die in peace.

But, perhaps controversially, Stranger Things season 3 was an extremely excellent season of television. It was the right mixture of fun and spooks and action and good ol’ fashioned friendship. It was a gory technicolour delight, and evoked the same joy from the first season, but with a more grown-up energy.

It’s a very different animal than the first season. It’s changed genres of horror too, moving from spooky into more gruesome/ body horror style stuff. It’s the same kind of shift that the Alien franchise took — by the third movie, we were dealing with marines and machine guns, rather than the terror of being isolated in space with a single alien. It was a different feeling, a different type of scary.

And you can BET the Duffer brothers were keenly aware of this comparison — this season in particular is filled with Alien references.

They’re very carefully growing the show along these lines, moving through different flavours of genre, transforming from children into teens, horribly morphing from pile of rat goo into huge crackling flesh monster.

Hormones And Other Horrors

Stranger Things season 3 absolutely pivots to horny from its first episode, as we are dropped into a hormone fuelled summer in Hawkins, Indiana.

All the kids are paired up, except for constant outsider Will Byers, who literally spends the entire season trying to get people to play DnD and feeling left out. That’s a mood! Even Dustin has a suspiciously absent girlfriend he met at nerd camp, who goes to another school. Mike and Ele are insufferably horny for each other.

Probably the best storyline revolves around Steve and his ice-cream based friendship with newcomer Robin, and their journey into anti-espionage with Dustin and the extremely enjoyable Erica. Steve Harrington continues to be just a delightful character.

Meanwhile, at the local pool, all the mums are horny for Billy, the lifeguard.

Horniness! But it’s not JUST because we’re moving from pre-teen into teen — the show has always been about friendship, and from the very beginning, that friendship is strained in a very realistic way. There’s nothing like puberty to break apart childhood friendships.

Splitting the party is a cardinal sin in DnD, and is likewise seen as a huge strain in the first half of this season — it makes it less about yet another supernatural threat, and more about the evolution of an increasingly terrifying universe. Puberty AND possessed zombies from another dimension?

In fact, season 3 is very aware of straining the foundations of this show — season 2 for example escalated Eleven’s powers to almost unassailable levels, but in this one the Mind Flayer specifically crafted a gross creature to negate her. She’s no longer invincible.

Speaking of which…

The Upside Down is What’s Up, Baby

By now we’re pretty acquainted with the baddies of the Stranger Things universe: namely, a creepy shadow reality, and scientists.

The same base material is there for this season — the Mind Flayer is BACK, but it’s in a very different, and far more gory form. In fact, everything is generally more gooey and gross — it’s all crack, snap and pop, not to mention squelch and exploding rats.

The same base material is used, just in a slightly different way.

The gooey Mind Flayer in the mall was an epic confrontation, but not particularly scary. Considering how genuinely creepy the first season was, this could be quite disappointing for some — but the shift from spooky to flesh-horror allowed for a lot of fun, and a much needed change in tone. Let’s throw fireworks at a big monster!

Same deal goes with the scientists — they’re still messing with things outside their control, but this time they’re Russian! They’re basically the same as the bad US scientists, but they’re also a bit more violent. There’s more guns and punching.

To be fair, the Russians are often treated as a gag, but they are sinister and violent enough to provide some very real stakes — they’re pretty into beating up teens.

Do You Even Remember Nostalgia?

One thing that has been ramped up in this season is the sheer depth and breadth of eighties nostalgia — with varying results.

Sure, it’s fun: visually, the Starcourt Mall has some of the most stunning panoramas in the entire show, all burnt pinks and leotard red. Eleven and Max ramp it up with eighties fashion, and it’s all fairly stunning to look at.

Likewise, the references to eighties pop-culture increase as well — where once Stranger Things was content with sneakily inserted a visual reference to E.T., season 3 moves farther into actual homage. I personally thought it was fun to go back to a world where you can rely on the inherent badness of Soviet soldiers, and I didn’t mind the odd wink to an Alien up in the vents, or a Terminator looking dude stomping through a fun house.

But even I found an actual Neverending Story duet actually on the nose.

There were SO MANY references and homages and easter eggs that it threatened to eclipse the reality of the story, or overpower actual stakes with humour. There’s a difference between a sneaky wink and just blinking furiously while yelling the names of movies set in 1984.

Death and Taxes

Even though season 3 did retain a HUGE amount of the show’s trademarked horror-lightness, it was probably the most serious of all the seasons, at least by the end. That ending!

A good sign of a show that jumps the shark is that there are either no consequences or insanely surprising twists. Season 3 has a pretty standard redemption death (RIP, Billy), but then a super affecting hero death from none other than everyone’s favourite belligerent dad, Hopper.

I mean, it’s very likely that he’s locked in a Russian prison, but it was still devastating. It rippled with consequence and emotion, making all the hi-jinks earlier feel… childish.

No matter what happens, season 4 will be set in a Stranger Things universe much more mature than we’ve ever experienced before, and it’s both inevitable and a little sad.

Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix.

Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.