Stranger Things 3 smokes streaming records!

It’s been well over a year and a half since we binged the Stranger Things Season 2 and since then many pop-culture commentators and critics have heralded the end of the 80’s nostalgia trend.

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And they are wrong!!!

According to the Netflix US Twitter account in less than a week since Stranger Things Season 3 launched on on July 4 over 40 million household accounts had viewed the series and just over 18 million already finished the entire season.

There’s a lot of problems with Stranger Things Season 3 but it is still a lot of fun and it’s abundantly clear that people haven’t had their fill of the upside down.

Smoke ’em if it’s historically accurate

It’s not opened without a smidgeon of controversy either. The anti-tobacco use group Truth Initiative released a study about on screen tobacco usage and called Stranger Things out revealing that every single episode included tobacco consumption. Netflix replied by saying that they recognised that smoking was harmful and from now on all projects with ratings of PG 13 and below will be tobacco free except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy. For programs with higher ratings it won’t happen unless is’t essential to the creative vision of the artist or character defining, along with the other crap about facts and history.

What does that mean? Probably nothing for Stranger Things. While cigarette cameos might be the last and only means for big tobacco to push their products, the portrayla of smoking doesn’t have the appeal it once did. There’s a scene where Hopper lights up in the middle of a crowded restaurant for example which, in this day and age is quite shocking and gross but it is most definitely historically accurate. People smoked everywhere in the 80’s restaurants, planes, shopping centres, you named it. It was nothing to see a couple of parents munching dhurries in the car with all the windows up and a couple of kids who didn’t have a choice in the back hurtling down the freeway taking valuable years off their lives. We’ve come along way since then so please spare us the nanny state bullshit.

The story

Set in 1985—in the real world the Duffers would be celebrating their first birthday—the show picks up one year after the events of season 2. The new Starcourt Mall is the place to be in Hawkins Indiana. Eleven and Mike have become an item and their teen romance is blossoming, much to Sheriff Hopper’s dismay. Little Will is now taller than his mother and has developed a sixth sense for bad stuff from the upside down. Dustin is back from summer science camp, still as annoying as ever. Lucas still seems like the voice of reason among the boys.

Billy the lifeguard at the local pool is the object of all the ladies affection. Nancy is working for a bunch of misogynists at the local newspaper and gets a hot tip about a strange event involving rodents. Something is stirring at the steel mill and the boys pick up a mysterious Russian transmission.

Away we go.

The cast

All your favourites are back, most of them have gone through significant growth spurts since season 2 and are now in that awkward pubescent phase, particularly Finn Wolfhard who plays Mike. Newcomers to the cast include Jake Busey as Bruce and Cary Elwes as Mayor Larry Kline. Standout performers include Winona Ryder as Joyce, although it is hard to tell if she is acting or just crazy these days. Dacre Montgomery as the bad boy, Billy Hargrove. Brett Gelman returns as Maurray Bauman. Priah Ferguson is hilarious as Lucas’ little sister Erica. Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan and Uma Thurman is a welcome addition to the ensemble as Robin. Once again David Harbour absolutely steals the show as Sherriff Hopper.

Is bigger better?

Everything is bigger in season three. Bigger special effects, bigger action, bigger storyline. There’s more neon, more synth music and it is swollen with the excess of the mid 80’s.

It is ridiculous, but it’s also a lot of fun as they do away with a lot of the drama and focus more on action or horror comedy. You’ll see homage paid to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Red Dawn, Day of The Dead, The Terminator, Back to The Future and Fast Times at Ridgemont High to name a few. Every episode is wall to wall with easter eggs. The soundtrack is great, the look and feel of it all comes across as really authentic, particularly the scenes around the mall.

It’s got jokes too. Lot’s of them, especially the scenes with Hopper and Joyce as well as those with Robin and Steve. Mostly they are great fun but some of them hang on the joke for too long at really critical times in the story and it sucks all tension out of the situation. There’s a few scenes in there that could have been handled way more seriously and the show would have been better for it.

It suffers from inconsistent performances and truly ridiculous moments where—even though we know the story is preposterous and far fetched—you are forced to suspend your disbelief way too much. But maybe that’s the kind of excess the 80’s stood for? It’s  fun to catch yourself yelling at your TV about the absurdity of it all.

Millie Bobbie Brown is a great actor, but she seems too relaxed at times with Eleven’s power. For example, she’s doing all of this telekinetic stuff that causes her so much mental strain it makes her nose bleed which she seems to be wield with her hands but she’s just holds her arms out like she’s playing the mummy in a school play.

The verdict

Criticism aside, If you’ve liked the story so far you’ll love this and you’ll likely forgive any misgivings. They’ve picked up the pace from Season 2 and it looks like they’re going to charge into a fourth and hopefully final season. 

Stranger Things Season 3 is a lot like puberty, awkwardly out of proportion, it gets hairy in weird places and the humour comes too quickly and at odd times. But when it’s over, you’ll look back on it as a great time.


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