Stranger Things Season 3 Review: Bigger, Better, and More Heartbreaking Than Ever

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Stranger Things is going to go down as one of the best TV shows ever. 

After dipping in quality with Stranger Things Season 2, Stranger Things Season 3 rights most of those wrongs with eight episodes that advance the narrative and push the characters to extremes as they fight to keep their town safe from the rising threat of supernatural forces. 

Max and Eleven - Stranger Things

There was a long wait in store for the new episodes, so fans will be looking to be thrilled from the first scene to the last, and I'm glad to report that the show fires from all cylinders throughout all eight chapters screened for critics. 

In essence, this third outing is all about growing up, confronting demons (literally and figuratively), and finding your place in the world. 

The characters have more layers than ever, and it translates well on screen thanks to the heavy weight of the scripts. 

Even the new characters blend into the story well. 

It's not easy for new additions to strike a chord quite like these do, but the thing Stranger Things 3 masters is the art of balance. 

Billy the Villain? - Stranger Things

Much of the criticism of Stranger Things Season 2 stemmed from the balance of the storylines. 

Now, there is just the right amount from every single character as they embark on this new adventure that finds lives on the line, new mysteries, and more 1980s references than you can handle. 

Related: Stranger Things Season 3 Delayed at Netflix

The Duffer Brothers have moved the action to the summer, and the result is a show that is much lighter in tone, yet still filled with some scary moments that will have viewers reaching for the cushion to shield them from the horror. 

The Starcourt Mall is the source of a lot of the action and that much has been teased to death in the endless promotional material.

Stranger Things Season 3 Poster

By the time the eight-episode third outing is over, viewers are going to be yearning to jump in a time machine and relive the 1980s or like this reviewer, live them for the very first time. 

It's a nostalgia trip from start-to-finish, with some of the characters wanting to try the controversial New Coke that didn't stand the test of time back in the day, among other things. 

Yes, I also want to try that ... even if it tastes as badly as everyone says it did. 

Related: Stranger Things Gets Season 3 Premiere Date at Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown lights up the screen as this older and wiser version of Eleven, who is trying to find her place in a world that is dominated by people who are not the same species as her. 

Eleven on the Phone - Stranger Things

She's also trying to navigate her relationship with Mike, as well as keeping her powers at bay because she wants to live as much of a normal life as possible.

You can't just walk around making things float or blow up with your mind. 

Hopper is still very much Eleven's guardian, and he's taking the care of her very seriously.

He's also worrying that she's blossoming into a young woman, while simultaneously trying to give her the lifestyle she should have had from the get-go. 

Joyce and Hopper on a Mission - Stranger Things

It's all handled very well and backed up by a witty script that wants to reiterate that you don't need to be defined by your biological family. 

You can go out there and craft your own path, and make a family along the way if you please. 

Related: Stranger Things Season 3 Trailer Promises One Summer Can Change Everything

If one thing is certain on Stranger Things Season 3, it's that everyone is changing. The kids, in particular, look way older than the last time we saw them.

Nancy and Jonathan - Stranger Things

As a result, there are new conflicts for them as they try to keep their friendships flowing while simultaneously dealing with the hurdles that come with growing up. 

But be prepared for shifting dynamics. It was always inevitable, but as people grow up, their tastes change, and that's something that could sink some of the friendships you know and love.  

Nancy and Jonathan have left school behind and are trying to hit the big time at the Hawkins Post.

And why shouldn't they? They get $hit done when they work together.

A New Horror

They have big aspirations, but they quickly learn that being interns does not give them the keys to the kingdom.

Instead, they're mostly stuck in lanes and yelled at if they try to step out of them. 

For Nancy, this sets off a whole chain of events as she tackles gender stereotypes because she's a woman in a male-dominated office.

It's a somber storyline, but Natalia Dyer delivers her best performance to date.

Winona Ryder Returns - Stranger Things

Winona Ryder makes her grand return as Joyce Byers, aka the woman who lost her lover at the power plant on Stranger Things Season 2.

Once again, Joyce is struggling to come to terms with everything that's happened and is trying to think of ways to keep her family safe. 

It's bordering on obsession. 

When strange things keep going down, it's hard to keep a positive outlook, and that's why Joyce remains integral to the central storylines of the series. 

There's a solid storyline there about how the smaller businesses are starting to suffer thanks to the rise of the Starcourt Mall.

With first-rate acting, breathtaking visuals, and a beautiful 1980s soundtrack, Stranger Things is back, and it's better than ever. 

The series oozes confidence as it moves from scene-to-scene in an adventure that's both memorable and heartbreaking. 

Watch all episodes on Netflix July 4. 

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Stranger Things Quotes

Hey, Lard-ass. No running on my watch! I gotta warn you again, and you're banned for life. You wanna be banned for life, lard-ass?

Billie

I don't care about Tina or Uncle Jack's party! Your mom's not gonna be able to find us if we're dead in a Russian elevator!

Dustin