The fourth of July is a time to celebrate Independence and also, the premiere of the long-awaited third season of Stranger Things. Cue the fireworks.
And there is much to celebrate, including our overdue return to Hawkins, Indiana.
Related: Stranger Things Season 3 Trailer Reveals Surprising New Villain
A lot has changed since we last caught up with Eleven, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, and Max in the fall of 2017. One thing is for certain -- there's still an imminent threat from the supernatural entities that occupy the Upside Down.
Here's what you need to know before you cancel your BBQ to indulge in a celebratory binge-watch.
You'll Have a Long Weekend to Watch It
Binge-watching a show in 24-hours is tough, so we're really grateful that Netflix planned this out just right. The third season drops of July 4th (this explains all the fireworks on the Season 3 artwork), which means you have four full days to watch all eight-episodes! Someone pass the Eggos.
Welcome to the Summer of 1985
Let me set the scene for you: it's a scorching summer in Hawkins, Indiana in 1985. Here's the full synopsis: "School’s out, there’s a brand new mall in town, and the Hawkins crew are on the cusp of adulthood. Romance blossoms and complicates the group’s dynamic, and they’ll have to figure out how to grow up without growing apart. Meanwhile, danger looms.”
Billy Has Tongues Waggin'
All the moms in Hawkins have the hots for Billy. Can ya blame them? One look at the smokin' lifeguard and you'll understand what all the hubbub is all about. Billy – now a lifeguard at the local pool – is enjoying all the attention, especially from Nancy's mom!
New Monsters on the Horizon
In addition to spider-like Mind Flayer lurking in the Upside Down who can control the "hive mind," there's a terrifying new inhabitant in Hawkins that's posing a threat to everyone. We catch a quick glimpse of it (gross!) in the trailer as Nancy and Jonathan attempt to neutralize it.
Billy Becomes the New Host
The new monster is said to be possessing people including Billy, who becomes the new host. "It’s going to be very dark, and I get to do some evil and intense things. My part this season is an emotional roller coaster," Dacre Montgomery revealed. Okay, as long as Billy survives, we're not complaining.
There's Going to be Gore
The threat of new monsters brings forth plenty of gore. “There is a lot more gore and blood compared to the other seasons,” Finn Wolfhard teased. Did you see Steve and Billy's skin getting infected in the trailer? Pure gore!
Classic Hollywood Movies
While the season is being taunted as scarier and gorier than previous seasons, it's also supposed to be a lot of fun! Co-creator Ross Duffer said the season is inspired by a number of classic Hollywood movies like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Romancing the Stone. There's even a comparison to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, which likely has to do with Billy being the new host.
There are a few new faces in town, and that's not necessarily a good thing. Maya Thurman-Hawke (Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke's daughter) joins as Robin, Steve's co-worker at Starcourt Mall who uncovers a "dark secret" in Hawkins.
Jake Busey joins as Bruce, a journalist for the Hawkins post! Finally, a journalist that notices the strange occurrences in town! Cary Elwes is introduced as Mayor Kline, a skeezy '80s politician, and Francesca Reale appears as Heather, a lifeguard at the pool who becomes the focal point of a "dark mystery."
More to Life Than Hawkins?
Will our monster-fighting gang venture outside of Hawkins? Yes. Whatever is happening in Hawkins is bigger than Hawkins. The creators told Thrillist that "the saga would get too insane and unbelievable if it just stayed in one place forever." Where will it take them? The trailer shows Eleven near water; could it possibly be Lake Michigan?
Expect a Time Jump
As with the first two seasons, the third season will also see a bit of a time jump to keep up with the actors' aging.
When we reunite with Eleven, Mike and the rest of the group, there's a lot of puberty and growing pains sprinkled throughout interdimensional monster slaying. Welcome to the teen years.
Let's Go to the Mall!
As Mike said in the trailer, they aren’t kids anymore and playing D&D in the basement isn’t as ‘cool’ as hanging out at the local mall. Starcourt Mall is the place to be as it becomes a new backdrop for much of the show's action. Oh, and dad Steve has a job there!
Steve's Got a New Girl
Not only does Steve have a new job at the mall's ice cream parlor, Scoops Ahoy, he also has a new girl! The second part isn't confirmed, but it's almost a guarantee he's going to have some kind of romantic relationship with co-worker Robin who will team up with Steve and Dustin on official business a few times.
Steve Is Still Besties with Dustin
Speaking of our favorite friendship on the series, Dustin and dad Steve are back and better than ever. Their unlikely friendship continues to grow and provides us with some comedic relief when things get too scary and gory. “Their friendship grows even more by working together on solving a new discovery,” said Gaten Matarazzo.
Eleven Becomes a Teenager
As Elle embraces her feminine side and learns how to become a normal girl, she also grows close with Maxine. Max helps her a lot with boys and fashion. "We see more of the girls having fun. It’s so important to embody that girl power and friendship," Millie Bobby Brown told Vanity Fair.
Love is in the Air
The kids aren't kids anymore. They're teenagers, so it makes sense that the next step is to embrace young love. Eleven and Mike are officially dating and making out a lot, but the relationship doesn't come easy according to Brown. Another couple that's still together but finding that making a relationship work takes a lot of work? Lucas and Max. Having a girlfriend gets to his head and the idea that he's now a ladies man causes him to screw things up with Max on a regular basis. And while his friends are all experiencing young love, Will feels left out and doesn't want things to change.
Mind Flayer Returns
As we saw in the season 2 finale, the Mind Flayer wasn't eliminated; it's lurking in Upside Down and more aware of Eleven's powers than before after her attempt at closing the rift between the two worlds. What does the tentacled monstrosity, more dangerous than a Demogorgon, have in mind? And is it working alongside the new monster? Director Shawn Levy said the MF will be using "new strategies," and some Reddit users pointed out that the new monster may be a something created and controlled by the Mind Flayer.
Erica is Back
Max and Billy were compelling additions last season, but Erica, Lucas' younger sister, was a fan favorite. Thankfully, she's bringing that sass back for the third season as she's been bumped to series regular. Per Netflix: "No longer content with sitting on the sidelines, Erica finds herself on a wild mission to save Hawkins from a dangerous and unexpected new threat."
Eleven Isn't Alone
We know Eleven, we know Eight, but who else is out there? Levy told E! that we should anticipate more Hawkins Laboratory experiments. "I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said. There's also mention of Kali making a comeback to finish her storyline.
Will's Not Done with the Upside Down
Will's not safe from the Upside Down, not yet, at least. According to Noah Schnapp, he's still connected to the MF. “Will still has the presence of the monster left, and you kind of see what happens there,” he said. On the plus side, the executive producers said they won't put him through total hell again so there's hope.
Hopper & Joyce Grow Closer
Is season 3 the season Hopper and Joyce finally give into their obvious love for each other? I truly hope so. No one in town really understands what Joyce and Hopper went through except for Joyce and Hopper, so they're sort of bonded. As Hopper struggles with being a single parent and raising a telekinetic teenager, he turns to Joyce for advice. "I think we'll start to see him take more risks with these new languages of intimacy and vulnerability and maybe we'll start to see that he has needs that he hasn't expressed before," David Harbour told TV Guide.
Hopper's a Stress Eater
Because Hopper is so stressed out raising Jane Hopper (ah!) he begins stress eating "salsa and chips." Honestly, I really just needed an excuse to throw in this gem of a quote: “This season, Hopper does a lot of really big, like, action-y things. But he’s fatter than you’ve ever seen him and less capable of hurting people, but a little more capable because he’s just like a big elephant,” Harbour said.
Prepare to Be Emotional
Millie Bobby Brown delivered some upsetting news: season three is the saddest season so far. She told Vanity Fair that, "it definitely gets very deep and emotional. It’s even scarier than the other seasons.” Tissues at the ready. Which brings me to this next slide...
This Might Be the Season Before the Last
We may be nearing the end of Strangers Things if the Duffer brothers get their way. The plan was to end the show after four seasons (ah, too soon!), but there may be hope for more seasons before the curtain closes. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely," Levy told Entertainment Weekly. Enjoy every minute of season 3 because before you know it, they're all grown up.