The Duffer brothers are back with the latest season of ‘Stranger Things’ which just dropped today on Netflix. You might want to forgo your traditional fourth of July fireworks to stay back at home and binge on this season since it is off to a solid start and is showing the promise of being the show’s best season yet.
Before the show released, we already knew that this season would be set in the summer months as the town of Hawkins sees a new mall, and we see our favorite pack of kids growing up to be teenagers. However, that’s not all, as the show teased that the monsters would be back and they might be bigger and scarier than ever, and this time, the monsters would not be the only threat as other interested parties might show up to the idyllic American town to get to the core of the mystery of the Upside Down.
So, does the Season 3 Episode 1 of ‘Stranger Things’, titled ‘Suzie, Do You Copy?’, puts various wheels into motion and paves the way for more thrills, chills, and a lot of fun? Read on..
Before opining about the episode, it is best if we walk you through the plot. When we return to Season 3, it gives us an intimate look into the core of the mystery surrounding the alternate, monster-infested universe that we are familiar with as the Upside Down. We see how scientists in Soviet Russia tried to open the portal to this world and that it was part of a military experiment. Before we dwell on the ramifications of this for too long, the showrunners expertly take our mind off it to more pleasant things, namely, summer in Hawkins, Indiana. It is a summer of love in the town and we see Mike and Eleven, or El, happily in love, and snogging away, much to the disapproval of El’s guardian, Sheriff Hopper. Lucas and Max are happy together as well, which leaves Will and Dustin to be the only singles in the group.
While Will does not seem interested in falling in love, Dustin surprises us because when he returns from out of town, he seems to have a girlfriend in Utah called Suzie. The show takes its time to reintroduce us to the rest of the major characters as well, and we see Nancy and Jonathan are still together and working for The Hawkins Post, while Max’s brother Billy Hargrove turns up the heat with the ladies at the swimming pool where he is an instructor and a lifeguard. We also see Joyce, coping with the loss of Bob, who died in Season 2, and struggling to keep her business running, where she faces trouble due to the new Starcourt Mall which has opened.
Coming to the Starcourt Mall, this is the center of attraction for the small town and almost everyone seems to be visiting. Steve Harrington who won our hearts last season works at the ice cream stall there but he seems to be lucking out with the ladies. All seems good in Hawkins, or is it?
The town is never quite free of its strange occurrences, and two of them grab eyeballs. Firstly, the fridge magnets holding the pictures on the Byers family fridge keep falling off on their own. Secondly, all the rats in Hawkins seem to be headed somewhere. Right at the point when the excitement at the Starcourt Mall is palpable, the entire town blacks out and we are given a glimpse of some unknown force that has been unleashed. Only the rats seem to be aware of this though, well the rats and Will, who is seen getting goosebumps now and then.
Ever since the first season, Will has had a connection with the Upside Down, so without much to go on, we are guessing this newly unleashed force is from the same realm. Towards, the end of the episode, Nancy gets a tip about the rats, and coincidentally, Billy has an accident in his car near the location where the rats were going. The last we see of him is when he is dragged off into the belly of the abandoned factory by some unseen power. Around the same time, Dustin’s new and improved ham radio picks up a strange frequency where he can hear a man talking in Russian, which takes us back to the opening sequence about the hush-hush Soviet experiment to access the Upside Down.
The Duffer brothers are off to a strong start here. They have spent the episode wisely reintroducing us to the major characters and where they are in their lives, which is necessary since it has been some time since Season 2 aired. What is immediately evident is the changes in the protagonists, as they are teenagers now, and the cohesion within the core group seems to be a bit weaker as everyone is falling in love, and Mike especially seems to have a tough time balancing his friendships and his relationship with El. Will is once again a point of intrigue and much like the last two seasons, he might be integral to the incidents of the Upside Down, this time as well.
It is really adorable seeing Hopper all riled up with handling a teenage daughter, and the theme of parenting might just go on to become an important one in this season, as the adults have to realize that they have rebellious teens on their hands now and they need to be treated differently. The rats definitely grabbed my attention and while it initially seemed as though they were fleeing a sinking ship, which did not bode well for Hawkins, it appears as though they headed to the abandoned factory just to explode and die. It is something that will require further investigation and that is where Nancy will come in, perhaps in the later episodes.
Speaking of Nancy, her character has been used in the best way possible in this episode, since she is a vocal mouthpiece who raises concerns about big business harming local establishments and ruining the town’s unique culture. She is, obviously, talking about the Starcourt Mall and its effect on the businesses of Hawkins, and Joyce’s business backs this claim. In the same scene, we see her ideas dismissed by a room full of male journalists in The Hawkins Post, making a strong feminist point that women are often ignored in male-dominated fields, even when they have good ideas. Another imagery I particularly liked is the fact that the unseen force is still lurking underground, waiting to let its presence be felt on the surface. It definitely feels like a buildup to something huge and the Duffer brothers have grasped our attention, forcing a binge-watch, which is Netflix’s style.
Overall, this is a solid start to the season, and we can expect that things will only get better hereon.