When does an homage stop being an homage and become its own thing? It’s an important question for something like Stranger Things – and its latest edition, appropriately called Stranger Things 3, rather than Stranger Things season 3 – which is a loving tribute to not only the films and TV shows of the 80s, but pretty much the entire decade, too.
Starting out as almost a recently discovered time capsule of a lost Stephen King TV series, albeit one with insanely high production values for the time, Stranger Things perfectly captured the innocence of 80s childhood and the weirdness and niceness of small town life. Playing with as many conventions as it also subverted, it caused genuine nostalgia for a time it had never inhabited. And although a touch scary at times, it was also genuinely beautiful, too.
If Stranger Things was Alien, Stranger Things 2 was Aliens – deliberately so, right down to adding Paul Reiser to the cast. Trouble was, while it was still very good and a slight retread of the first season, it somehow lost a lot of that innocence that had so weaved its magic on the audience. Sure, the kids were growing up, but it all felt a lot nastier and everything felt more like synthesised 80s, rather than original 80s, right down to the synthesiser music.
What then for season 3? More of the same or something different? Or worse still, Alien3?
Stranger Things 3 moves everything along slightly. It’s summer 1986 in Hawkins and there are no signs of any terrible lurking evil. Instead, it’s all about boys, girls, jobs and teenage rebellion.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is still living with Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), but he’s not so keen on how much time she’s spending with Mike (Finn Wolfhard). But he is keen on spending more time with Joyce (Winona Ryder).
Meanwhile, popular boy Steve (Joe Keery) is having to work in the ice cream parlour in the new Starcourt mall. He’s still a bit hung up on Nancy (Natalia Dyer), who’s now interning at the local paper, but he seems to be having plenty of inadvertent fun with brainy co-worker Robin (Maya Hawke).
Of course, not everything is at it seems and pretty soon, their lives are being turned upside down by none other than… the Russians!