So, I’ve now finished Season 3 of Stranger Things and I’m not sure I have much more to add from half way through. It’s more of the same. Again.
I’m now going to say stuff about it anyway
Apparently ST3 is now the most streamed show on netflix. I’m a little confused by how popular this show is. I mean, I kinda get it as it has some good elements, but it’s also very lightweight and I don’t really feel like it deserves to be as popular as it is.
Everything on the surface is great. I looks great. It has great music. It has the whole (rather overdone) 80s nostalgia thing. It has all the references to 80s shows. It has the great mix of Spielberg + Horror.
The actors are mostly good. It’s a fun comforting ride I guess.
But underneath it doesn’t really have much going on. It doesn’t really have many new ideas or do anything very original. It under-uses a lot of the characters/actors and it doesn’t really have anything to say.
IMHO it worked best in season 1, when the formula was fresh and you didn’t really notice that it didn’t have much depth.
Seasons 2 and 3 have had their highlights, and not been bad by any stretch, but they have felt a bit like retreads of season 1.
Again IMHO, they have too many characters and don’t really have much for them to do. They can’t really kill off any of the kids, so they’re a bit stuck with them. They try to fix this by introducing more characters, who are fine/good, but then they exacerbate the problem. (They also seem to need to bring back every character from previous seasons).
So you end up with a season that’s both too short and too long.
Each season is kind of like a new horror/sci-fi movie. But that means the intro lasts for 3-4 episodes and is kinda reset and similar each season. Then you get 3-4 episodes of action, which are good, but which are relatively similar to last season, just with a different monster. If each season was a movie it’s be much pacier and maybe work better.
But 8 episodes with 11+ main characters just isn’t enough, and it means they have to split the characters off into groups and send them off on separate missions, many of which feel a bit sidelined, only to bring them all back together at the end (making the endings feel a bit similar).
For example, I really like Nancy, and mostly like Jonathon, but they’ve been largely sidelined for 2 seasons, only to join in at the end.
Joyce was a key character in S1 due to Will’s disappearance, but since then it kinda feels like they’ve kept her around because she’s a name actress, not because she had anything to do.
As I said before, the number of characters and the grouping meant that you didn’t really get any sense of families in S3, as they didn’t spend any time together for most of the season.
I think the other fundamental flaw is that the protagonists are basically El + some kids. As such, the kids have almost no offensive capability, and El basically has her 1 or 2 powers that make her kinda OP. Making it very hard to avoid the trope of ‘kids get into trouble, El saves the day’.
Which they obviously tried to avoid for the ending, but which was dramatically overused for most of the season.
So yeah, it’s like comfort food and I can see it continuing in the same way, but I rather wish it had a bit more variety and depth.