Stranger Things: "Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt"
July 4, 2019 2:20 PM - Season 3, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Terror reigns in the food court when the Mind Flayer comes to collect. But down below, in the dark, the future of the world is at stake.
posted by Fizz (176 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
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:((( !!!!

Man, I'll need some time to process this.

Loved the bit with the video store rental interview: the return of Keith the guy from the arcade games place, Robin easily listing her top three films, and Steve struggling to come up with anything besides Animal House, the Star Wars with the teddy bears, and the movie with Alex P. Keaton.
posted by rather be jorting at 9:49 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]


It’s not clear the thing I think you are processing needs to be processed, in light of the epilogue/teaser.

All in all, I liked S3 much better than S2.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:27 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]


Boy, I was really scared/fascinated that they would have time travel involved in the denoument, since Day of the Dead was such a deliberate choice early in the season. As I say that, maybe there was some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff happening when the rift opener blew up, and that is why "the American" that snuffleupagus references ended up making it after all.

I agree completely that this season was streets ahead of Season 2 mostly because it didn't make two of the best characters - Eleven and Dustin - into quasi-villains for much of the season.

I desperately need a Robin/Steve/Dustin/Erica spinoff.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:58 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]


So that was awesome, but I'm going to pick a nit, just for fun.

The show is great at creating a real sense of time and place in the '80s, with cultural references that are period-accurate. But a major plot point in the final episode hinges on the value of Planck's constant, and Dustin contacts Susie for the correct value. And of course because she's a super-smart science nerd, she's able to give him the correct value... from 2014. Yes, I just checked, I'm that pedantic.

Planck's constant was measured with a variety of techniques throughout the 20th century and up until this year (when the redefinition of the kilogram fixed its value at an exact number rendering future measurements unnecessary) and its accepted value (at the surprisingly high level of precision the Russian scientists used for their lock) changed every few years for a while. Susie giving a value of 6.62607004e-34 (she left off the exponent but I guess she assumed Dustin would at least know that) is the metrological equivalent of a modern Starbucks coffee cup left on set.

I actually went and checked historical values for Planck's constant because I was really hoping the show was making a clever reference with this plot point. Since Murray's value is wrong, I wondered if maybe they worked in an extremely-in-joke with him knowing a slightly out-of-date value for the constant, and Susie (and the Russian scientists) knowing the latest best measurements. In 1985, the "accepted value" for Planck's constant was 6.626176e-34, reported in 1973 (source). But a more recent 1980 measurement reported a value of 6.6260657e-34 (source). Alas, instead they used the 2014 accepted value (which is not even the current, exactly-defined value... just sayin'), and Murray's number is just off by a digit, switching a 7 for an 8.

In my headcanon, I'm going to "fix" this for them. Murray's value for Planck's constant is just a bit out-of-date, while Susie and the Russian scientists know the better 1980 measurement which was reported in the literature but not established as the "officially accepted" value for the constant.

Alternative headcanon, Susie is actually a time traveler from 2017, who knows the accepted 2014 value for the constant but not the exactly-defined value that won't be established until 2018, and formally adopted until 2019, and she went back in time in order to change history and prevent the dark timeline we currently find ourselves in from ever occurring. Murray is also a time traveler but one who was sent further into the past and has been living there until the show's present, and suffered brain damage and memory problems as a result of his jump, causing amnesia so that he doesn't remember his mission, has paranoid delusions, and also gets the value of Planck's constant slightly wrong. I look forward to their temporal manipulations in Stranger Things 4.
posted by biogeo at 8:02 AM on July 5 [62 favorites]


The whole Susie thing was the most hackneyed aspect of the season and I think I actually said "you have got to be kidding me" out loud when the split-screen musical number happened.

It just destroyed the tension of the moment and turned it into some kind of Scrubs-like absurdity. At least for me. It was like the show briefly became an entirely different and much jokier genre, but only for 40 seconds.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:32 AM on July 5 [19 favorites]


Oh yes let me clear some things up from my initial comment:

- The . was for Billy - even though I did not mind the prospect of him getting demolished by the eldritch horror in ep 1, it's still sad seeing so many references to his dad being violently abusive to him and his mom. I don't think being abused as a kid excuses perpetuating violently abusive behavior oneself, but I did feel a little more sympathetic for Billy after we saw that flashback of his mom telling him not to surf for too much longer so his dad wouldn't get mad. Not so much a redemption arc as, kind of on his way towards it, with his big stepping in to defend Eleven being his big damn hero moment, a noble sacrifice where the act of making the sacrifice is the redemptive thing. (Also, I wasn't thrilled with the Duffer brothers' emphasis on his mom being really pretty as shorthand for her goodness and the tragedy of her passing away, but Millie Bobby Brown almost sold it during the emotional recital of Billy's childhood happy memory back to him.)

- The :( was for "the American" not getting to make that dinner date, aaagggh! But I did observe 1) not seeing Hopper's body and 2) the scene later on in the credits! Also, I thought they were going to pull a 10/Rose moment there (which would've been even more upsetting), but at least things are open for Hopper to return, somehow. (But was that a "new" Demogorgon at the end? I don't remember much of the in-series lore from the first two seasons, oops.)

- And the time to process refers to me needing to take some time to mull stuff over, because there really was a lot going on in each episode and I want to rewatch to figure out more of what I was thinking beyond my initial reactions. I think this season's had a lot more substance for pondering and analysis than previous seasons have had for me, beyond just the souped-up budget, there was a lot going on in terms of shots and cinematography that I want to think about as well. (And also see what recaps and other comments mention.)

- Really, really loved the use of lights at night in this season, during the big nighttime showdowns at the mall especially. The fireworks crackling and popping everywhere during the Mind Flayer(?) Big Bad battle were especially fun to watch last night. Unlike irl fireworks, I wasn't worrying about people popping them off too near to residential areas and causing potential fires, woo!

- I. HATED. The Neverending Story duet. The song itself is fine, I liked the movie well enough as a kid, but oh my god it took forever and was not cute at all and I was dying the entire time. I did like Lucas and Max teasing Dustin about it later. How did the lyric go again? Ha!
posted by rather be jorting at 10:36 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]


I actually thought the Dustin/Susie duet was hilarious. The other characters' dumbfounded reactions as they try to process the discrepancy between what they're dealing with and what they're hearing, while perhaps recognizing that this really is the fastest way to get the answer from Susie that they desperately need, sold it for me.

For me there was only one really big negative on this season. Where. Was. Steve's. Bat.
posted by biogeo at 12:14 PM on July 5 [31 favorites]


The . was for Billy - even though I did not mind the prospect of him getting demolished by the eldritch horror in ep 1, it's still sad seeing so many references to his dad being violently abusive to him and his mom.

I felt bad for Billy, too. What really bothered me was when the kids trapped him in the sauna and he started crying about how this wasn't him and the Mind Flayer was making him do all these horrible things. And then he suddenly had superhuman strength and burst through the sauna window, and did seem to be fully possessed by the monster again once he got violent, so I believed what he had been saying beforehand. That would have been sad and disturbing in any case, but then we get the backstory of his dad relentlessly pressuring him to be a violent, macho, heartless asshole, too, and it just seemed like -- he was his father's puppet and then the Mind Slayer's and then he died. What a life.

Also, his dad being a sort of proto-Mind Slayer and Max and Billy's house being like a sort of "regular world" version of the Upside Down is an interesting concept in general, and I wish the show had gone further with it.

Anyhow, I thought Billy's mother was out of the picture because she had decided enough was enough and didn't want to deal with his dad anymore, which meant leaving him behind, too. Maybe she later died? But I thought that was the point of the memory of Billy on the phone asking when she would come by again, even while knowing that she never actually would. I thought that was interesting because of his weird thing of trying to seduce Mrs. Wheeler. He was so vain and constantly trying to position himself as a ~super desirable~ sex object, and of course the woman he sets his sights on to try and seduce is Nancy's mother...so depressing yet so classic.

I guess some of the issue is that from my perspective, Billy was also a kid. A dangerous and disturbing kid, but a kid, who should have had his whole life in front of him. So him saving Ele was redemptive and all, but at the same time, I didn't particularly know why she was more worth saving than he was? Or why nobody cared about saving him, too? If he had sacrificed himself for Max, maybe it would have landed differently. Or if I saw Billy as a grown up in a way that the other kids weren't. It's not that I would have been more OK with Ele dying than Billy. But it just seemed like, why would her telling him about a happy memory make him decide to sacrifice himself to save her, and why should we be glad about that? Sure, it's great that someone was willing and able to save Ele, but it's tragic that that rescuer was just some other kid who nobody (apparently) was willing or able to save, you know?

And from a more "meta" perspective, I wanted to know how being an Eldritch Horror's puppet changed Billy, and am disappointed that he died before we got to find out. Because we got some hints that it did, at least if him crying in the sauna was real, and him crying when Ele reminded him of his happy memory was real -- he seemed more self-aware about his own monstrous behavior and like he'd decided that this was NOT what he wanted to do or who he wanted to be, he did NOT want to be a monster. I mean, Jonathan didn't seem changed at all by this season's events. Lucas and Dustin didn't seem changed at all. Max (weirdly) didn't seem changed at all. Etc. So their epilogues just didn't matter to me, whereas an "after these events" epilogue from Billy would have been interesting. Who is he if he's not a monster? How would he deal with his dad or Max after such a change in perspective? How would seeing that change in Billy change Max? Kind of weird having an epilogue for all the characters except the one who'd changed the most.

Another thing is that I thought Max and Billy were really interesting last season and was interested in them again this season (though Max seemed like a shadow of her S2 self). I was a lot more interested in learning more about them and their household and the relationships between Max/Lucas and Billy/Mrs. Wheeler than I was in Mike and Ele and their relationship, frankly, so I'm kind of bummed about which stories got more depth/nuance/attention/etc. I mean, Billy was acting super bizarre, possibly disappeared, and then died -- his dad or even Max's mom had no thoughts and feelings about that? That didn't affect their home life? Change Max? Why did they even move to this weirdo town, anyway?

I really enjoyed this season and (obviously) binged it super fast. But in retrospect, I'm a little disappointed by the emotional arcs. Not that they were bad, I just think they were shallow and less grounded than they could have been.
posted by rue72 at 12:18 PM on July 5 [7 favorites]


Ok no one else is pissed about Hopper? Joyce finally works through her grief over Bob to ask Hop out and then he goes and dies? DAMN IT.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:07 PM on July 5 [10 favorites]


We’re calling the Mind Flayer “Meat Voltron” in our house.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:25 PM on July 5 [22 favorites]


Unless “the American” is Papa. Those Russkies knew an awful lot about what was going on in Hawkins.
posted by rikschell at 7:17 PM on July 5 [6 favorites]


Though it would indeed be the most E.T. thing ever to kill Hop off and bring him back immediately.
posted by rikschell at 7:19 PM on July 5


When Will started getting goosebumps on his neck from the approach of the Mind Flayer in episode 1, I said aloud to my viewing partner, “Oh god, leave the poor kid alone,” because he’d just gone through so much already. At the end of the post-credits sequence, I thought the same thing—let these poor people have some peace! I hope that if there is a season 4, it has a whole new cast, including Jared Harris, Emily Watson, and Stellan Skarsgard investigating how the Chernobyl explosion released a Demogorgon onto Russian soil.
posted by ejs at 7:53 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


I fucking loved loved loved the Neverending Story duet.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:45 PM on July 5 [31 favorites]


Like, not only was it a wholly unexpected moment of absurd levity in an otherwise extremely tense and dire finale (and "tense" and "dire" are not complaints there!) but it was also an object lesson in the advice Dustin had been giving Steve. When the whole crowd "meets" Suzie at last, she absolutely does not make Dustin look "cool," but he eventually gives over and we see through that moment, mortifying if not for how sincere they are in it, why Dustin and Suzie are crazy about each other.

And in a balls-to-the-wall finale like that, you need to not just know that we're fighting, but need a glimpse into what we're fighting for, and that sequence did it so much for me that I had to watch it twice.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:51 PM on July 5 [37 favorites]


Billy, I think, could be seen almost as a RotJ nod at the end there. I think it's important that he was an irredeemable dirtbag as the season started, then started killing folks and bringing them to the Mind Flayer, with some fleeting consciousness of and regret for his actions. And since Max and El became friends over the season, and Max was the only one trying to keep "Kill Billy" from being Plan A, the fact that when El loses her powers and instead goes back to all of the memories he gave to her to bring him back (something Max was briefly attempting in the corridors before he attacked her and then took El) that whole scene rang to me as El understanding and having empathy for Max, and trusting her that Billy was still in there somewhere and worth saving.

And, like Vader, once his humanity is restored, he turns on his master and does what he has to, not because he needs to be a sacrifice, but because he felt personal responsibility in the matter.

Speaking of Billy and movie references, I thought it was interesting that this Season was so shot-through with Terminator 2 (The Schwarzenegger stand-in, the sentient-liquid unstoppable villain who can imitate tons of familiar faces, Billy channelling Robert Patrick as he chased down the teens in back hallways of the mall, etc.) It fit the series, for sure, but just was a little anachronistic for the mid-eighties.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:05 PM on July 5 [17 favorites]


Actually Navelgazer while I think most of your insight is amazing, I thought a lot of those references were actually callbacks to The Thing There is a poster for The Thing on Mike's wall, the rats infecting the people of Hawkins parallel the dog infecting the members of the station. All that meaty body horror is closer to The Thing which could imitate others, but also distort the human form by having a head sprout spider legs.


Plus T2 was released in 1991 and The Thing was released in 1982.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:33 PM on July 5 [15 favorites]


I actually think my favorite part of the NEVERENDING STORY duet was Joyce and Hopper's reactions to hearing it (Hopper just sitting in mute bafflement, Joyce gently beating her head against the wall).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 AM on July 6 [26 favorites]


Well, the Terminator was released in 1984 and contains plenty of relentless stalking itself. It’s a fair reference even without bringing its sequel into the mix. And seriously, is the guy who played the Russian super soldier the love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren or what?
posted by rikschell at 5:32 AM on July 6 [12 favorites]


Yeah, The Thing is a blind spot for me (and is obviously all over this season.) I was 2 years old in 1982 and by the time I was 10-12 it had zero adolescent caché. I wonder how many kids are searching for it on Netflix now, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:31 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Correct me if I'm wrong but no one in the 80s called Star Wars, A New Hope yet. I remember that happening much later in the 90s when the specialized versions came out.
posted by cazoo at 9:26 AM on July 6 [25 favorites]


I've actually watched the NEVERENDING STORY moment a couple more times over and noticed another favorite bit - when Dustin starts singing, he is visibly embarrassed and grudging, but then when Susie comes in with her part he starts smiling, and smiles bigger and bigger throughout until the end when he gives this besotted little "aw my beloved and I just sang Our Song together" chuckle and just sits there in the afterglow, almost like he forgot that he was only doing it to get Planck's Constant out of her and he was instead suckered into "I'm having a moment with my girlfriend".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on July 6 [28 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: Yes! It's so good!
posted by Navelgazer at 10:31 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Sigh! Maybe I'd have dug the duet more if it didn't have the upswell of extradiegetic music rushing in like the show is a musical when it's not. Had it just been Dustin and Suzie singing for a briefer amount of time, I'd have been less anxious about the whole "this is just more time for the gunmen to find Hop, Joyce, and Murray" thing, so I'm still more kin with Joyce's reaction of gently beating her head against the wall. But! I can see how other people enjoyed it, and in retrospect, it was unlikely the Duffer brothers were going to write gunmen shooting Hop or Joyce while the kids are having their romantic duet moment.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:47 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


OK, as far as I'm concerned, the only acceptable denouement for team nerd is that they spent the rest of their summer building fiery weapons of hellboom DETH. This is the third time they've run afoul of otherworldly horrors that can only be shut down with (a) overwhelming telekinetic force and (b) fire (and ok ok sometimes fought to a draw with an ash bat). And the right answer -- FIREBALL -- has been in the dramaturgical text since S1. And they just used it because they ran out of (a). Is any one of them REALLY going to believe that they're totally safe now and of course there's never going to be anything coming from the upside down ever again? THREE TIMES. No. They are not going to believe that. And these are not kids who sit around waiting for somebody else to fix this problem. These are kids that are going to learn some damn engineering and build automatic weapons with bullets having the combined effects of napalm and dynamite.

Billy :: Boromir. Not a perfect analogy, but there's some things in common there.

I'm already writing my Hop headcanon: he pulls a Dr. Manhattan on us, and reassembles himself into the superpowered Dad that is slightly better equipped to parent a superpowered daughter. But not Dr. Manhattan power levels, because that'd be bad for him and he'd basically punch the planet in the face. Just maybe phasing or something.

More plausibly I guess he's "the American."

Caged demogorgon: how exactly are they keeping something that can push through the fabric of reality in a cage?
posted by wildblueyonder at 10:57 AM on July 6 [4 favorites]


> Yeah, The Thing is a blind spot for me (and is obviously all over this season.) I was 2 years old in 1982 and by the time I was 10-12 it had zero adolescent caché. I wonder how many kids are searching for it on Netflix now, though.

I was negative years old in 1982, so I'm sure there's a lot of 80s movie references/allusions that went over my head, especially anything related to The Thing - haven't seen a single John Carpenter movie. Perhaps I'll be one of the kids googling it soon. ;)

> Correct me if I'm wrong but no one in the 80s called Star Wars, A New Hope yet. I remember that happening much later in the 90s when the specialized versions came out.

Yeah, that leapt out at me as being questionable, too. I'm more familiar with "A New Hope" being known as such after The Phantom Menace got released.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:59 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


One Hop possibility is that he was sucked through rather than vaporized and is stuck in the Upside Down. That could even work with the American scenario, if he found his way back out through the gate in Russia or was found by a Russian exploratory team there to capture another demogorgon for breeding/training or whatever they're up to.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:33 AM on July 6 [7 favorites]


If you like the show and haven't seen the Thing, give it a shot. I think it holds up surprisingly well.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:54 PM on July 6 [14 favorites]


I'm looking forward to watching El learn how to handle not having powers for the very first time. It's going to be difficult. And I love that she was the one that needed saving for a change, that the others saved her, that the parents/adults stepped up.

This A.V. article gets at that message and is worth reading.
posted by Fizz at 1:06 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


I wasn't too annoyed by the Neverending Story bit because the Duffer Brothers run everything into the ground anyway. Erica cutting off the call and saying 'enough' was good.

I liked this season way better than S2, and maybe more than S1, though I don't remember S1 well at all
posted by fleacircus at 3:47 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


That said, I was pretty disappointed in the monster. The army of doubles never did much that was interesting, and the final form was pretty hamburger-helper-y looking (though the effect of people sploshing down to add their meat to the pile was strong and gross). It felt like the monster was whatever peril they needed at the moment.
posted by fleacircus at 4:01 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


It did sort of irk me that that the monster was a sort of generic Geigeresque lump of toothed muscle with slime. With the obligatory double mandible.

It's a mind flayer — I wanted something more Illithid, which is to say more like the Monster Manual's Lovecraftian blend of pachyderm and cephalopod.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:16 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


My theory is there's some kind of portal between Russia and Hawkins. There was literally nobody in the base when the army swept in other than Murray or Joyce.
posted by kmz at 8:36 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


Steve struggling to come up with anything besides Animal House, the Star Wars with the teddy bears, and the movie with Alex P. Keaton.

That actually seemed pretty out of character to me. I was expecting him to name Risky Business as one of his favs.

Anyway, I'm just gonna say it, depowering a character is a bullshit plot point.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:24 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


The Neverending Story duet was cute but would have been cuter at any place AFTER Suzie puked up the numbers. Like, let's place this thing here where it manages to make Suzie look stupidly demanding and also makes Dustin look bad because he's been calling her near perfect for 8 episodes.

Also. The epilogue...
1. Why the eff would Jonathan be moving with Joyce and Will? His whole deal in the earlier episode with Nancy and her not being realistic. Um, go shack up with her and find out.

2. The American better be Hopper.

3. I liked that Max was shaken by Billy's death. Having someone who is abusive die is complicated. I kind of needed Billy to die, though. Bye, Discount Jared Leto.

4. I felt bad for Will/Noah Schnapp. All he did was grab his neck and look sad.

5. Mike spent most of the season being an asshole. However, I remember tons of boys who were just exactly like him growing up so not unrealistic. Not sure we needed to spend so much time on it, though.

6. Love Erica but feels like Lucas got screwed because of her screentime.

7. Season 3, they finally figured out how to effectively harness Joyce Byers/Winona Ryder. Her tone was just handled so much better.

8. I ended up really liking Robin and the whole Robin and Steve relationship.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:37 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


The Neverending Story duet was cute but would have been cuter at any place AFTER Suzie puked up the numbers. Like, let's place this thing here where it manages to make Suzie look stupidly demanding and also makes Dustin look bad because he's been calling her near perfect for 8 episodes.

It only looks stupidly demanding to us because we are seeing Dustin's perspective. From Suzy's perspective, she's been sitting around with her strict parents rereading Wizard of Earthsea over and over and hearing nothing from her Dusty-Bun and she's bored and pissed. So Suzy could be thinking that "yeah, sure you have to save the world, dude, you also ghosted on me for a week." Mike lied about "my nana is sick" to El, Suzy could be skeptical that this is an equally ridiculous lie and from her perspective, she's just calling him on his shit.

And upthread someone said that they would have liked it better without the backing instrumentation - the reason we're hearing it is because Suzy and Dustin are hearing it in their own heads.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:15 AM on July 7 [18 favorites]


That actually seemed pretty out of character to me. I was expecting him to name Risky Business as one of his favs.

I don't think it's that Steve hasn't seen movies he likes. It's that Steve is a dingus who can't interview to save his life.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:15 AM on July 7 [16 favorites]


[yanks resume aggressively]
posted by tobascodagama at 6:56 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


For me, this season had some failures in tone.
There were things that just felt-off--like they were fan service, not natural character development. And it mucked around with the tone.

Take the constant bickering between Winona and the Chief. It went on. And on. And on. I get that the weird dude is supposed to be the stand in for the audience when he's like just go ahead and sleep together. But a) The scene goes on too long and b) He did the exact same thing last season. Plus the bickering is this light hearted whomp-womp where it's like people are becoming part of the flesh monster and your kids are about to be eaten enough.

And the Never Ending Story thing. Sure, it's cute. But it interrupts the flow of the scene. Now, I get that some people may hear that and be like ohhhhh but for me it's one of those things where I never saw it. So to basically have a musical interrupt the climax of a Stephen King novel is like what.

And with the New Coke. I get that people my age were all exercised by New Coke. But I wasn't, for whatever reason. I mean, I'm the target age, so I get when Lucas is talking about, it's supposed to make me laugh. But I'm like I have no idea what you're talking about, please just tell the goddamned story.

Finally, I think this does the thing of putting a better movie in your not as good movie. The Thing is clearly a major influence. But The Thing does IMO a much much better job of building up the dread and suspense w/r//t the monster. Before The Thing becomes this lurching mass of protoplasm with teeth, it is all these horrifying versions of things it's absorbed (remember the scene of the dog in the cage?)

Here, there are a few horrifying moments with the rats bursting, but basically the only OH SHIT moment I had was when the two flayed dudes dissolved and the nature of meat Voltron became clear. But after that, there's nothing more mysterious about meat Volton. It just sort of lurches about.

YOU PROBABLY ALL HATE ME RIGHT NOW but let me say I think the series has its merits. I just don't think it lives up to the hype. And feeling catered to always makes me feel grumpy.
posted by angrycat at 7:09 AM on July 7 [16 favorites]


6. Love Erica but feels like Lucas got screwed because of her screentime.

Yeah he didn't really do very much, even he and Max's relationship was more about Mike and El. IIRC he liked to make gadgets, and unless I missed it, they didn't say where they got the mega-fireworks from, so it seemed like that should have been Lucas' contribution at least and made me wonder if I missed a line or there was a deleted scene.

Your 7 & 8 are maybe why I liked this season better. Joyce stands up for herself and isn't always the anguished/crazy mom.

As for Hop being an asshole, well I guess the tolerance or even veneration of men being assholes *IS* a pretty 8O's thing.
posted by fleacircus at 8:22 AM on July 7


I've actually never seen the Neverending Story, but I still loved that scene, so I think it might not just be about "I get that reference!" I agree that it interrupts the flow of the scene; that's why I like it. It's incongruous and makes no sense from a story-telling perspective, which makes it feel weirdly real to me. The juxtaposition with Meat Voltron lumbering behind the kids in the car especially raises the absurdity to sublime for me.
posted by biogeo at 8:49 AM on July 7 [18 favorites]


For me, this season had some failures in tone.

No hate at all here, you are free to like what you like, but I disagree. One of my favorite things about Stranger Things is that —just like adolescence— the tone is all over the place. Comedy and tragedy, childishness and sophistication, terror and tenderness.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:07 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


When it comes to the kids themselves, Stranger Things is not King or Spielberg, it is sitcoms, or like .......... Solarbabies.
posted by fleacircus at 9:32 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Yeah he didn't really do very much, even he and Max's relationship was more about Mike and El.

Yeah, I was frustrated by how Lucas and Max's relationship was just kind of shunted off to the side. I actually didn't even realize that Max had broken up with Lucas when El broke up with Mike, but then all the characters acted like it was obvious? And in the epilogue, no idea whether Lucas and Max were back together.

What I found especially weird about that is that there was a ton of emphasis last season on how "dangerous" Max and Lucas's relationship was for both of them (Max because of Billy, and Lucas because of the "destabilizing the friend group" thing). Also, Max was giving El all this relationship advice and going about her relationship with Lucas like it was all old hat for her, but then it turned out that her stepfather beat his ex-wife, beats his son, and possibly beats Max's mom and Max, too? I mean, it's going to affect her ideas about relationships and boys/men that she's being raised by a stepfather like that. Which you'd think would be a weird experience for Lucas, too, to have his first girlfriend coming to the table with some really different assumptions about how relationships work and how people behave in them. His family definitely doesn't seem similar to Max's, lol. Also, there was the thing last season of Billy being racist and really aggressive toward Lucas, and that was dropped, even as Billy became a bigger villain.

What was also strange about Billy's aggression toward Lucas not coming up again was that it seemed actually MORE appropriate in terms of the larger storylines now? There's a fair amount of screentime spent on establishing that Billy's dad beating his mom had a big affect on him (and on his mom, obviously), and if he's worried that when Max gets into a relationship, her boyfriend will beat the shit out of her, too, that adds an interesting angle to his attempts to keep Max away from boys and to him getting violent with Lucas. Also, Hopper is meanwhile having a parallel storyline this season of being very "protective" of El in her relationship with Mike, although in Hopper's case, it seems like he's mostly worried about losing his relationship with her because of her falling in love/growing up/hooking up, rather than that El is going to get hurt and possibly have to flee and leave him behind (like Billy's mom). It seemed like the show tried SO HARD to mine El and Mike's not-especially-complex relationship and Hopper's feelings about that relationship, but then just dropped the parallel storyline between Max/Lucas/Billy.

I also think that it's weird that there was a lot of emphasis on El being under too much pressure and being forced to use her powers so much even while there was really no attention paid to how it feels to the other kids to have so much less power than her and to need her rescuing them all the time. Again with Max in particular, I feel like if her stepfather is always going after Billy but leaving Max basically scot-free, that's a weird dynamic that is obviously going to cause lots of problems between Billy and Max, and is probably going to make Max's feelings about constantly using El as a shield against the Mind Flayer (and any other monsters) pretty complex, too, and maybe different from the other kids' perceptions of it. But instead of any individual characterization for Max or any depth to Max and El's relationship, it's just the girls (Max and Nancy) scolding Mike about being too controlling when he doesn't want El using her powers so much.

Not trying to turn this show into a drama, I just feel like not a lot of thought was given to the characters' emotional arcs or even their individual perspectives, and I think it hurt the season as a whole. The plotting was really good this season, I thought, but I feel like it was at the expense of the characterization and even the atmosphere. (Still sad that S3 had no Outsider Art projects at the Byers' house).
posted by rue72 at 9:53 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


unless I missed it, they didn't say where they got the mega-fireworks from, so it seemed like that should have been Lucas' contribution at least and made me wonder if I missed a line or there was a deleted scene.

In the general store where they're treating El after she got bit by the Mindflayer. Max has taken over doing first aid for El's leg, and has sent Lucas off in search of a bowl and some water, but while he's looking for a bowl he finds a firework display and gets distracted by that first. ...Fortunately, as it turns out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]




Thanks. My attention was wandering quite a bit during the mall scenes.. there was a point where they were hiding from the Mind Flayer in various parts of the mall that felt like it lasted twenty subjective minutes.
posted by fleacircus at 1:42 PM on July 7


It felt like Suzie hadn't earned the right to be that snotty about the song since basically the second thing Dustybun did when he got home was set up Cerebro to contact her and he didn't hear back. Whereas we have a couple seasons of the other kids growing into their various emotional dysfunctions. (My first thought when the actual song started was that Gabriella Pizzolo has a lovely singing voice, though. And also I somehow remembered the lyrics to the song.)

The kids hauled a cartload of fireworks out of the store. Let's be honest here - setting off a bunch of fireworks in a mall would be super fun.

And yeah, it felt like Max, El, and Mike hid behind that one endcap in the gap for freaking ever.

I did love that Joyce hauled off and hit and kicked the mayor.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:52 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


rue72, I like the way you think. There would be lots more time for that in a novelization, where the kids' interior lives could be expressed more. But given the limited time per season, the number of characters that need to be served, and the necessities of moving along a suspenseful plot as well, I think they did a decent job. I would totally watch a 20-hour season delving deeper into the characters' motivations, fears, and growing edges. But that would be a very different show.
posted by rikschell at 2:27 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Just finished, so thoughts!

The Russians were building a wormhole - the straw through paper imagines one side to another and they needed a weak end to punch through to. So, I expect it's Hopper in there having been zapped through - he was standing in a very clearly effect-marked zone before for the explosion. But the possibility that it's Papa introduces some doubt.

I hope that the Leaving Hawkins sign means that further seasons will take place somewhere else. Maybe let the characters catch up to the actors' ages so poor Will does not need to hunch so much?

Brett Gelman was wonderful as always, especially following a strong showing on Fleabag.

I've been working on an alien-oriented project and was glad to see my theory of how Grey groupthink works is similar to the Flayed. Although, I wish the Flayed had more to do than turn into muscle milk.

I liked this one better that season 2, but agree with the worry that they're locked into one flavor of Strangeness and would like to see them branch out.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:32 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'm clearly an outlier, but I thought this was the worst of the three seasons, barring a few nice moments and a lot of fun enjoying the sets and costumes, which were really well done. There were a lot of long boring fistfights. The last two episodes were exasperating and some scenes dragged on far too long with no real advancement of the action. Not only did the characters not evolve, neither did the plot, really - as someone said above, once you realized that monster food is PEOPLE there were no new wrinkles on that and it just became a grind. There were also logic holes you could drive TODFATHER through and never scrape the paint.

I did spot some fun anachronisms, including cakes in the grocery store in cake-shaped plastic clamshell containers, which had not yet consumed our entire food lives and were not yet in widespread bakery use. The technology for grocery store cake holding was a paperboard box with a plastic film window.

I didn't realize we were expecting a season 4 and hoped everything would wrap up this season. The ending was sort of an exhausting prospect (really? more Russians?) and the demogorgon did not get more interesting for being a different color. I'm not sure how many really interesting elements there are left. This season basically felt devoid of ideas. If the rest is basically a collection of tired action film tropes, fights, and car chases like this one was, I will be sad but at least my expectations of a deeply interesting metaphysical plot have already been adjusted.

So this season was more than meh for me, it was actively disappointing. But I'm sure I'll watch the final one anyway.
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


This season basically felt devoid of ideas. If the rest is basically a collection of tired action film tropes, fights, and car chases like this one was, I will be sad but at least my expectations of a deeply interesting metaphysical plot have already been adjusted.

This is sort of where I landed, too. The monster has been essentially the same thing for all three seasons, just with slightly different flavors of goop. The character stuff is OK, but overall the huge focus on relationships isn't super interesting. Pretty much every other aspect of the plot seems like either a direct reference or a copy of some very generic idea. It's 'fan service, the show'. And please, tone down the constant "direct reference of the song lyrics in the soundtrack to what the characters are currently feeling."
posted by codacorolla at 8:49 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong but no one in the 80s called Star Wars, A New Hope yet. I remember that happening much later in the 90s when the specialized versions came out.

I am surprised no one else has stepped up to nerdsplain, but it had been A New Hope since its 1981 re-release.

And really only the Lucasfilm marketing department and the Comic Book Guys of the world called it “A New Hope.” Real people called it Star Wars.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Also, I like that the very firstest scene of the season took place at the end of June 1984 and concluded with a disappointed general telling rando-scientist-gut-whom-we-later-know-as-Alexei, “You have one year.”

He really did.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:21 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


There was no crafting with Joyce this season. I am disappoint!
posted by acidnova at 10:04 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed pretty much everything this season served up to me, but I definitely felt there were some missed opportunities to serve up more/better stuff. In particular, the bodysnatched townspeople were a lot scarier as people than as a giant, lumbering, blind (?) and fairly unintelligent meat-beast; I think they could have gone far more interesting places with the plot had they left the group facing a town full of flayed-zombies. I also liked the notion that the Mind Flayer was "building something" more early on in the season when it seemed more like the Mind Flayer was just trying to build this weird Stepford-ish twisted version of the town, maybe trying to understand humans better through warped imitation. Just building a giant meat-beast was pretty meh by comparison; like if all you need all these humans for is just their raw volume of meat and bone maybe just go tear up a dairy farm and be done building your meat-monster in like an hour? (Also never really explained, unless I missed it, was why they were eating all those chemicals?)

My first guess was that Hopper, having survived some (admittedly brief) time in the Upside Down before, would've taken his chances and jumped through the rift pre-explosion, but he could certainly be the unspecified American instead. Really though: another one of the problems with this season is that the cast is getting overstuffed. The core group of kids suffered the most from this, the show not really seeming to know what to do with Will, Jonathan, Lucas, Max or even Mike all that much. (I am especially sad for Lucas that his biggest "moment" of the season was a jarringly weird and fourth-wall-breaking New Coke ad.) They definitely can't afford to introduce more characters next season, and if they want to trim the cast back a bit it might be for the best, even if it means leaving Hopper dead.

I also feel like this season was a little less "subverting classic 80s tropes" and a little more "actually leaning into/relying on tropes that have been around since the 80s". Major exception being Robin's coming out, which was nicely done; but in general I felt like this season played a lot of other things completely straight (no pun intended) that the previous seasons would've tried a little harder to put a twist on. Steve winning a fight, is a glaring example, since his previous failures-to-win were basically all inversions of audience expectations and yet here he wins against a Soviet military guy, exactly as we expected. The worst abuse though was the repeated reliance on plot time to let characters hide behind (a hospital door/a car/an endcap/whatever) while a monster searches for them for what feels like ten minutes, while meanwhile other stuff happens to other characters. I didn't hate the Neverending Story duet on its own merits, but it did annoy me mainly because it was like the 37th example of "these other dramatic high-stakes high-tension plotlines happening elsewhere will inexplicably pause for 3 minutes while we do this bit". And in that one case, that was intended as part of the humor of the scene...but that humor completely fell flat because of how many times they'd played the same thing perfectly straight before.

Anyway, I'm just gonna say it, depowering a character is a bullshit plot point.

This is 100% true. Also depowering your hero is almost always made unnecessary by having your villain(s) be smarter/better/harder to deal with. Zombie apocalypse and/or invasion of the bodysnatchers both seemed like solid problems that El wouldn't be able to just poof away which only adds to puzzlement that they didn't go anywhere like that.

I still liked this season better than Season 2, mainly because even with all those flaws it still felt more tightly-plotted and cohesive, and generally better paced. Hard to compare it to Season 1 since I had so little idea of what to expect, going into Season 1.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:07 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]


One of the weirdest aspects of the season is how the show tries to have its cake and eat it, too. "Look, a cultural reference! Look, those stores you remember! Ha! New Coke!" They want the world of Hawkins to be real.

And yet it's so devoid of people that it constantly feels artificial. How many empty buildings did they run through? Nobody in the hospital but one person? Grocery stores conveniently vacant. The mall that's simultaneously full of shoppers/moviegoers AND instantly cleared out for setpiece battles. A carnival where you can shoot somebody openly and nobody bats an eye.

The duet between Suzie-poo and Dusty-bun felt like so much padding and while on some level I want to applaud its audacity, on another level I want to shake everyone involved and say, "not every card on the idea wall has to get filmed." That idea was bad. Like Cousin Oliver bad.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:06 AM on July 8 [14 favorites]


I just realized what Meat Voltron had been reminding me of all season: the Dark Overlords of the Universe from Howard the Duck. Multiple legs, weird tentacles, replace Jeffery Jones with Billy...

That's another thing the ending was missing: Lea Thompson playing guitar and rocking out.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:21 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


For me there was only one really big negative on this season. Where. Was. Steve's. Bat.

For me it was, "Where is Mr. Clarke?" When they needed Planck's Constant, my instant thought was, Oh cool! they will ask the one guy who's bound to know, and bring him back in to the story line! After all, he is the smartest dude in the tri-state area. But no! He vanished after helping Joyce understand electromagnetism. WTF? (Or did I miss something?)
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:35 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


That's another thing the ending was missing: Lea Thompson playing guitar and rocking out.

You mean Alex P. Keaton's mom?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:03 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


Also never really explained, unless I missed it, was why they were eating all those chemicals?

It was fertilizer. I took it that they were being driven to eat fertilizer so as to make themselves more nutritious for the monster. Basically Miracle Gro.
posted by Miko at 4:05 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


I also feel like this season was a little less "subverting classic 80s tropes" and a little more "actually leaning into/relying on tropes that have been around since the 80s".

I'm definitely still enjoying this show on the level of a fun action/adventure romp with slightly better characterization than those usually get, but I agree that it's getting a bit less special as it goes on. Hopefully season 4 can scale things back a bit and recapture some of the magic.

Speaking of which, one of the things I loved most about this season is that Joyce's really low stakes "what happened to my magnets?" storyline gave the character a lot of room to just breathe and be something more than a worried mom. I want more of that next season, for all the characters.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:44 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Joyce's really low stakes "what happened to my magnets?

Oh god thank you for reminding me of one of the huge plot loopholes that infuriated me especially for a science fiction show! Yeah, we get that the fridge magnets drop off. But what about all of the other magnets In everyday life? There would have been a lot more obvious and serious repercussions to a loss of magnetism - radio and walkie speakers would not work, for one. Cars wouldn’t work. Many household appliances like fans, mixers, blenders, garbage disposals, etc would stop. It’s not only an error, but a missed opportunity for a more serious enormity of complications for the gang to face.
posted by Miko at 7:05 AM on July 8 [30 favorites]


I loved it. Loved, loved, loved it.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:13 AM on July 8


Felt to me like they ran out of ideas a long time ago and just kept hitting "pulse" on the Nostalgia Blender. Helps to fish out the big chunks of anachronisms with a fork if you're gonna do that but whatever. I'd watch these kids table read a phone book while Winona mugs in the background for six seasons and a movie, sure, but I think this show has been coasting on pure charisma since like halfway through the first season.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:26 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


> For me it was, "Where is Mr. Clarke?" When they needed Planck's Constant, my instant thought was, Oh cool! they will ask the one guy who's bound to know, and bring him back in to the story line! After all, he is the smartest dude in the tri-state area. But no! He vanished after helping Joyce understand electromagnetism. WTF? (Or did I miss something?)

I also thought this! It felt very contrived as a way to bring Suzie in, even though I liked that she was a glasses-wearing LeGuin-reading girl who could be reliably relied upon for Planck's constant and that we got some resolution to the Chekhov's gifted summer camp girlfriend from ep 1.

I like to think that Mr. Clarke was out at a Weird Al concert during the finale, blissfully unaware of the chaos back in Hawkins.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:55 AM on July 8 [11 favorites]


Anyway, I'm just gonna say it, depowering a character is a bullshit plot point.

I saw a very plausible take on this somewhere: it was never really about raising the stakes in the final battle, rather they had to depower her so that she wouldn't be able to look for Hopper and establish definitively whether he's alive and, if so, where.

They also raised a point that never would have occurred to me - last season, in the sister episode, it's established that she's never tried to look for 'Papa' because she really doesn't want to. So the theory is, 1) "the American" may actually be Papa but 2) Hopper is alive somewhere else, very possibly in the Upside-Down.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:04 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I took it that the meaningful look between Joyce and Elle was all the information Elle needed about Hopper's fate. They didn't say anything, Elle didn't seem to need any vocal confirmation or clarification. Like when Leia doesn't actually say anything to Rey about Solo, Rey knew what happened because she has Force empathy a bit like Elle.
posted by adept256 at 11:32 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


> For me it was, "Where is Mr. Clarke?" When they needed Planck's Constant, my instant thought was, Oh cool! they will ask the one guy who's bound to know, and bring him back in to the story line! After all, he is the smartest dude in the tri-state area. But no! He vanished after helping Joyce understand electromagnetism. WTF? (Or did I miss something?)

To be fair, they didn't have a cell phone, or even a land-line, to call him from. They had cerebro, built specifically to facilitate contact with Suzie.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:47 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


I saw a very plausible take on this somewhere: it was never really about raising the stakes in the final battle, rather they had to depower her so that she wouldn't be able to look for Hopper and establish definitively whether he's alive and, if so, where.

Oh, for sure. But that's kind of what makes it a bullshit plot point, though. I mean, we all know Eleven will get her powers back next season, right when she finally needs them again. The only reason she lost them is that the writers couldn't think of a way to maintain the ambiguity of Hopper's fate otherwise. It's really forced.

For me, the only way a depowering story works is when it's driven by the character. Like the "Spider-man no more" type of storyline where a powered character rejects the Call when the pressure gets to be too much for them and tries to get rid of their powers. Or even, as much as X-Men 3 sucked, it made sense that a lot of mutants would willingly submit to the "cure" to escape persecution or, in Rogue's case, be able to touch people without killing them.

This depowering isn't that, it's just the writers playing chess against themselves, and that's not good TV IMO.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:56 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I just kept wanting them to give El a goddamn Slurpee or ice cream or enormous cookie cake or anything at all to power all that telekinetic heroism. Like, how do they expect her powers to keep working if she hasn't had any snacks since those M&Ms last night? Mike didn't even give her the entire bag after she looted the entire vending machine for them. Sharing is not caring here.

Working hypothesis on El's continued depowered status three months later: Joyce provides much healthier meals to her household than Hopper did, and all those Eggos were crucial nutrition for a growing super-powered girl.
posted by asperity at 12:18 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


But what about all of the other magnets In everyday life?

Yeah, such as the press-to-open tinted glass doors on Steve's parent's entertainment cabinet, that they no doubt own! My immediate reaction was, "What do the Duffer bros think holds the fridge door closed?" It's definitely just something you have to roll with, but it's pretty dumb.

(Really it is too bad the Duffer Bros seem completely insensitive to music because there's a whole world of commercial nostalgia there, such as all the various worthless and frustrating products that existed to organize cassette tapes.)
posted by fleacircus at 12:22 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


(I'm willing to forgive the depowering storyline if it results in El tracking down Kali -- via an episode or two of hard work by Detective Byers -- for help learning to reactivate her powers.)

Unrelated, did anyone catch where the Byers' were moving to? Was it Chicago or something?
posted by tobascodagama at 12:29 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


And did Nancy ever get to sell her story?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:59 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Stupid thing I would like to happen...Will gains powers and El does NOT regain hers. Since Will has been in the upside down and had contact with the upside down creatures and was aware of Mind Flayer activity I am all for him gaining powers so that we don't have to sit through another season of Will being sad and grabbing his neck.

I'm sure El will get her powers back but I would jump off the stupid cliff with the writers if Will got powers.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:04 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


did anyone catch where the Byers' were moving to?

I definitely did not notice anything and assume it was left unsaid on purpose - like, next season we'll find they were asked to participate in some Army program to fight the CCCP. There's no other obvious reason unrelated to the Big Evil prompting their move (except of course leaving both the scene of their trauma and the community in which their only support is located).

I dunno though, maybe Melvald's finally closed.

I am all for him gaining powers so that we don't have to sit through another season of Will being sad and grabbing his neck.

And maybe he could telekinesize his own hair into a decent cut.
posted by Miko at 1:16 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't know what they can do with the expanding cast at this point, but it is kind of distracting to see half of them get satisfying arcs this season (Dustin, Erica, Robin and Steve were wonderful in a similar way to the stuff they're aping, e.g. the Goonies, even if I wasn't a huge fan of the season overall) while everyone else languishes due to time constraints.
posted by codacorolla at 1:20 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


> To be fair, they didn't have a cell phone, or even a land-line, to call him from. They had cerebro, built specifically to facilitate contact with Suzie.

I was thinking they could use Cerebro to tune into a frequency that Mr. Clarke would be able to hear on his own radio kit at home (if he was at home).
posted by rather be jorting at 1:36 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


> I am all for him gaining powers so that we don't have to sit through another season of Will being sad and grabbing his neck.

Yes! I was kind of expecting him to gain powers back in s2 as a result of all the body invasion he had to endure. Even if he doesn't gain powers, just... let him have a chance to do more next season. Please let Will in season 4 get a little more agency besides being abducted, invaded, left behind while his friends pursue their relationships, and sadly grabbing his neck.
posted by rather be jorting at 1:38 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


And maybe he could telekinesize his own hair into a decent cut.

Complete bleach-job Flock-of-Seagulls or I walk.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:39 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


You know, I'll give some credit to the show because this didn't occur to me at the time, but a friend just brought it up and now it's bothering me: HOW FUCKING QUICKLY DID THEY BUILD THAT SECRET UNDERGROUND BASE? Based on the season's first scene and later conversations with the poor dead Russian guy, it seems like the Hawkins base wasn't even planned a year before the events of this season. I don't care how many corrupt local politicians you have in your pocket, I don't think that's logistically possible.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:41 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


It's the sort of thing that was authentically hand-waved in that kind of 80s source material though.

Some other nostalgia items I now realize the season reminded me of:

Won't you gentlemen have a....Pepsi? (Spies Like Us)

Cloak and Dagger

The interrogation scene is very Marathon Man.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:49 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


just spin the show off into Robin and Steve exploring implausible cold war facilities with their non-sexual chemistry and their child friends and leave the increasingly incoherent Upside Down business behind
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:49 PM on July 8 [23 favorites]


I would also accept a series featuring Robin and Steve's video rental store adventures.
posted by asperity at 2:52 PM on July 8 [33 favorites]


Season 4: The video store is under siege by demowhatevers, Steve complains that he wasn't even supposed to be there that day.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:58 PM on July 8 [20 favorites]


I'm sure El will get her powers back but I would jump off the stupid cliff with the writers if Will got powers.

I'm on this boat. It doesn't even have to be telekinesis. He can already loosely "read" from whatever the network is that the mind flayer uses to control other organisms. Give him back something of the ability to see the related activity, like he could in S2. Or let him start to write to it -- maybe he can influence the behavior a demogorgon or vines. Or he spent enough time flashing between here and the upside down. Maybe he can start to do the flea-flip across.

Or maybe he can just start to learn how to do some of what El does from her.

Or maybe as the kid who gave away his D&D manuals he's going to be the first to pick up some engineering textbooks and build fireball weapons.
posted by wildblueyonder at 4:07 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


It would make sense for Will to be able to do something related to what the Upside Down creatures do. Actual bodily shapeshifting would be too over the top but maybe some kind of phase shift or energy drain or warging?
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:33 PM on July 8


Just finished here ...

1) I actively could not stand Hopper at any point -- his character was more cartoonish even than before, I thought, and I didn't buy him and Joyce having that kind of chemistry. They were just annoyed with each other, and I was annoyed with them both.

2) I was hoping for the Russians to turn out to be the good guys, but I knew it was unlikely.

3) Also was hoping for a lot more from the "absorbed" ... the Dawn of the Dead was such an obvious reference, and it was 1980! I almost hoped the Demogorgon would win and, as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (spoiler alert!) we would just see all of Hawkins reduced to brain-dead Reaganites. OK, it didn't have to go that far, but I wanted it to go farther.

4) All the boyfriend-girlfriend stuff was very 80s-teen-movie, so I was okay with it.

5) The NeverEnding Duet was AWESOME! Suzie had NO reason to think that Dustin was really saving the world, and to be fair he was incredibly distractible by trivia throughout, JUST LIKE A KID! As someone said above, the little duet was the quickest way to get the code, and they did it.

6) If "The American" is Hopper, as I expect him to be, I'm really hoping his scripts improve.

7) The Duffer bros need to get over their need to see teenagers literally thrown against walls. Who fights like that, anyway? I don't care how strong you are. And that's just too much violence against minors ... I blame Harry Potter, strangely enough. Jeezus. It's very 80s to have characters tortured and beat to pulps and still able to function, but it's not right, and I especially don't want to see kids beaten that way.

OK, Duffers?

Having said all that, I only really hated eps 2-7; the first and last were fine. Poor Alexei.
posted by allthinky at 7:15 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


I don't think depowering is a bullshit plot-point, especially as it's built up here. S1 saw Eleven saving the day by basically banishing herself to the Upside-Down. S2 saw her close the massive gate, making her powers seem almost limitless.

And here, she's using them for fun a lot. She's confident, which is great. But she's also in a situation where Max hasn't seen what can happen when she overdoes things, and Mike, frustrating as he is, is the only one concerned with what could happen to her. And he's got a point! Eleven won't stop herself as long as there's something she can do, and whatever it took to get the Mind-Flayer out of her did it. Whether that was just the last straw or whether she inadvertently removed her connection to the Upside-Down or whatever, that was it.

But importantly, when it came down to it, she had more than telepathy and psychokenesis in her toolbox, and brought Billy back with empathy and memory. Depowering isn't bullshit - another climax where someone solves everything by being all-powerful is. Eleven is still resourceful and has other qualities, which is a stronger moment.

And now we get a Final Season that starts with Eleven and Will hanging out somewhere other than Hawkins, and won't that be a thing?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:38 PM on July 8 [22 favorites]


The gorging on fertilizer reminded me of the film Slither.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:32 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Finished up last night. Agreed with the observation above about Hopper and Joyce. It just didn't seem real at all, and he was too far into bumbling fool territory for me. The two moments I thought he was best was during last episode: the letter-writing scene and when he came back to his old badass self for the big finale.

We thought the Dustin/Suzie duet was cute. Max and Robin were stand-outs. Erica annoyed me at first but grew on me and by the end, I liked her. We were glad to see Billy redeemed, if only at the last moment. I had been crossing my fingers for it since last season when it was clear his dad had been abusive. Wish-fulfillment: he is redeemed earlier, survives, and returns with a bunch of mulleted, denim-jacketed, glam-haired heavy metal toughs to help do battle with the next monster, Iron Maiden or Judas Priest playing in the background. Oh well.

Would love to know how in the hell a secret base of who-knows-how-many (uniformed) Soviet soldiers just empties out in the blink of an eye. There was no fire-fight with the cavalry, no prisoners/arrests, nothing as far as we could tell. However they all got out of there, it's a near-certainty that Hop went with 'em.

The older kids want to watch The Thing now. Bonus!
posted by jquinby at 7:11 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


And now we get a Final Season that starts with Eleven and Will hanging out somewhere other than Hawkins

Is it confirmed that next season is the last?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:23 AM on July 9


The Duffers have said in the past that they have ideas for up to five seasons.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:41 AM on July 9


I'm not sure how the escalation of the heavy action keeps up from here. The kids just took down (presumably) one of the pre-eminent weapons research programs of the Soviet Army. Even that felt pretty shoehorned in to whacky small town adventures. I guess you could do a siege style storyline, where the US Government quarantines all of Hawkins? Follow the characters elsewhere? The kids buy tickets to Germany, travel to Siberia and break Hopp out of the Gulag? Any approach seems sort of odd given what's happened in the past, and honestly another foregone conclusion of fighting and beating The Upside-down feels equally boring (unless you do an Empire Strikes back thing and have it win before the climax of the final season).
posted by codacorolla at 10:55 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


they have ideas for up to five seasons.

Not encouraging, IMO, because it sort of implies the rambling of the plot that's already started to happen instead of a tight, clear arc that deals with its loose ends.
posted by Miko at 11:12 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


To be clear, that means "up to season five". So, two more past what we have now. Not "five more future seasons".
posted by tobascodagama at 11:34 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


The Duffers have said in the past that they have ideas for up to five seasons.

Pretty sure the plot brainstorming for this season went something like this: "We need another 80s thing." "Malls!" "Yeah! Mall rats!" "With literal rats!" and here we are.
posted by asperity at 11:38 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


And now we get a Final Season that starts with Eleven and Will

El and Will. Wi11 and ll. Also, "will" has two meanings in English: mental focus and something that becomes in the future.

Scott Clarke might correctly call my associations there apophenia to the extent that I'd use them to speculate the writers might take things to a place where Will is powered too. But then again, Joyce was right about the magnets.

#justiceForBennie #powersForWill
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:29 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


But then again, Joyce was right about the magnets.

"Fucking magnets, how do they work?"

"They don't."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:45 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


final episode hinges on the value of Planck's constant

They are experimenting with inter-dimensional gates - they probably have better numbers than publicly available.

just the souped-up budget

Definitely felt like S2 was phoning it in budget-wise, and that this was a big spend.

S2 felt like a slog to watch through, I found it boring in many parts. Not so with S3.

...but it was also an object lesson in the advice Dustin had been giving Steve... And in a balls-to-the-wall finale like that, you need to not just know that we're fighting, but need a glimpse into what we're fighting for, and that sequence did it so much for me that I had to watch it twice.

So much this... It was perfect. You need a bit of comic relief - and interspersed with all the cut scenes of other characters going "WTF".

There were a lot of long boring fistfights.

Well, mainly with Hop - he sure can take a beating... repeatedly...

Real people called it Star Wars.

Exactly.

would've taken his chances and jumped through the rift pre-explosion

That's my current theory, came out through a Russian gate, or with their exploration team.

The mall that's simultaneously full of shoppers/moviegoers AND instantly cleared out for setpiece battles.

Disagree - they escaped and hid in the theater for the last showing - then, when everyone was leaving the Russians were checking people on their way out.

Typically - even now, most malls still close stores/foodcourt areas by 9pm, and the movie theater areas are gated/guarded to be separate, people just can't wander around a mall late at night.

...where you can shoot somebody openly and nobody bats an eye...

Silenced gun, someone to immediately help hold him up and around to a quiet area - I've been in a mall once where someone was stabbed 20 feet from me - and 90% of the people walking by didn't notice a thing, or bat an eye. (It was a bit of a PTSD situation for me, because for weeks I tried to find more information in the news/media and nothing... nothing)

...we get that the fridge magnets drop off. But what about all of the other magnets In everyday life?... Cars wouldn't work...

Yeah, that occurred to me as well.

...HOW FUCKING QUICKLY DID THEY BUILD THAT SECRET UNDERGROUND BASE?...

The construction of the ENTIRE mall/parking lot was cover for building the base!

Personally, I got the impression that it had just opened a few weeks prior to the beginning of S3, hence why it was so popular - it was an event and the happening "place-to-be".

One thing did bug me... The size of that creature, would require alot more than the bio mass of 40 people and a few thousand rats...

So... myself, I loved it...
posted by jkaczor at 2:47 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


My thoughts:

I thought this season was, on the whole, great!

The good:
Steve's character growth is the *best* thing.
They figured out how to write Joyce right. Good.
Badass Nancy was fantastic.
Robin was a great addition, yay Robin.
Dustin really came into his own this season.
The whole Max/El dynamic was perfect.
Oh, hi, Suzie. I always knew you were real.

The eh:
I've seen a lot of internet hate for Mike, but my reaction was ... yeah, he's being a jerk a lot, but, um, he's a ~13 year old boy? A lot of them are like that? They grow out of it or they don't. So I didn't mind it so much. Admittedly Jonathan's maybe-intended-to-be-parallel arc into and out of jerkiness was handled better, but he's also, well, not 13.
Will and Lucas seemed under-utilized this season.

The bad:
Hop got taken too far and went all the way into asshole-ism too often.
The whole Russians-building-a-secret-base-in-Indiana thing was the only part of this season I truly hated. It was too silly. Yeah, yeah, I get where they're taking the source material from, but it just broke my suspension of disbelief, constantly. And yes, in a show with goop monsters from another dimension, that's what broke my suspension of disbelief.
posted by kyrademon at 4:31 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


I mostly liked the season - it was really easy and really fun to watch with good pacing, but I at the same time there were lots of little things that were either off-putting or distracting, most already mentioned here.

I agree that the Russian underground base storyline was probably too much and detracted a bit, but allowed for a lot of the 80s tropes, like the Terminator guy hunting Hopper, the Star Wars trope of the good guys in bad guy uniforms sneaking around the Death Star (and I like the added nod of Starcourt Mall naming, the New Hope bit, and the implied tie-in with the cold war "Star Wars" missle defense from that era).

Agree that Joyce and Hopper were both way over the top - a shame to mostly waste their talents with such silly parts to play.

Nostalgia blender was out of control, I think the writers should have been watching less "That 70s Show" and more "Freaks and Geeks." The latter does a great job of using nostalgia just for world-building and tone-setting, but finds smarter ways to reach humor and entertainment. Neverending Story was the cherry on top of the shit sundae- I get the need for the tension breaker, but it could have been Dustin reading a poem or at least a song that is not already the punchline of a million lazy 80s jokes.

Other main characters were mostly fine - I also dislike Mike, but whatever, his character seems believable and mostly consistent.

Also, I like the Steve/Robin duo, but on afterthought, it was kind of messed up how Robin confessed to being formerly obsessed with him, only to have him openly express feelings a few hours later and have her say, no actually I totally didn't mean that (and don't even like boys). I think the kindest interpretation would be that she thought they were going to die and wanted to say something nice beforehand, but still seems like there should have been a better way lead up to the bathroom heart-to-heart that doesn't involve Robin totally contradicting herself in a kind of thoughtlessly hurtful way- the fact that Steve just shrugged it off doesn't make it not shitty.
posted by p3t3 at 5:49 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


If you want a spin-off, how about the government Men In Black that constantly have to keep covering stuff up in Hawkins?

Hey, where did all these random dozens of citIzens disappear to?
THEY DIED IN MALL FIRE
Even that sweet old lady who went cuckoo and ate all that fertilizer and they had to send her to the hospital? She went to the mall too?
SENIOR DISCOUNT DAY AT THE MOVIES
Wait, didn’t this happen at night?
SENIOR DISCOUNT NIGHT AT THE MOVIES
...and they let her out of the hospital for that? Speaking of which, what happened at the hospital?
BEATS ME, NOBODY SEEMS TO WORK THERE ANYWAY
I’d like to read all about it, but the entire editorial staff at the Hawkins Post is missing
THEY WENT TO THE BEACH
posted by dr_dank at 8:19 PM on July 9 [20 favorites]


redemption
redemption arc
mom
love
mom's love
loves mom
redeemed
redemption


Yeah no fuck Billy.
posted by tzikeh at 9:15 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


the New Hope bit

That took me out of it a bit. In 1985, nobody called it "A New Hope." It was just Star Wars.

Calling it "A New Hope" or "ANH" for short didn't start happening until the prequels came out.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:09 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


Some thoughts:
- Hawkins is trying to outdo Sunnydale. There's a Hellmouth below, lots of people disappear/die horribly on a regular basis, and nobody seems to care, except a bunch of local kids and a couple of adults. The Mayor was only a corrupt jerk though, not a demon wannabe.
- El is pretty much a superhero now. The kids should call her Captain Marv-El.
- Maya Hawke is the breakout star of the show. She steals every scene she's in.
- Next season will be "Stranger Things IV: The Search for Hop". There's no way he's dead and poor David Harbour won't be tied up doing Hellboy sequels anyway. And Hop has a superhero daughter.
- The Neverending duet was great, as was finding out that Susie was 1) real and 2) as awesome as Dustin described her. But then I love wild tonal shifts in genre movies...
- Someone on Reddit noted that the people in hazmat suits who explode in the blast look very, very young for seasoned Russian scientists. Hypothesis: the Scooby Gang will be time-travelling in the next season, going back to the moment of the blast to save Hopper. The show has had monsters, portals, zombies/body-snatched, telekinesis, telepathy, evil scientists, evil Russians and a Terminator-like killer, so time-travelling Back to the Future-style would be a logical choice.
- There are too many characters at this point, and it weighs down the narrative. Jonathan and Will didn't have much to do, Mike spent his time whining and Lucas was outshined by his sister. Game of Thrones solved this issue by doing mass cullings, but that's harder to do with kids I guess.
posted by elgilito at 5:40 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


The hazmat suit people kind of exploded, though, is the problem with the time travel idea.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:57 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Nostalgia blender was out of control, I think the writers should have been watching less "That 70s Show" and more "Freaks and Geeks."

So agreed. The one nostalgia aspect I think it got right was the explosion of color and neon circa 1984. Living through that era as a kid about their age, the series does get right that 1980-83 pretty much felt like 70s 2.0 with more computers, but 1984 a very much new mass pop culture broke big and set in, and it's about then that what we think of as "the 80s" started. It explains some of the disconnect with the previous tone, for me.

nobody called it "A New Hope." It was just Star Wars.

Totally true. There were a few other verbal anachronisms that grated on me - the main one was at least a couple uses of "not a good look," which as widespread, really dates only to the last 10 years (I did a Google Books search and it starts turning up in only a few sources pre-2010, and most of them have something to do with the inner core of the worlds of fashion and casting) and was definitely not an 80s expression.

time-travelling Back to the Future-style would be a logical choice.

Hmm, I like this theory, especially because there were so many overt references to it in this series.
posted by Miko at 8:29 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


The hazmat suit people kind of exploded, though, is the problem with the time travel idea.
Something as trivial as people exploding will stop Hollywood writers. In the last season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the team did a time loop to prevent the Earth from exploding, lost Fitz in the process, and managed to get him back this season. "Problems" don't exist in fantasy unless the writer says so.
posted by elgilito at 8:45 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


It appears season 4 may involve Chernobyl.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:13 PM on July 10


I could be on board with STALKER Things.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:40 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


The only evidence is "well, it's probably set in 1986". So it's equally likely that season 4 is about the Challenger shuttle being exploded because a demogorgon tore apart the solid rocket booster's O-ring.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:56 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I saw the Chernobyl thing earlier and I hope they don't go that way. (Kamchatka is approximately 4287 miles from Chernobyl.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:43 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


There were a few other verbal anachronisms that grated on me - the main one was at least a couple uses of "not a good look,"

I was thrown by a few of those too, including Joyce and Hop's "going forward" in the speech they wrote.

There were one or two others that really stuck out, so you'd think I'd remember what they were!
posted by tzikeh at 10:22 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


It bothered me that the plot involved needing batteries/antennas/electronic do-dads and yet nobody thought to go to the freaking Radio Shack in the mall?! As a child of the 80's I couldn't care less about New Coke, but I would have loved to have seen the kids explore a Radio Shack fully stocked with Tandy computers, 500 in 1 electronics kits, Flavoradios, etc.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 11:09 PM on July 10 [10 favorites]


I thought Erica had some verbal anachronism going on too. I know the joke is that she talks older/smarter, but her general speech style also seemed more modern. For example, when she called the air duct plan "a shit plan." I don't remember people using shit as an adjective until a decade later or so, or even casually swearing in general- '85 was still a year or two before N.W.A., Eddie Murphy Raw, etc. Then again, I was at catholic middle school, so maybe the public school kids were ahead of us in learning swears.
posted by p3t3 at 11:41 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


I just watched E8 to see if I could spot anything interesting about the suited-up folks, get a better bead on when they appeared, especially when the orange suit that looks more suited to full immersion/containment appears (vs the style in E1 which is part gas mask). I still think that distinction may be meaningful, but I didn't find any super clue.

One thing I *did* notice, though, is some things about Hopper's behavior and situation in the lead up to the explosion:

* He throws Terminator Grigori into the machine
* he observes the spokes of scary looking lightning now suddenly radiating out from the point where Grigori hit. But not just the lightning itself: his face and the camera perspective representing his gaze show him scanning for a way around or through that goes back to the control deck and he is not finding anything.
* He turns to face the other direction and definitely regards the portal. Note at this point, he is not the only one doing so: the orange besuited folks appear as if they want to move towards it too, but are observing spokes of glowy death from the opposite side with something between caution and wide-eyed beginnings of panic. And there aren't many other reasons I can think of for them to be standing there wearing a suit as opposed to getting the hell away from ground zero of the malfunctioning machine unless they think they need to get into the portal but can't figure out how now that there's a radial lighting barrier.
* Hop faces Joyce, gives her the wry resigned hero nod.

That last step is pretty much the last time we see him, but it's worth noting that we actually get one other perspective of him in the same moment as if we're staring from the portal side of the room. And from that perspective, there's ladder drop not too far from where he is standing -- I'd reckon 20 yards.

So once Joyce turns the keys, there's a dark period that appears to be 6 seconds of screen time. Then we have a closer but from-the-portal oriented shot of the machine. Hopper is not in this shot when the machine tears itself apart. Neither is the ladder. Why? 🙂 Well, walking speed (20 minute miles) is about a yard and a half per second, which could get him halfway to the ladder and out of the shot in 6 seconds. If he could muster a sprint (and there's certainly motivation) then he's probably halfway down the ladder (or more) by the time it explodes, which could as credibly shield him from immediate effects of the explosion as Joyce is shielded from it on the control deck. The shown effects of the explosion take about another 5-6 seconds of screen time. And then the portal is shown closing gradually over a period of 4-5 additional seconds after that.

There are meta-reasons to think that Hopper survived too (and that Will could have better hair!), but this is all in the visuals of what's shown to us, and it seems plausible that he could make it, either to any mundane exit that the Russians might have had (secret tunnel to one of the houses?) or even to the portal itself, where presumably he could punch an orange suit off someone, or push through to a portal to Russia, or maybe just punch a hole in reality because Hop Punch.

So, all in all, for the sake of poor old Dad, I think the door has been left open three inches.
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:50 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


- I. HATED. The Neverending Story duet. The song itself is fine, I liked the movie well enough as a kid, but oh my god it took forever and was not cute at all and I was dying the entire time.

It was her one scene in the entire series. Let her have her time on the stage.
posted by scalefree at 1:33 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


I loved this episode because it brought back something I miss from movies -- a team of people all working together to do the right thing. I'm so sick of the trope of the lone hero -- that one misanthropic guy who's kinda sketch but we're all supposed to accept that because he saves the day. I miss shows like this where you have a group of people, each different but with their own special talent or contribution, working together and relying on each other. It was just ... fun :)

And at first I was like, wait no! about the duet, but by the end I was singing along because I actually have that song in my running mix. Speaking of which, if you are also a child of the eighties and need some very motivating songs to work out to, may I suggest the theme from the A-Team, the theme from Rocky (Gonna Fly Now), Eye of the Tiger, and .. the best of all .. Burning Heart (youtube)
posted by antinomia at 5:48 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


A realistic re-write of the ending written by someone with roughly thirty years experience playing Dungeons & Dragons:

Mike: What if you want to join another party?

Will: Not possible.

[Title cards announces “FIVE MINUTES LATER”]

Random Kid: Hey, wanna play some Dungeons & Dragons?

Will: yes oh thank Christ yes oh sweet god thank you I was dying yes yes yes forever.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 6:59 AM on July 11 [26 favorites]


More random thoughts:

- Maybe things take a more Stephen King-esque turn next season, back towards the creepy. Demogorgons In The Corn or something like that. Not sure where you go after taking on the Russians. I think a Chernobyl tie-in would sort of break the make-believe parts of this. Riffing on an earlier comment I made about computers, maybe they mine Wargames a bit and we're hackin'. Or the next season takes place mostly in the Upside Down. We have to defeat them there once and for all, &c.

- There's been so much John Carpenter influence it seems only right to see Kurt Russell in some sort of small role. I loved seeing Paul Reiser last season (and in his one scene this go-round). The hey-it's-that-person moments are a lot of fun.

- Semi-related: I've had a long-time fantasy of making a movie that was cast entirely with character actors. Can you even imagine? Working title: I Know That Face.

- The discussions of the duet have planted that earworm firmly in my head. Thanks?

Also: very grateful for these threads and a chance to collect and kibbutz.
posted by jquinby at 7:35 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


The kids getting into the BBS scene to keep in touch would be a fairly realistic development. I know ham radio already kind of plays that role, but Dustin seems to be the only one who's still into radio stuff this season.

Working title: I Know That Face.

Or: The Even-More-Expendables.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:53 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I loved this episode because it brought back something I miss from movies -- a team of people all working together to do the right thing. I'm so sick of the trope of the lone hero -- that one misanthropic guy who's kinda sketch but we're all supposed to accept that because he saves the day. I miss shows like this where you have a group of people, each different but with their own special talent or contribution, working together and relying on each other. It was just ... fun :)

So. Much. This. The message that we need each other, especially to confront the dangerous and unknown, seems to be at the heart of the show, and I think that's what brought me most into S1. The way the kids get themselves in trouble when they split the party, the "No more secrets" moment between Mike & Nancy, the way former douche/antagonist Steve jumps in an makes a needed contribution to Jonathan & Nancy's trap that almost goes wrong for them, the way Jonathan & Nancy's trap probably gave Jim & Joyce's rescue into the upside down cover to succeed.

This is embedded in D&D to no small extent; it's part of what makes playing social and fun, so it would naturally find its way into the show. But it's well-done enough that I think there's more intention behind it. It has occasional drawbacks in that the expanding ensemble cast sometimes means individual development gets short shrift, but the balance works for me and the message even more.
posted by wildblueyonder at 9:42 AM on July 11 [16 favorites]


codacorolla, I am 100% in agreement with "And please, tone down the constant "direct reference of the song lyrics in the soundtrack to what the characters are currently feeling."

When Billy sacrificed himself to meat Voltron, I full-on started singing "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" (yeah, I know it's a '70s song but they threw American Pie in this mess so why not go whole hog here?).
posted by queensissy at 10:48 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Just a guess, but I would imagine the state of actual Radio Shack would be a barrier: obviously it can't afford product placement but it's probably not dead enough that the show could use the logos etc without any worry about the company or its creditors coming to call.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:11 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I assumed that a radio shack in the mall didn't happen cause the regional manager (I don't remember Bob's actual title) was eaten last season. They made a point to show the old, closed location in town a few times.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:19 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I'm still pissed off about the placement of the duet. I fully support the cuteness of the duet just not *there*.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:22 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


> It was her one scene in the entire series. Let her have her time on the stage.

I liked Suzie as a character! I actually wanted her to have more time on screen, rather than the one moment in ep 8 and the few mentions by Dustin beforehand. It would be great if Suzie had more time to be a character, instead of the Duffers relegating her to mostly off-screen mentions in season 3. Perhaps season 4 will be different, hopefully.
posted by rather be jorting at 3:30 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I think its possible Suzie will get more time next season. Or maybe she is this season's Barb.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:47 PM on July 11


Or maybe she is this season's Barb.

ಠ_ಠ
posted by jquinby at 4:09 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


At first my wife and I were concerned that they went so deep into the "everyone is split up for reasons" thing, which can be a source of forced drama/problems/etc. But by the end we were happy that actually, every team had their own job and point and it all came together nicely in the end. Far fewer "if only they bothered to communicate" moments than I expected, especially considering the whole thing played out over only a couple days.

[There were still a couple annoying moments, like how Nancy and Jonathan just left while the rat was freaking out and missed the goop transformation by like a minute]

The mall nostalgia was pretty great while watching it, but I recently learned it was extra nostalgic because the real-life dying mall they filmed everything in is the actual mall I hung out in in the 80s and 90s. The stores are switched around, but the layout was awfully familiar and I'll definitely have to rewatch and try and remember what was where.
posted by thefoxgod at 6:01 PM on July 11 [13 favorites]


I would imagine the state of actual Radio Shack would be a barrier: obviously it can't afford product placement but it's probably not dead enough that the show could use the logos etc without any worry about the company or its creditors coming to call.

Radio shack is shown at least twice in the series, in a strip mall. And I think it’s the one that Joyce’s last boyfriend worked at in S2. So I don’t think there’s any problem with using it, if just didn’t play as big a role as last season.
posted by Miko at 6:06 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


10 Hours of Never-ending Story.

Meanwhile over on instagram: #neverendingchallenge
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:25 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Yep, I went back and looked for the storefront and I stand corrected. I followed the chain’s collapse and its current zombie state and it’s good that didn’t get in the way.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:26 PM on July 11


According to Wikipedia, the 75ish tie-ins this season were not paid sponsorships, although some were more coordinated for mutual promotion. Radio Shack should have been doable.

I thought the tie-ins were bordering on too much, although fitting for a time of mass produced materialism booming in shopping malls, but it feels classier when just in the backgrounds like the Mr. T cereal, instead of getting more attention like New Coke. Although I'm always on board for more Radio Shack.
posted by p3t3 at 7:37 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Re: RadioShack, it's Mexican/Central American concerns are now held by Grupo Gigante, which is the most made-up sounding conglomerate conceivable.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:38 PM on July 11 [11 favorites]


I'm still pissed off about the placement of the duet. I fully support the cuteness of the duet just not there.

I thought it was hilariously inappropriate. Tension builds, the monster's chasing them, there's only one thing thing that can save them all - the combo to the safe. But first, a musical interlude! Joyce, Jim & Murray are literally climbing the walls with anxiety, the kids are barely outracing the mind flayer & Susie is in her own little world, a heady mix of Earthsea, Fantasia & female empowerment as felt by a tween. I thought it was a hysterical juxtaposition, like an excruciatingly long buildup before the drop in a techno song.
posted by scalefree at 9:56 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


There's just so much that pleases me about that scene. Another thing is how far all of the listeners are willing to bend the 4th Wall without quite breaking it to display their discomfort. Kudos all around.
posted by scalefree at 5:30 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Agree, scalefree. You could almost see them all thinking "If I try and interrupt this, it's just going to take longer to explain, so I'll let them get it over with."
posted by Rock Steady at 5:41 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed this season much more than the last, if only because it just felt like it had better pacing. I wasn't a big fan of Possession Will, which was just round 2 of tormenting the poor kid. This time they gave him a special power, which was nice.

I'm also kind of surprised there's a general lack of consensus on Hopper's survival. Here's the facts:

1) No death scene.
2) No body.
3) Russians mysteriously gone as Americans flood into the complex.
4) Mid-Credits scene, right when everyone is still upset about Hopper "dying" immediately takes us to the Russians and a secret facility where they obviously keep all things Upside Down located and have a prisoner referred to as "The American."
5) There are no other candidates that appeared in the show who have a better placement to be captured by retreating Russians than Hopper.

Tie in the fact that we think 11's powers are gone all leads to a Season 4 where Elle learns her powers essentially needed recharging by connecting to Hopper, and the subsequent rescue or whatever of our favorite small town sheriff.

The alternative would be they decided to kill off screen one of the major and more beloved characters of their show. That ain't happening. All things willin', I'm guessing Season 4 ends with Hopper and Joyce finally having that date.
posted by Atreides at 10:11 AM on July 12


P.S. The Neverending Story song duet was hilariously timed and most excellent.
posted by Atreides at 10:11 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


My son and I have been slow rolling the season to get max enjoyment, so we just finished last night. this thread has been a great way to process what, to us, was a great, fun season.

I think the 8 episode format kept things moving briskly, and while I would have loved the continuing adventures of the Scoops Squad to last a bit more, it felt a bit right.

I would honestly be happy if the whole thing ended with this ending, I didn't need the credits scene and the tell that the demi-gorgon is still the big bad.

the Byers kids were both like limp rags this season, I hope they are either gone or much more solidly written next season, enough moping and neck grabbing.

I too would love for there to be a Robin and Steve video store spin-off...but Clerks is a 90's movie

I'm glad they toned Erica down just enough in the last couple episodes that she became part of the team, not just that brat from the icecream store.

son and I have been to Baskin Robbins twice already for Eleven's Heaven and USS Butterscotch cones, so even without being explicitly placed, B&R are reaping benefits from tying in

I am sad that the funhouse didn't have a rotating barrel

Put us down on the side of the musical duet taking us out of the moment, mostly by being a few beats too long (I think it might have been possible to use the cutaways to the other groups listening in more effectively) . perhaps it's because I have no personal affection for TNS

Nancy, Max and Robin were badass, El tossing car was awesome.

We agree that all of the references to BttF surely mean time travel in season 4. Hope to see Alex P Keaton in season 4, but that cameo might have been scooped by another Netflix title already this year

Mentioned more than once that a Kurt Russel stand-in would have been awesome, but since Big Trouble is from '86, perhaps there is still time...

All in all a great season and worth re-watching right away.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:16 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


son and I have been to Baskin Robbins twice already for Eleven's Heaven and USS Butterscotch cones, so even without being explicitly placed, B&R are reaping benefits from tying in

there's a Baskin-Robbins near where I work, and for a while they also were selling a Scoops-Ahoy Steve Funko Pop and I was honestly so tempted.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


It did sort of irk me that that the monster was a sort of generic Geigeresque lump of toothed muscle with slime. With the obligatory double mandible.

My daughter referred to it as "a spider made out of anuses." I don't think we'll ever call it anything else.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:43 PM on July 12 [11 favorites]


I am sad that the funhouse didn't have a rotating barrel
Cheer up!
posted by piedmont at 1:15 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


I found this season to be kind of boring until the final episode. Tween drama and evil Russians? Yawn. Shopping montages and conspicuous brand placement? Gross. But the food court battle with fireworks won me over. Also I’m a sucker for a good multithreaded finale.

The Neverending Story duet was an extremely cheap jab at a potent nostalgia button and it totally worked on me. Not proud of that.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:26 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


so much stranger things feels...

An assortment of thoughts:
* I was reeeeally lukewarm on the first episode. But then episode 5 was fantastic, and I was fully in from that point on.
* Waaaaay better than Season 2, which felt mostly like a victory lap.
* Dealing with relationships and actually having some real negative consequences fall out of the fights with the Secret Evils was what the series (after the first season) REALLY needed. Introducing new characters to knock them off is cheap. (sorry, Bob.) Losing Hopper is a Real Consequence, and the final montage was excellent.
* I would fully support keeping Eleven de-powered, and finding out it's Papa in the cell. After all, what happens to psychic kids as they grow up? I think they either lose their powers or their bodies deteriorate or they go insane...
* Contrariwise, Will developing some kind of actual powers beyond spideysense would be great. Mix things up!

The weakest point of the series at this point is similar to the star trek serial problem: things have to basically reset for next season (as opposed to next episode). I was really hoping that the Giant Monster was going to tear through the carnival, or that the Juju Zombies were going to have a more nefarious effect in the longer run - let the monster do something that has consequences that the normies can't quite ignore...
posted by kaibutsu at 6:49 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Eleven and Steve get a lot of votes for Most Valuable Performance, but Billy -- he's the only actor I never saw winking at the camera (this season had a whole lotta winking) and just committing fully throughout.
posted by HeroZero at 7:04 PM on July 13 [10 favorites]


The part that really required a suspension of disbelief was a full-duplex, zero-latency, noise-free radio connection for the Never Ending Story duet. It's like the Duffer Brothers have never even called CQ on an DX QSO over HF.

Don't get me started on RF propagation characteristics for different wavelengths, especially through concrete or earth. Or that the rest of the gang could hear Susie's side of the QSO at all, since she and Dustin would probably be using SSB or AM, while everyone else had FM radios. Speaking of which, I would be remiss to not mention the limited battery life of 1980s HT or the lack of licensing and use of FCC call sign identification by the children. And how did they coordinate frequencies with the Russians as well as how did the Russian transmitter pick up the sound of the mall? Anyway, 73 and thanks for coming to my TED talk.
posted by autopilot at 9:08 AM on July 14 [34 favorites]


I, too, noticed that they weren't ID'ing properly. And where was all the rest of 20m phone at the time?

Still - did anyone else catch that Susie's radio was named PALANTIR?
posted by jquinby at 11:34 AM on July 14 [7 favorites]


And Dustin called the hill where he set up the transmitter Weathertop. (Which I think he should have known was maybe not the most auspicious reference where diminutive protagonists are concerned?)
posted by mubba at 3:17 PM on July 14 [12 favorites]


OHenryPacey Erica down just enough in the last couple episodes that she became part of the team, not just that brat from the icecream store

She's got my vote for supporting cast MVP.

She was resourceful enough to get some quality knee and elbow protection. Smart kid.


re: Palantir was totally a Tolkien thing, before it got Thiel dirtied up the name with the surveillance thing. Nice catch mubba!


Headcannon: anus spider cysts secrete seriously dope analgesic compounds. No way El doesn't go into shock when whosname starts digging in her leg with his hands for it.
posted by porpoise at 9:26 PM on July 14 [4 favorites]


The part that really required a suspension of disbelief was a full-duplex, zero-latency, noise-free radio connection for the Never Ending Story duet.

There are a lot of "interference" sounds in the first season (which I'm rewatching) which are very obviously sample rate reduction ("decimation") effects. That, and light bulbs that make a loud "tink" when they blink on and off, are what's driving me crazy at the moment.
posted by Foosnark at 5:17 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Just wrapped up viewing, and while I overall loved it and was on the edge of my seat for many parts, some thoughts:

-I figured they were shaping up some type of exit for Hopper - he was close to unhinged for most of the season, and I couldn't see any way back for the character. His character this season felt really jarring compared to the way he was portrayed in S1 & S2. (And yes, I expect he's not really dead).
-there were elements and ideas that I felt got started and never really concluded - the eating of fertilizer; Nancy's budding career as investigative journalist; the whole bodysnatcher plotline that lead to nothing - why take control of so many people if they are just grist for the big monster? Billy, at least, had a purpose as a human being who could go and do things the monster couldn't, but why not make use of the larger crew as something other than meatbags? The hospital scene with the two guys from the paper was what I hoped was the start of a much creepier and dangerous approach.
-Will really needs to be given something to do!
-I was ok with them "depowering" El; I was watching all of the moments where the gang charges into a situation with El at the forefront, arms out to hold them all back or where somebody is getting their ass kicked only to have El save the day and it was getting rote and predictable. Changing that dynamic was needed, but could have been done better - perhaps what the mind flayer was building should have been a way to thwart her powers, instead.
-In addition to all the 80's references (the best one for me was when we got the flashback of Hopper working on his "speech" to the kids - the VCR on the TV in the background is the same model as the first one my family bought), the show is becoming self-referential. Steve always enters the final episode with his face beat up, as an example.
-Speaking of Steve, I love how his character has developed and would love to see him, Robin, Dustin, and Erica adopt a dog, buy a van, and go solve paranormal mysteries together.
-Loved that Dustin took the box of Will's discarded D&D stuff to Erica.
-that tunnel under the mall went a long way...did they tunnel all the way over to the basement of Hawkins Lab?
posted by nubs at 2:59 PM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Starcourt (Gwinnett Place Mall) as it actually appeared when it opened in 1984.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:44 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


The fertilizer, at least, was for the construction of the giant monster body. The Mind Flayer needed specific chemicals that aren't present in sufficient quantity or concentration in ordinary foodstuffs, apparently. (Like, when Karen confronts Billy right after his initial infection, he's in the chemical storage area for the pool. So it's not just fertilizer that was taken, even if it was mostly fertilizer.)

-that tunnel under the mall went a long way...did they tunnel all the way over to the basement of Hawkins Lab?

You know, that's a pretty reasonable conclusion. Alexi said the choice to build in Hawkins was a matter of place. It would make sense if place mattered not just down to the broad geographical area of Hawkins but specifically the same location where the previous gate was opened.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:52 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


My main gripe with the ending was how atrociously packed that moving vas was.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:00 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Hahaha. Having recently moved, that bothered me too.
posted by Miko at 4:59 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


I will put one lamp into this box with nothing else. The other three boxes in this giant U-haul will surely protect it from damage.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:18 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Surely this one loose, cluttered layer of boxes and furnishings will not shift and tumble and bang against the trailer walls, during the drive, destroying everything I own.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on July 18 [9 favorites]


a demogorgon tore apart the solid rocket booster's O-ring

Is that what the kids are calling it nowadays?

I'm so sorry
posted by The Tensor at 11:50 AM on July 18 [5 favorites]


Put me down as thinking the Neverending Story sing-a-long was too long and totally derailed the show, and the delay almost certainly killed Billy and Hop. (Or maybe it only led to Hop's imprisonment in Kamchatka...) It did lead to a truly satisfying #wellactually moment for me, though, when my wife said, "Wow. Kajagoogoo," and I replied, "Just Limahl, I think."
posted by The Tensor at 12:02 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


That is 100% how Joyce would pack a moving van, to be fair.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:04 PM on July 18 [15 favorites]


I'm telling myself that Dustin asked Susie to change frequencies specifically so that everyone would hear their conversation and have the proof that they need. The fact that it backfired was perfect.
posted by montag2k at 8:51 PM on July 20 [4 favorites]


It would make sense if place mattered not just down to the broad geographical area of Hawkins but specifically the same location where the previous gate was opened.

I know we all want to forget about S2 but wasn't some of this covered in regards to how those tunnels or whatever were laid out? Maybe the Russian complex was built to reach the former location of the hub chamber and that's where their gate is?

It seemed pretty strange that they went back to check the lab but totally ignored any discussion of the former existence of the tunnels.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:50 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


OK no, it would seem the whole conceit with the tunnel layout was related entirely to where water was in Hawkins, and not the boundary between dimensions, which would mean the location of the hub was not itself special.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:58 AM on July 21


Also never really explained, unless I missed it, was why they were eating all those chemicals?
I kind of thought it was to help them liquefy from the inside out before joining into the Mindflayer's meat puppet.
posted by piedmont at 2:24 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]


As much as I dislike Billy as a character and was not sorry to see him go, Dacre Montgomery did excellent work this season. He very effectively conveyed a deep ongoing conflict within Billy - horror at what he was doing was constantly just below the surface after the sauna scene. I wasn’t completely sold on Billy’s hero turn, but I think that’s more a script weakness than a performance problem.

I had managed to completely forget about the fireworks, so the battle was a glorious surprise. I really loved that - what an excellent climax to a season where the show’s visuals stepped it up a notch.

I was betting that the flayed were going to be a zombie army that was going to require tracking down Kali and other kids from the lab to fight, because El would be a) overwhelmed at the scope of the problem and b) it seems like it would be a reasonable thread through last season, but I guess I could’ve seen earlier that consistency with last season wasn’t necessarily a priority.

The New Coke bit was both terrible and a real highlight of how underused Caleb McLaughlin is. If he wasn’t so charming, it would’ve been massively worse.

Another script moment I didn’t believe was Joyce leaving El to grieve alone - I can believe her not wanting to let go of Will, but I don’t believe she wouldn’t have dragged him over to El with her. Ryder and Brown were both great in that scene, but I don’t buy the setup.

Leaving aside the body horror and all the extended fight scenes, I liked this season better than last season, but I’m still waiting on a script where the character development really lives up to the caliber of talent the cast brings to the table.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:18 PM on July 22 [6 favorites]


Yeah, Dacre Montgomery was a standout performance on a show full of incredible performances.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:20 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


I thought the duet was totally justified because there is no possible way Dustin could have convinced Suzi that he wasn't playing some nerd game with his friends and presumptuously dragging her into it without so much as a "Hello, how's it going, wanna play a game?"

Her basically saying, "Okay, I'll go along with your game, but first you have to prove we're still close in front of your friends" is absolutely the right move for her to make in that situation.

How you onboard newcomers into a "Monsters exist and you gotta do this right now," situation is one of the best parts of this genre, and that was a particularly great one.
posted by straight at 12:01 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I needed more Alexei. Gone too soon.
posted by gryphonlover at 9:31 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


So...two more seasons. That has to be Thanksgiving and Christmas, right? Now that I think about it, having an entire (shortish) TV show set at holidays is a pretty smart idea from an endless-holiday-rewatch perspective (I still break out Planes, Trains and Automobiles pretty much every year.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:28 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I too slowed my roll so that I could make it last, and I have to say that my main disappointment at this point is in some of my fellow FanFarers, who seem to be taking a lot of things here way too seriously. I mean, it's cool if you know about Planck's constant or whatever, but I mean, geez. I could go on about how unlikely it is that a small town public library is going to have several fairly serious looking texts on electromagnetic phenomena, but I won't. A few other points:

- The "The Never-Ending Story" duet is awesome; having to suspend the main action while some silly/trivial condition is met is a very venerable trope, and having a sticky situation resolved by the Power of Love is one of the most eighties things imaginable (I mean, seriously). I've missed Barb ever since she went to the Upside Down, and am glad that there's a new nerd girl in the mix.

- El's depowerment was actually overdue, as the show itself was practically lampshading her being the inevitable I-win button. If El is the show's Phoenix, you have to remember that the comic book character was depowered temporarily, and that the original fate of the Phoenix (before Jim Shooter, eighties comics' version of the Russianator, decreed that she had to die) was to have her powers removed, which would have happened in Uncanny X-Men #137, an eighties (just barely) comic. And the show had her be key in defeating the Mind-Flayer anyway, with using her mind meld with Billy to gain the knowledge that helped delay it just long enough. That was a much more unexpected and interesting denouement than just having her wad up yet another Upside Down critter and stuff it in this year's portal, or whatever.

- Speaking of Billy and his past, yeah, good redemption arc, and even helped create some sympathy for what was otherwise a standard-issue eighties movie bully. I hope that there's some reckoning with his bad dad in the future.

- Hopper definitely did not come off well in general in this season, but, unless I missed it, I'm surprised that no one mentioned his letter that ended the episode and season. And I'm interpreting both the look that he gave Joyce before the explosion, the way the explosion was done, and the reference to the American as all being different ways that the show could go depending on whether or not David Harbour comes back. (If he was thinking of maybe leaving for the movies, the flopping of the Hellboy reboot might change his mind.)

- As for the future, The Search for Hop seems possible, as well as a general getting-the-gang-back-together story; I'm also hoping that El, and the other Number Kids from last season, find their Professor X.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:21 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


The green ooze in canisters in the Russian complex is never explained, right? Wondering if I missed something.
posted by oulipian at 6:51 PM on August 15


That took me out of it a bit. In 1985, nobody called it "A New Hope." It was just Star Wars.

I definitely called it A New Hope after the '81 re-release but I was an annoying geek.
posted by octothorpe at 7:26 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I don't think depowering is a bullshit plot-point, especially as it's built up here.

Isn't that what they say EVERY time they depower or otherwise screw over a female character?

I mean sure, we can say this one is plot relevant. But after the 20th or 30th iteration of the same thing the excuse wears thin. .And of course the fact that she uses a stereotypically feminine ability (empathize with man powers activate!) and we immediately get calls for "Now that we've depowered the girl, let's give Will powers!" just well...the optics aren't good.

But hey, I know, here's a plot for Season 4 or 5: we'll give El her power back, but get this: they're TOO powerful, and she's losing control over them. So she sacrifices herself to save the people she lives! How dramatic! How very 1980s!
posted by happyroach at 9:50 AM on August 30 [3 favorites]


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