Wednesday, 7 August 2019

TV Review: Stranger Things 3

Stranger Things 3

People are strange…

Even though the first two seasons dealt with psionic abilities, extra-dimensional monsters and the like, they still felt basically grounded. It wasn’t hard to believe that Hawkins was a real place and these were real, three-dimensional people inhabiting it.

Not so with season three! It very often veers hard into cartoon territory, ramping up the absurdity of several sections and funneling some characters into almost parodies of their previous-season selves. I’m not really sure if it’s better or worse, it’s just very different.

Hopper spent the first two seasons as a conflicted, haunted man with some anger issues. But the writers of season three apparently forgot about all of his depths and just honed in on that anger (it’s a process called “Flanderization”) because that’s all that’s left of him this season: a boiling-over cauldron of rage who spends the entire show screaming at people and punching people and threatening to cut off the mayor’s fingers. It makes for some hilarious times, but boy-o is it something else. He’s basically irredeemably toxic, and so the romance subplot with Joyce is completely unearned.

Steve is also pretty heavily Flanderized. Whereas the first two seasons portrayed him as the popular jock heartthrob, this season harps on some parts of season two where he unexpectedly became kind of like a guardian figure to the dweeby kids. So this season Steve is suddenly just 100% dweeb.

Also there are several scenes where Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica are “sneaking” around in a secret Russian military base. Dustin is wearing a BRIGHT YELLOW baseball cap. The kids are “hiding” in plain sight but somehow NONE of the dozens of Russians walking around happen to turn their head towards the them. Heck, they don’t even seem to have functioning peripheral vision, because sometimes these kids are just standing out in the open about 20 feet away from huge groups of Russians yet they still remain invisible. It’s absolutely ridiculous and completely shatters and suspension of disbelief. It’s pure cartoon logic.

Here’s the thing, though. Stranger Things is a pastiche of 1980s pop culture, and things like this happened all the time in action movies and TV shows of the era. It’s accurate. But is it better than being realistic?

That’s not to say that the season isn’t enjoyable. Overall it might even be better than season two. And when it leans into the horror genre more than the comedy and action-movie genres it still pulls of incredibly successful moods and some riveting scenes (like the superbly excellent Billy-in-the-sauna sequence). Tonally, at times it’s like the Steve/Dustin plot and the Hopper/Joyce plot are taking place in a completely different show.

Drinking game: every time Will grabs the back of his neck.

Categories: Reviews, TV, TV Reviews.

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