Stranger Things’ third season really picks up steam here, with some significant OMG reveals that point to a climactic finale. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start with Eleven’s mind-bending trip into Billy’s memories. This particular moment is one of the series’ most impactful scenes, with its stunning use of visuals, and exceptional performances from Millie Bobbie Brown and Dacre Montgomery.Without relying on chunks of exposition to get their narrative points across, the Duffer brothers are able to convey Billy’s bleak childhood in a heartbreaking, yet beautiful montage. The way the scene follows Eleven from a peaceful shoreline during the happier days to a roaring storm filled with hate and torment after Billy’s mom leaves him behind, is an effective way to present Billy as a more sympathetic character. The part when Eleven looks back at Billy’s dad with her “I’m going to mess you up” stare is marvelous. It would have been cool if she could have punched Billy’s dad through time, but apparently her powers don’t quite extend to time travel (yet). Hopefully, Billy will get a chance to free himself from the Mind Flayer’s influence and gain redemption.
And it appears that we’re finally going to be able to see that giant, oozy Upside Down monster in action, after plenty of blood and gut donations from some of Hawkins’ finest citizens – poor Mrs. Driscoll. The way Stranger Things deals with death is problematic, to say the least. When someone like Bob Newby dies, it’s a tragedy, but when other random townspeople are being turned into goo, no one seems to notice. Joyce’s PTSD is adequately addressed after witnessing the horrific death of her boyfriend, but Jonathan and Nancy don’t appear to be affected after killing their old co-workers. Sure, they were servants of the Mind Flayer at the time of their demise, but they’re still people with families and friends. We’re not saying Stranger Things needs to turn into a deep character study on death and remorse, but the show could at least have a moment of silence for Mrs. Driscoll.
On a less sour note, we get a few tasty tidbits of information from our new Russian pal Alexi. The show is finally starting to expand the narrative to include the wider world outside of Hawkins, and not a moment too soon. Alexi’s explanation of the different keys and why Hawkins is the perfect place to reopen the portal is the kind of edge-of-your-seat exposition that actually makes us eager for more. The odd quartet of Alexi, Murray, Joyce, and Hopper are quickly turning into my new favorite group, and the comedic writing continues to be sharp, especially with Alexi’s “fat Rambo” comment regarding Hopper’s plan to take on the Russians.
Back at the Starcourt Mall, Dustin and Steve part ways with a hilarious “I won’t forget you” farewell. And even though the dynamic duo has a lot of memorable moments this season, it’s nice to see some new pairings. Erica’s reaction after Dustin explains the Upside Down to her is perfect, with the only unbelievable part of the story being her brother’s involvement. She’s proven to be a valuable asset to the team, even noticing what appears to be a Demogorgon cage. Do the Russians really have one?
Steve and Robin’s interrogation scene is surprisingly brutal and quite funny once the evil Russian doctor uses the truth serum. Joe Keery and Maya Hawke get to show off their impressive range here, moving from scared to laugh-out-loud stoned by the end of the episode. Witnessing these characters interact with such ease is a great indicator that Stranger Things still has a lot of life left in its creative bones for more seasons.