There are far more critical things in life than television shows. However, once in a while, you come across something so enthralling, intriguing and perhaps far more importantly, a throwback to the 80s that you may end up disagreeing.
Stranger Things won over a lot of praise for its portrayal of adolescence in the era of Spielberg, and for the entrancing plot regarding a super powered child who can open portals into other dimensions but what won over the audience were the characters. Few TV shows can create a world that has heart, and it is even harder to populate that world with characters, yet Stranger Things seemed to be capable of both.
Season 3, however, brings with it a somber epiphany. The gang is growing up. The familiar quarter of Will, Lucas, Mike, and Dustin was the core of the adventures in the first two, but they do not fight any monsters in this one (yet). Rather they grow up. Mike and Eleven are in what appears to be a passionate romance (first love eh?), and Lucas and Max are in the quintessential broken romance (like all teenagers). Their appearances have changed, and so has their demeanor. Gone are the social awkwardness and the Dungeons and Dragons sessions. Trips replace them to the mall and the swagger that only full-blooded teens can muster. Dustin appears to be a conduit for the audience and their feelings. He went away on summer camp and just like us, came back expecting his friends to be the same old bunch of geeks they were. Gaten Matarazzo is an amazing actor for his age and his portrayal of a kid who seems to have lost the certainty that his friends will always be there is exceptional.
The world of the upside down seems to have been forgotten by the kids, but some vestiges of the experience do linger. Will still has a telepathic connection with the other dimension, and his feelings of discontent are a reminder that the season will not let up on the Lovecraftian horror of the second season. Joyce seems to have been affected by the trauma of the previous seasons, and it almost looks like melancholy seeps from her is a sharp contrast to the rest of the episode. Hopper has forebodingly written in every word, and the confidence of the man replaces with suspicion and disdain. There is also a scene where the Soviets attempt to recreate the mistakes of their American Counterparts, which may mean the Demagorgons of this season are not that far away.
The rest of the cast is still there, but the episode does not focus much on series regulars such as Nancy or Jonathan, but Steve does interact with a newcomer(played superbly by Maya Hawke), and it seems the chemistry between them can rival the bromance Steve had with Dustin last time around.
The kids have grown up. They have other things on their minds, although as Billy would tell you as he was dragged into the darkness by an unknown entity, there will be a need to return to the past.
The episode succeeds in telling us that Hawkings is not the same place we remember and the element of growth is dealt with masterfully and although I would have liked more emphasis on the older supporting cast, however, the episode sets up the season perfectly.