It’s finally back.
After long anticipation, season 3 of Stranger Things is back and not a moment too soon. As we dive into the first episode don’t forget to read my preview of the season so you’re all up to speed with everything.
When we left off season 2, the kids were at their winter “snowball” dance and everything seems fine, but of course, we know it isn’t. As the iconic “Every Breath You Take” by The Police plays, we see that the Mind Flayer is still very much present as the show finishes on the lyrics “you belong to me…”.
O.K., let’s do this…
Stranger Things Episode 1 Plot Summary
So we start out in a lab that seems like it’s the usual one we’ve seen based in Hawkins that was featured in seasons 1, and 2, but not so fast! Turns out we’re in Russia on June 28th, 1984, and they are testing a giant laser – reminiscent of the Howard The Duck movie – and it’s able to cut into, what we assume, is the upside down.
This is interesting because now the idea of the Upside Down – if that’s what we’re really looking at – is a global issue, and not limited to Hawkins, Indiana. This scene seems very “War Games” ish as there is some dual key-turning along with the entire set looking like the classic movie.
The laser reveals something trying to get its way out and then the whole thing basically blows up. This is interesting because this is the time of the Cold War and a Russian presence really opens up the scope of Stranger Things. We are told they have “one year” to get things figured out.
Next thing we know we’re seeing a shot of Mike and Eleven making out while they listen to “Never Surrender” by my fellow countryman Corey Hart – this is a nice touch. Also, there’s a Bryan Adams cassette on their table upping the Canadian content factor.
Chief Jim Hopper is NOT impressed with the make-out sesh mind you.
First Glimpse Of The Starcourt Mall
In an awesome shot, the Starcourt Mall is revealed in all it’s 80s glory with vintage stores like the Gap portrayed nicely. The kids are on their way to a movie where they pass Lucas’ little sister and they have a nice insult exchange that seems reminiscent of “Flight of the Navigator”.
Everyone in the mall is in full 80s fashion now and we can see a lot of the Memphis Design reflected in the style and you should check out my article all about that here.
The kids sneak in to see “Day of the Dead” and on their way in we see a movie poster for “Back to the Future” – finally… So this means it’s sometime after July 3, 1985, which is when it first opened.
During the movie, all the power goes out and that continues through the mall and throughout all of Hawkins. While this is happening we get a sense that there is some electromagnetic issue seen in the local steel mill while a bunch of rats congregates nearby. Will has also had his Spidey sense tingle knowing that something is up.
This magnetic issue will obviously be significant as we see pictures that have fallen from fridge magnets in the home of Joyce Byers. While this is happening Nancy and Jonathan are in a rush to work and turns out she’s an intern at the Hawkins Post. We get a great usage of “Working For A Living” by Huey Lewis and the News here too.
Where Was Dustin?
Everyone has seen this in the trailer but Dustin has been away at a computer camp called “Camp Know Where” and he comes home upset that no one has been responding to him. The kids have all surprised him with Eleven controlling a bunch of toy robots to surprise him where Dustin ends up spraying Lucas with the Farah Fawcett hairspray.
We also get the shot of the pool that we’ve already seen from the trailers and the older cougars ogling young Billy. This also includes our first appearance of the iconic New Coke which you need to read all about in my article here.
Hopper hates that Elle and Mike are hooking up and consults Joyce about it and during that, Dustin has invented a super HAM radio and him and the other kids are setting up the antenna on a hill so he can talk to his “girlfriend” Suzie who lives in Utah.
More and more rats are now starting to congregate at the steel mill and Karen Wheeler is planning a midnight rendezvous with that ol’ scamp Billy.
What Else Is Happening?
Nancy is getting jerked around by the guys who work at the Hawkins Post including Jake Busey’s character as she’s nothing more than a glorified errand girl. While at the post we are seeing the decimation of downtown Hawkins which used to be a thriving business area. This was common for cities all over in the mid-80s as the rise of the shopping mall was killing downtown business.
It’s funny now how the mall is starting to fade away to online retailers such as Amazon, but they don’t have the internet yet in Stranger Things so we can move on. Nancy sees the death of local business as an issue and thinks they should do a story about it which is received with mocking laughter. While at the office late a night she gets a phone call about some diseased rats…
We’re seeing Steve Harrington really stuck in a dead-end job at the “Scoops Ahoy” ice cream shot but we are introduced to new character, Robin – played by Maya Hawke daughter of Ethan and Uma Thurman.
Hopper has now threatened Mike within an inch of his life if he’s not more appropriate with El and Mike and El are REALLY liking hooking up to “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. Billy is also on his way to his Mrs. Robinson moment with Karen and she is, of course, getting ready to “I just Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew.
Dustin’s HAM radio which has a much larger range has picked up on some Russian code phrases being used and this radio tower is clearly going to be important in the coming episodes.
Something hits Billy’s car nearby the steel mill and he discovers a weird goo on his windshield before something grabs him by the leg and pulls him into the building.
Fade to black…
Some Thoughts On Stranger Things Season 3 Episode 1
I thought this was an awesome episode to start the third season. There’s a lot of business they have to get to in this show by establishing the connection with the Russians, and the upside down, along with the fact the kids are clearly growing up.
We’re introduced to the Starcourt mall which is clearly like another main character in this season and we’re seeing some more connection between Joyce and Hopper. “Suzie, Do You Copy” really sets a great tone and captures that 80s summertime vibe well I believe. Looking back at how the mall used to be the epicenter of a town is a great throwback as it used to be a thing where you would actually just go to hang out, see people, and be seen.
Now, you couldn’t even pay me to go anywhere near a mall.
We’ve jumped right into things with Billy and whatever his connection will be to the Upside Down and there are multiple storylines that we will be following.
Some More 80s References
So besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, here are a bunch of things seen throughout this episode:
- Magnum P.I.
- Jonathan falling while putting on his pants a la Marty McFly
- “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars
- “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner
- Dustin’s “girlfriend” referred to as Phoebe Cates only hotter
Wrapping It Up
So that’s my Stranger Things season 3 episode 1 review. There’s a lot covered in this first episode but it feels like it’s picking right back up after season 2. It’s been almost two years for us but this episode feels like a natural start for the third season and it has the job of setting up everything we’re about to see over the next seven episodes.
I give it an A-