We can’t stay kids forever.
That’s one of the big takeaways from “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard” in my Stranger Things season 3 episode 3 review.
This is a show that moves along at a very brisk pace, has some horror elements to it, establishes alliances, and creates some further bonds.
But before we take a look, make sure to check out my reviews of the first two episodes:
Kicking The Show Off
This episode starts with a longer than usual intro and we greet Max and Eleven chilling in their room listening to “Angel” by Madonna and checking out the teen heartthrob of the moment: Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio.
Using El’s powers, they decide to spy on the boys to see what crap they’re up to and what they’re talking about. They’re loving the idea of spying on people and after a game of spin the bottle, it lands on Billy.
Eleven is able to see Billy in the steel mill with the kidnapped lifeguard but Billy can sense he’s being watched. He’s even able to see a slight incarnation of Eleven in the real world which has not been a thing before. Mike has been able to sense her, but Billy seems to actually SEE her.
Cue the intro
Dungeons & Dragons No More?
We get to see the growth of Will over this episode who is not into girls like the other boys and is still in a juvenile state – all he wants to do is stay in the basement and play games. He’s dressed as a wizard and we get to hear their gameplay theme music which is “The Pod Dance” by Trevor Jones.
We also catch our second glimpse of New Coke and if you haven’t learned the whole history to this rare drink check out my blog. There are also some classic orange Crush cans on the table too.
Lucas and Mike just aren’t into anymore and Will can feel things slipping away. While this is going on, Joyce has gone to report to hopper about her thoughts of the town being under some sort of demagnetization. There’s a machine she thinks that is controlling the electromagnetic field. But why? And is it the people they’ve dealt with before from the government. Also, is the Starcourt mall maybe this machine? So they break into the old lab where we get a call back to Bob getting eaten by a demodog.
This episode contains a lot of callbacks to seasons 1 and 2 which I think work well.
Eleven and Max are snooping around in Billy’s room and find some missing belongings of Heather the lifeguard. While this is going on, Nancy is trying to share her story, and theory, on the rat/fertilizer issue and is laughed out of the room.
Back To Starcourt
Robin is still working on decoding the Russian message they’ve received while Steve and Dustin are looking around the mall for Russian spies set to “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones. They think they spot one but turns out it’s just a Jazzercise instructor.
Cue “Jitterbug” by Wham.
Eleven and Max harness water power for El to journey into the black void where she sees Heather clearly in despair.
Robin has actually cracked the riddle they were presented and realizes that the silver fox is a delivery company sending something to one of the Chinese food places in the food court at around 9:15 pm.
Steve, Dustin, and Robin spy on this delivery but almost get caught by the very Russian/special forces guards. While this is going on, Joyce and Hopper are being recorded in the abandoned Lab and Hopper gets the living hell beat out of him by that Terminator looking guard who has been following him.
This episode features some amazing transitions including the security camera lens in the lab turning into the binocular lens that Steve is looking through, and the Terminators motorcycle appearing to turn into Max and Eleven on a bike.
Things Are Starting To Unravel
Most of this episode is set at night, and in the rain, and, to me, it has a very Jurassic Park feel to it. Jurassic Park is something that has had references made to it subtly throughout the series and whenever I see rain in the show, I always get that sensation.
Will has started destroying his “Castle Byers” fort which appears to be him cutting loose and dismembering any sense of his childhood that might have been left.
Nancy and Jonathon have gone back to Dorris Driscoll’s house to see if they can capture the rat to see what’s up with it and while in the house we get – what has to be an obvious Back to the Future reference – black and white cat clock on the wall. You’ll know it when you see it.
But they find that Mrs. Driscoll is actually eating the fertilizer. We’re left to assume, I, um…assume, that the rat has bitten her, and she’s starting to evolve into something else the way that Billy seems to be too. This could be two different things however as we’ll see in a minute.
El has been able to track down Heather’s home and who do they find inside but Billy. And he seems fine. He’s with her parents and then Heather walks in like nothing has even happened. Billy is actually meeting Eleven for the first time and as she and Max leave the house, we see that Billy can sense that Eleven closed the gate at the end of season 2.
He has seen that whole event transpire but then he sees the gate explode back open. Will’s spidey sense is also tingling as he proclaims “He’s back”.
This transitions into a brilliant ending where Billy and Heather take out her parents while we heard “American Pie” by Don McLean
Thoughts On Episode 3
This episode moves along as quick as anyone I’ve seen and I felt like I had only been watching for around 25 minutes by the time the ending came – usually a sign of a really good episode.
This was an emotional episode as we’re seeing the kids fully growing up and how hard that transition can be, obviously for Will, as not everyone matures at the same rate. Some people just don’t want things to change and to continue the way they’ve been.
We’re seeing more bonding between Eleven and Max along with Joyce and Hopper. Steve, Dustin, and Robin are kind of the new 3 Musketeers in Stranger Things and there is an obvious connection growing between Steve and Robin. It seems clearly presented to us as we’re assuming they will get together but never trust this show as it can throw you for a loop.
I think I covered all the 80s references I could spot in this episode and I love how they’re not being thrown in our faces just for the sake of having a reference. They seem to just exist naturally and serve the show.
Also, if you have a surround sound speaker system or speaker bar, crank it for this episode as the music and sound is unbelievable in it.
For my Stranger Things Season 3 episode 3 review, I give it an A.