We can be heroes just for one day.
As Stranger Things season 3 finishes up we get the obvious climactic battle, an emotional send-off, and the loss of some major characters. This whole season has been brilliant, and the finale worked extremely well.
It seems more appropriate to call this a movie rather than a series as you tend to watch it all in one sitting, or very close together. In my Stranger Things season 3 episode 8 review, we’ll break down this whole episode, the series in general, and see where we go from here.
Before we start though, check out my reviews on all the episodes leading up to this epic finale.
- Chapter 1: “Suzie, Do You Copy“
- Chapter 2: “Mall Rats”
- Chapter 3: “The Case Of The Missing Lifeguard”
- Chapter 4: “The Sauna Test”
- Chapter 5: “The Flayed”
- Chapter 6: “E Pluribus Unum”
- Chapter 7: “The Bite”
Alright, let’s wrap this thing up and check out “The Battle of Starcourt”
You Don’t Want To Get Infected
We start back at Starcourt mall where Eleven is succumbing to the monster bite and they realize they have to extract something out of her. She’s able to use her powers to pull out this small bit of creature that tries to run away before being stomped on by Hopper. He and Joyce have made it to the mall along with Murray.
Cue opening credits.
Murray has a map for the mall that they will use to find the key which is trying to open up the gate to the Upside Down. They need good walkie assistance so the group of Dustin, Steve, Robin, and Erica – who give themselves the codename “Scoop Troop”, take a car to the antenna the kids had put up on the hill.
They peel off listing to “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson and we see a shot of Billy in his car in the parking lot. This has a Back to the Future “Twin Pines Mall” vibe to it but can also be seen as a nod to Carrie.
The other group is trying to escape in the station wagon – and have appropriately been given the code name “Griswald” in homage to the Griswald family station wagon – but need to get a part from the trashed car in the mall.
All Hell Breaks Loose
The creature which is now gigantic has tracked down Eleven – probably due to Billy – and proceeds to crash through the glass ceiling of the mall. Joyce and Hopper have shot up some Russian guards and taken their uniforms in a very ‘Han Solo/Luke stealing Stormtrooper uniforms’ way.
The kids hide from the monster in some scenes that look right out of Lex and Tim hiding from the velociraptors in the kitchen during Jurassic Park. Hopper and Joyce need a code to get the keys to dismantle the gate key but they have the wrong one. They will need Plancks Constant which is an equation which is a physical constant which relates to the energy carried by a photon to its frequency and represented by the number: 6.62607004.
And how do they get this? They call up Suzie, who IS real, and this proceeds into one of the greatest parts of the entire series. Before she lets Dustin have the number she makes him sing – what apparently is their love song – which is the theme from The Never Ending Story.
I can see how some might not like this, and it could be on the verge of stupidly cheesy – but I think it works. They manage to take this iconic theme song, from a beloved movie and create this amazing moment within the episode. It worked for me, and I’m sure you had the song in your head long after the show was done – along with one other that we’ll get to in a bit.
Shut It Down, Shut It All Down
Billy has managed to capture Eleven and is now offering her up as a sacrifice to the Monster. But Eleven is able to bypass the infection in Billy and connect with his true self. She’s able to convey the love he really got from his mother and we now start to see him as a sympathetic character instead of just an asshole.
This may be a little off, but there’s a bit of Anakin Skywalker to Billy who seeing what the creature/Emporer is doing to Eleven/Luke fights back against it and ends up giving his life to save her.
Speaking of that, Hopper has put himself in a situation he can’t get out of. He’s able to take out the Terminator. This fight had a very Empire Strikes Back feel to it from the scene when Luke and Vader fight when Vader is trying to freeze him in carbonite.
But as far as blowing up the key: It’s now or never. Joyce and he realizes that as she has to turn both keys while he’s still out there knowing it will kill him. Hopper is ok with this and it has a very Tony Stark dying to help save the world feel to it.
We’re of course meant to be crushed at the death of two major characters – and we are – but this brings home my idea that I felt that a major character needed to die this season. I wrote in my Stranger Things season 3 preview how I thought one of the kids might go, but the death of Hopper and Billy was a bit more unexpected and still works really well. It works even better now that I think of it, as both of them had to make the ultimate sacrifice – and you don’t get more heroic than that.
We also get an epic shot of the national guard coming in by helicopter to save the day and we see Paul Reiser for the first time since last season. We have to think he’ll be involved in an upcoming fourth season as the government has to get more involved with this Russian situation.
It’s three months later and everyone is trying to put the pieces of their lives back together. Eleven is clearly crushed by the loss of her adopted father, and at the same time had really lost a lot of her powers. It seems when she’s distraught they are not as prominent compared to when she angry or in fear.
Steve and Robin are trying to get a job at the video store and we see some sweet titles in there including Scar Face, Mad Max, and another great Fast Times inclusion right up to the actual image of Phoebe Cates who has come up a lot this season.
As far as Hawkins, an “Inside Edition” type show is sharing the corruption by Mayor Kline and all the supernatural occurrences are chalked up to chemical leaks, accidental fires, and general misdirection. There’s also an accusation that the events that keep happening to Hawkins are due to devil worshiping, and occult practices, which were a genuine fear in the 80s.
So Joyce is finally making the right choice and getting the hell out of that house and her, Will, Jonathan, and Eleven are heading for greener pastures – but we’re not sure where exactly. We get an emotional moment between El and Mike, along with Nancy and Jonathan. There’s a very touching letter written to Eleven by Hopper and it continues to explore this idea of growing up and moving forward. Will has been going through the same journey too and they’re reminded that the challenges along the journey are really what lead to true growth.
This season has been a real coming of age for all the characters, and even the town itself.
But Wait, There’s More…
In an extremely Marvel move, we get an end credit scene and it takes us back to Russia. In a scene that seems very Rankor monster from Jabba the Hutts palace, the Russian guards “feed” a prisoner to what turns out to be the Demogorgon.
So we have to think that it escaped, or they were able to capture it, from the hole they were able to cut into the Upside Down. They also make note “not the American” when they decide who to feed to it.
So we have to obviously assume this is Hopper. This seems a little too obvious but we have to imagine that he somehow got into the Upside Down before the key blew and was able to get out – or was captured from it – at the opening in Russia.
We can also assume he’s not dead as they use the song “Heroes” by Peter Gabriel. This was the same song that played when they found Will’s “dead” body in season 1. Will wasn’t dead then, and we have to think that the use of the same song in reference to a dead Hopper means that he’s not dead either.
Again, this seems too obvious and I’m not sure the Duffer brothers would be that black and white with the situation. I’m thinking Hopper is alive somehow but the person in that cell is not him. It could be Murray, or it could be Dr. Benner maybe who’s still alive somehow.
Where does the series go from here? If we’re following the yearly timeline, season 4 will take us into 1986. A pretty major world event happens in April 1986. In Russia.
This would be around 6 months after the events of season 3 – could this disaster have been caused by the Mind Flayer or something connected to the Upside Down? This could be an amazing premise for the fourth season so we just have to wait and see.
Some More 80s References In Episode 8
We get our fifth, and final, product placement of New Coke which has just been amazing this season. Eleven is using a can of it to try to crush as she’s realizing how weak her powers are. I’ve covered everything about New Coke in the other episodes reviews, along with my main article all about it, so I don’t want to beat a dead horse here.
I thought the inclusion of New Coke was going to be limited to that quick shot of Karen Wheeler drinking it by the pool, but they really incorporated it into the show well. They made full reference to it as opposed to just passing it off and I thought it was amazing.
The kids pass on their Dungeons & Dragons books to Erica who will hopefully immerse herself in them and be an even bigger factor in coming seasons.
Mike is wearing a great calculator watch and Will is wearing one which I’m pretty sure I wanted more than life itself in the 80s.
The Never Ending Story theme was performed by Limahl and is this to make us think that this story is never-ending as far as the Upside Down? Has this been going on for centuries and we’re just seeing the place, and people, it’s affecting now?
Final Thoughts On “The Battle of Starcourt & Season 3
I think this episode played out pretty straightforward, and that’s not a negative critique at all. Everything came together nicely including the death of the monster, the closing of the gate, taking down the Russians, and the further cementing of relationships.
Taking out Hopper and Billy made from a more dramatic impact and I think it was necessary this season. This whole season was also about coming of age. It was about growing up and not fearing the change that’s about to come and this is partly what the monster represents I think.
On one hand, it can be seen as the physical iteration of the fear of the Russians and everything to do with the cold war the same way Godzilla is meant to represent the Americans and the atomic bomb,
But I also think it meant to represent the overwhelming fear that can come with growing up. You’re not sure what’s what and it may seem too intense and frightening In either case, the kids of Stranger Things are growing up and realizing they’re not necessarily kids anymore and taking the steps into adulthood.
They face more unique challenges than any other teens on earth, but no matter how big the challenge, they all can seem overwhelming – whether it’s regarding young love, or a monster taking over a city.
This season more than lived up to the hype to me and it’s why we get so psyched when a Stranger Things trailer drops. The anticipation is real and we know the Duffer brothers will come through on it. I think this season was quite a lot better than the last one and it included everything that I wanted to in the show. The sign of good entertainment is when you feel like it was made specifically for you, and this did.
So for my final review on Stranger Things season 3 episode 8, I give it an A-
I hope you enjoyed this whole review series, and if you want to see a complete recap of EVERYTHING, check out my season 3 recap blog. And if you want to get more epic 80s content delivered right to your inbox do yourself a solid and sign up for the Everything 80s email newsletter!