This season of Stranger Things has been disappointing. You know it. I know it. Keith who works in the video store knows it. The pacing was too slow and then far, far too fast. There was too much focus on the various romantic entanglements throughout Hawkins and the whole thing was too similar to what had come before. Hell, the penultimate episode stirred so little in me that I couldn’t even be bothered to write a review for it. The finale had to be something really, really special to save Stranger Things 3… and it was so, so close to doing just that.
This extended episode of Stranger Things was feature length and honestly, it stands up to any actual film released this year. This was a masterful, majestic 90 minutes of television from start to (almost) finish. The special effects were incredible throughout, the character beats heartfelt and genuine and the conclusion as memorable as pretty much any season finale of any television show ever.
The ‘death’ of Hopper was beautifully handled and wrought astonishing performances from Millie Bobby Brown and Winona Ryder in what were easily the most touching scenes that this show has provided thus far. And then… the epilogue pretty much confirms that Hopper is, in actual fact, still alive, thus rendering everything that had happened in the third act completely pointless. Until the scene tagged on in the credits, this was an ending to equal The Empire Strikes Back or Avengers: Infinity War (another film that was ruined by the film makers not being brave enough to see a concept through to the end). This was Han Solo being frozen in carbonite or Thanos clicking his fingers. The inevitable confirmation that Hopper is yet to shuffle off his mortal coil is an insult to what is otherwise an incredible episode of television. Or… maybe ‘the American’ is Murray Bauman and I am, once again, an old man shouting at clouds.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, what does the future hold for Stranger Things? The prospect of the characters being spread out across America is a potentially tedious one if we have to suffer through three episodes of how the writers can justify getting them all back together. We lost Billy forever which is sad, but the prospect of Robin and Steve ‘the hair’ Harrington working in a video store a la Dante and Randall is an exciting one, and with that chick magnet Keith overseeing things no less.
This episode was so close to saving Stranger Things 3. In the end, it only invited more criticism. The rug pull at the end of the episode served only to leave a bad taste and to trivialise everything that came before it. It pains me to say it, but this misstep has shades of the Glen debacle that was the beginning of the end of The Walking Dead. I’m going to have to go for a lie down anyway. At least Steve got to be a hero again…
- I can’t say I’m thrilled about the prospect of the Russians sticking around either. Stock Hollywood villains are incredibly tedious.
- As visually compelling as the Mindflayer was, we need a new monster for Stranger Things 4. Let’s keep the H.R. Giger influence though.
- The Neverending Story nod did nothing for me either. I watched it again recently and decided that it’s rubbish. The perfectly stage school rendition of the theme song from various characters here only served to take me out of the story.
- It was satisfying to see Barb get a little mention at the end of the episode there. One for the fans.
- Well, that’s it folks. Steve and Robin aside this season of Stranger Things has been a bit of a slog. Thanks for reading. Catch you in the upside down some time in the future.