Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?

The long wait is over, Stranger Things fans! We're back in Hawkins, the weirdest fictional town in Indiana outside of Pawnee.

But first, a short prologue from Russia, where some scientists fail spectacularly at breaching the dimensions. Remember their faces because you better believe we will be seeing them again. After that curious opening, we move to the Summer of 1985 where Hawkins seems surprisingly normal from the lack of mortal peril.

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) behaves as close to a regular teenager as she can, using her powers to pull pranks and slam doors instead of saving the world. The snazzy Starcourt Mall has opened and while Steve (Joe Keery, hilarious as always) now works there, and the kids are crazy for it, it's crippled downtown. Nancy notices the effect at her new job at The Hawkins Post, but her sexist editors treat her like a maid while giving Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) more respect as the paper's photographer. The biggest change, though, is that teenage hormones are now raging, with most of the main couples from last season still going strong.

One couple is going a little too strong for Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour, turning the surly dial to, um, you get the joke) who's now obsessed with both Magnum P.I. and the amount of time his adoptive daughter spends sucking face with Mike (Finn Wolfhard).

Hopper seeks parenting advice from Joyce (Winona Ryder), who counsels him to act reasonably with Eleven and Mike while dodging his longing looks and invitations to dinner. To the consternation of Jopper fans everywhere, Joyce still mourns Bob (Sean Astin) and doesn't seem quite ready to date yet. Hopper understands but takes his frustrations out on Mike later on, preferring threats to calm discussion.

The swirl of hormones also leaves Will and Dustin a little out of sorts. One suspects Will will never be interested in girls, but Dustin — not wanting to be left out — swears he met a great girl named Suzie at science camp. Though the gang doubts her existence, he builds a radio tower to communicate with her and accidentally picks up a mysterious Russian message. In the midst of Reagan's Cold War America, Dustin goes on high alert.

Of course, this being Hawkins, that's not the only disturbing thing bubbling under the surface. The town suffers a massive unexplained power outage, Joyce's magnets have stopped sticking to the fridge, and the town rats scurry toward a mysterious force at the abandoned Brimborn Steelworks. The rats start exploding in a truly disgusting scene.

Will (Noah Schnapp) senses the mysterious force as goosebumps form on his neck on a hot summer day. He doesn't want to admit it, but he knows the Mind Flayer stirs. And it's found its new target in Billy (Dacre Montgomery), who has spent the summer trying to seduce Mrs. Wheeler during his lifeguard stint at the community pool. On the way to meeting her for a rendezvous at the Motel 6 (sexy!), he crashes near the steelworks and gets sucked screaming inside. The Mind Flayer has found a new host and now nothing in Hawkins is safe from its clutches, including our intrepid heroes.

Stranger Things
Stranger Things 3Season 3, Episode 4PHOTO CREDITNetflixPICTUREDNoah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Sadie Sink, Caleb McLaughlin
| Credit: Netflix

Other observations:

  • Maya Hawke (daughter of '90s icons Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) is a delight in her debut as Steve's new Scoops Ahoy co-worker, Robin. It's almost uncanny how much she sounds like her mother and definitely wins the award for best new character.
  • Though it probably won't last long, it's nice to see Eleven being happy after all her past trauma. Her bedroom even received an upgrade from its barebones state last season.
  • Did I rewind the Jopper hand grab and his longing look more than once? Why, yes I did. Did I do it five or six times? Maybe. Only my Netflix account knows.
  • As usual, the show is filled with homages to various '80s movies and TV shows, but I particularly enjoyed Jonathan falling over as he put on his pants like Michael J. Fox did in Back to the Future.

Lauren Morgan

Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Two: The Mall Rats

Billy survives the Mind Flayer's attack, but just like Will in season 2, he's not the same. Reality becomes distorted as he suffers from violent and disturbing visions. At his lifeguard job, his skin scalds in the sun showing the creature within him still hates the heat.

He isn't the only one under the Mind Flayer's control. Bored by the menial work she's been doing, Nancy takes Jonathan to investigate a tip from Mrs. Driscoll, who has caught a crazy, diseased rat. They see the rat for themselves but leave before it explodes and slithers from its cage.

In other upsetting news, Eleven and Mike hit a rocky patch as Hopper's threats take effect (just what did he say to the poor kid?) and Mike stands Eleven up. Confused by Mike's squirrely behavior, Eleven seeks out romantic counsel from Max (Sadie Sink), who takes her to Starcourt for a shopping montage right out of an '80s movie. The scene seems designed to show off the set more than anything else (and it does match my memory of an '80s mall), but Max has a point in showing the sheltered girl how to discover herself away from her boyfriend.

A confused Mike also winds up at Starcourt along with Will and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) as they try to find Eleven a gift she'll like (and he can afford). He runs into Eleven and, fed up with his inability to explain himself, Eleven takes Max's advice and dumps him. She and Max laugh about it as they escape on the bus, but poor Mike looks like he just got hit by one.

Such news would normally thrill Hopper, but he suffers a romantic setback of his own. After finally convincing Joyce to go to dinner just as friends (though he's definitely got romance on the brain), she stands him up. Hopper stumbles drunk and little heartbroken past the restaurant bar, bumping into the Terminator lookalike (Andrey Ivchenko) from the season's Russian prologue.

And what did Joyce stand our loyal police chief up for? The damn magnets! She's noticed that they've stopped being, well, magnetic and abandons both work and her dinner plans for an impromptu lesson in magnetic theory from Mr. Clarke. Though Joyce is often right in her suspicions, the magnet plot seems really kooky even for her. How quickly did she get all those library books before abandoning work entirely? An hour? Maybe two?

While the romance in the episode suffers, the bromance is as strong as ever as Steve and Dustin reunite and attempt to decode the Russian message Dustin heard. Steve's co-worker Robin has a better ear and deciphers it herself, though Steve later realizes that the message didn't come from Russia but Starcourt itself.

The episode ends on a disturbing note as Billy kidnaps a fellow lifeguard named Heather and delivers her to the Mind Flayer. Whatever has happened to Billy, he's in deep and only getting more dangerous.

Other observations

  • Cary Elwes makes his first appearance as Mayor Larry Kline in a role that honestly seems better suited to another blonde '80s icon, John Schneider. The town folk aren't too happy with Mayor Kline because Starcourt's opening has really killed businesses downtown.
  • After her somewhat adversarial treatment of Max last season, it's nice to see Eleven become friends with her, though it's curious she's still not supposed to be out in crowds. Is she even enrolled in school?
  • Which was funnier? David Harbour's pronunciation of Chianti or Natasha Lyonne's pronunciation of cockroach on Russian Doll?
  • Will repeatedly asking if they could play D&D now was both hilarious and familiar to anyone who's been stuck in a mall far longer than they'd like.
  • Robin asking Steve, "How many children are you friends with?" was my favorite line of the episode.

Lauren Morgan

Stranger Things 3
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard

After breaking up with Mike, Eleven regrets her rashness until she spies on Mike using her powers and discovers him acting like your basic teenage boy. But a sleepover game leads her and Max to choose Billy as another spying target. This time the results are terrifying as Eleven sees Billy kidnap Heather and hears her blood-curdling screams. Back at Max's house, they discover a tub filled with melted ice bags and a bloody lifeguard's whistle.

As the sky opens for a massive, episode-long downpour, the other investigations around town continue to pick up steam. At Starcourt, Steve, Dustin, and Robin notice the coded words in the Russian message stand for various places in the mall and that the loading dock is unusually well-armed for a suburban mall. Nancy seems to be onto something as well, but Tom (Michael Park), the editor-in-chief, just dismisses her findings. Jonathan would rather not get fired over it but still follows her as she pushes on and discovers Mrs. Driscoll eating fertilizer like a crazed rat.

Meanwhile, Joyce finally shows up at Hopper's cabin, and while he's furious at her, he gets drawn into her magnetic (pun intended) web. He breaks into the boarded up Hawkins Lab to prove to her that the people who endangered Will are truly gone. After their earlier bickering, they have a heart-to-heart where he reveals he knows Joyce is planning to move out of town. He confesses that he's been doing everything he can to make her feel safe and wants her to know that there are people in Hawkins, namely him, who really care about her. This lovely conversation gets interrupted when they realize they aren't alone and Hopper gets ambushed by Grigori, the mysterious Russian Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike from the restaurant.

After fighting with Mike and Lucas over their girl obsession, Will bikes home in the rain and in a heart-breaking moment destroys Castle Byers. As he does, he gets another sensation from the Mind Flayer and when Mike and Lucas come to apologize, he tells them it's returned.

Eleven and Max continue their sleuthing only to discover Heather hasn't turned up for work at the pool. When they track her down at her house, they find Billy and Heather at dinner with her parents, one of whom is Nancy's boss, Tom. Billy gets the suspicious girls to leave by acting as normal as he can. As soon as he does, the terror starts for Heather's parents, who become the Mind Flayer's next victims.

Other observations

  • What I wouldn't have done for a cameo by Matthew Rhys or Keri Russell from The Americans somewhere in the Russian plot.
  • It's been a subtext that Will might be gay, but when Mike pointed out he didn't like girls during their fight, we got further suggestion that he really could be. And though Noah Schnapp hasn't quite had the showcase role he did last season, he was absolutely heartrending as Will struggles with his growing pains.
  • There has been a lot of bickering between Joyce and Hopper, but when they quiet down and just talk, it's obvious why people have shipped them for years.
  • Even though Billy and Max feature prominently in this season's plot, the show really hasn't found a way to make their relationship with each other compelling. It would be nice to understand why Max cares at all about her bully of a stepbrother.

Lauren Morgan

Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Four: The Sauna Test

Though Billy has thrown Max and the still suspicious Eleven off his trail, the gruesome flaying of Heather's parents show he's as dangerous as ever. Before the girls can alert anyone to their fears about Billy, the boys call a code red based on what Will has sensed. Though there is a lot of awkwardness between Mike and Eleven as Will describes what being a host to the Mind Flayer feels like, the gang realizes that Billy still poses a serious threat to them all.

Despite being under the Mind Flayer's control as well, a visibly injured Tom fires Nancy and Jonathan, who've been unknowingly pursuing the Mind Flayer through their investigation of the also flayed Mrs. Driscoll. Their firing opens a rift between them as Nancy realizes Jonathan doesn't face the same sexism she does and he realizes she doesn't know how hard opportunities are to get when you don't come from a cushy middle-class background. After some well-timed actual parenting by Mrs. Wheeler, Nancy decides to forge ahead on her own.

Meanwhile, Joyce somehow gets Hopper back to his cabin where he wakes up completely naked and visibly bruised. Just who took off his clothes remains a mystery but one Hawaiian shirt, some detective work, and a few well-placed punches to the former Dread Pirate Roberts's face reveals that his attacker works for Starcourt and there are more nefarious plans for the town in store.

Back at Starcourt itself, Robin acquires the mall's blueprints and the group recruits Lucas's sister Erica (Priah Ferguson) to climb through the ductwork to the loading dock. Erica remains a walking quote machine but her inclusion seems more like fan service than logical plotting considering her young age. Nevertheless, Erica succeeds and they discover vials of glowing green goo before plummeting to the mall's depths as the room they are in turns out to be an elevator.

Steve and company are not the only ones in peril. After stalking Billy at the community pool, the gang traps him in the sauna once the pool closes. Knowing the Mind Flayer hates heat, they turn up the temperature, but things go haywire when Billy escapes. Knowing she's the one thing standing between the Mind Flayer and total domination, Billy starts choking Eleven. Mike comes to her rescue and she uses the last of her strength to throw Billy through a brick wall.

That doesn't stop him as he escapes and rejoins Heather back at the steelworks where their true handiwork reveals itself. For while the gang has been trying to defeat Billy, he's been assembling an army of the Flayed. And it's gotten very large.

Other observations:

  • Cara Buono's role as Mrs. Wheeler has been rather thankless, but the conversation with Nancy was a nice showcase for the former Mad Men actress.
  • Eleven's "I make my own rules" battles Erica's "You can't spell America without Erica" for the episode's best line, though Steve confusing Gumbo for Gumby may be a runner-up.
  • While Max rectified Eleven's missing Wonder Woman knowledge, someone really needs to take the poor girl on a roller coaster.
  • Okay, so just who took off Hopper's clothes and what exactly did Joyce see when it happened? Season 3 really is the season of shirtless Hopper in all his dad bod glory.

Lauren Morgan

ST3 Production Still 4
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Five: The Source

Storylines are starting to converge in Hawkins, Ind.! After Nancy realizes that the terrible thing she just witnessed happening to Mrs. Driscoll looks oddly similar to that terrible thing she witnessed happening to Will last year, she and Jonathan track down the kids to make sure they're okay. Together, they figure out that Mrs. Driscoll's freak out happened at the same time Billy was in the sauna, and we have another hive mind-type situation on our hands. They also realize there's no way Billy and Mrs. Driscoll are the only two possessed — Heather, Tom, and who knows how many more must be part of the Flayed as well. Because they've seen a Flayed or two before, they quickly come to the conclusion that stopping the Flayed won't solve their problems — they need to stop the Mind Flayer at the source.

The group heads back to the hospital in hopes of getting Mrs. Driscoll to lead them there. Unfortunately, when Nancy and Jonathan reach her room, she's gone, lots of hospital staff are dead, and they discover a possessed Tom and Bruce — Worst Co-Worker in the World — causing the trouble. After a pretty harrowing fight, Nancy and Jonathan kill Tom and Bruce…who proceed to completely melt and then conjoin to form a slightly smaller version of that creepy flesh monster thing. So, um, that's not a great development.

Meanwhile, Hopper and Joyce are hightailing it out of Hawkins. While checking out all of the locations Mayor Kline has sold to Starcourt, they arrive at Hess Farm only to find two Russians working on something in a secret underground bunker (so many bunkers!). After once again fighting off our Big Russian Friend Who Rides a Motorcycle, Hopper and Joyce grab one of the engineers, Alexei, hoping for some answers, and flee. They deal with their car breaking down in the middle of the woods, a language barrier, hiking without a plan while being tailed by the Big Guy, and sexual tension, all before Hopper confiscates an '80s movie villain's yellow convertible and seeks out the one person he knows who speaks Russian: That's right, you guys, paranoid ex-journalist Murray Bauman is back.

Here's hoping that Murray can help Hop and Joyce figure out what the Russians are up to quickly, because Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica — you know, the people actually trapped in a secret Russian bunker — could use the help. This crew finally gets out of the elevator only to find themselves in an elaborate maze at a secret facility. Their plan is to find the comms room where the secret signal they translated is being broadcast from in hopes of reaching someone from the outside world. When they find the room (it is a journey), Steve takes down a Russian officer, which honestly, what a victory for our Steve Harrington. The celebration is short-lived though, as the team realizes they've stumbled into the room where the giant laser machine is opening the Gate. Dustin and Steve are, to say the least, alarmed.

Other observations:

  • Mike and Eleven making up over a bag of M&Ms in the hospital waiting room is such a pure teen love story moment and my cold, dead heart can barely take it!
  • "I just look forward to you never doubting me again." Nancy Wheeler is a goddamned hero, people.
  • Clearly, the Stranger Things team realized that Steve and Dustin are a pairing that works and their irrefutable chemistry is once again showcased as Robin and Erica question why the Russians would have a super secret bunker in Hawkins, and the guys hang back because, oh, they know why the Russians are in Hawkins, and they discuss it without having to finish a full sentence.

Maggie Fremont

Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Six: The Birthday

Now that Dustin and Steve have seen firsthand that the Russians are opening the Gate, they know they need to get the hell out of this bunker and tell someone immediately. Before they can properly convey the severity of the situation to Robin and Erica, they're made and in the melee that ensues, Steve and Robin sacrifice themselves to allow Dustin and Erica to escape through an air duct. STEVE HARRINGTON FOR EVERYTHING, YOU GUYS! Not only is he brave, not only does he take his annual beating (this time at the hands of Russian interrogation officers — and you thought Billy was bad!), but he also displays some very touching character development when Robin reveals she sat behind him in history class but he was too much of an ass to ever notice her. Steve knows he was an ass, he's learning that being popular doesn't get you far, and he kind of liked being the "schmuck" who was "slinging" ice cream next to her all summer. Aw, Steven.

Thankfully, Dustin and Erica return with a giant electric prod to rescue our bonding ice cream scoopers, just as the Russians drug them in hopes of discovering who their employers are and how they got into the base — which, by the way, Steve and Robin have been telling them. The Russians just don't want to accept that two Scoops Ahoy employees stumbled upon their spy code, cracked it, and accidentally made their way into what is supposed to be a base built by masterminds. Like, I get it, but that's the truth, comrades!

Speaking of the Russians, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray are trying to get information from Alexei, who refuses to speak until he gets a few Whoppers and a 7/11 Slurpee. After Alexei plays tough, Hopper calls the guy's bluff, giving him the opportunity to escape, knowing he won't take it because he's smart enough to realize he's safer with them than with his Russian comrades, who will surely kill him for getting captured. Hopper's right because OF COURSE HE IS, THAT DREAMBOAT. Once Alexei starts spilling the deets, Hop and Joyce realize the Russians have built a machine that is reopening the Gate as they speak (the machine would only work in Hawkins because the Gate was still healing from the last time it was opened). Hopper calls the secret number Dr. Owens gave him to ask for military backup in Hawkins — but Joyce refuses to sit around and wait. They're headed back to Hawkins to save their kids.

It's just in time, too, because those kids are going to need some help. After El saves Nancy from being devoured by that flesh monster, the team regroups. It takes some time and a whole pile of bloody tissues, but eventually, El locates Billy and decides the best course of action is to try to access his memories, like she did with her mom, so that they can locate the Source. It works, and El sees the Flayed gathering at the steel mill, but it backfires. She finds herself in a version of the cabin alone with Possessed Billy, who informs her that the Mind Flayer's big plan is to use this monster to destroy her, then all of her friends, and then the entire world. Cool, cool, cool. Don't even worry about the fact that all of the Flayed have started to melt and join together to form one giant monster. NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

Other observations:

  • Erica believes everything Dustin tells her about what's gone down in Hawkins over the past few years, EXCEPT for the fact that her brother had any part in it. There are just some things a girl can't fathom.
  • I will never hear "Neutron Dance" and not think of Hopper's smug face in the background as Joyce and Murray realize he was dead on about Alexei needing them.
  • Fearing for her safety, Mike blows up at his friends and sister and admits that he loves Eleven and is scared of losing her again. That's right, he said "love" and everybody heard it.

Maggie Fremont

Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Seven: The Bite

Murray Bauman is a true hero for our times. In season 2 of Stranger Things, he forced Nancy and Jonathan to confront their feelings and in season 3, he once again sniffs out the sexual tension in the room and says exactly what everyone is thinking: Could Joyce and Hopper just have sex already? Honestly, the fact that these two haven't even kissed yet remains the greatest mystery of this show, which is really saying something since we're dealing with a portal to another dimension on the reg.

Alas, there is no time for smooching. As they race back to Hawkins, Alexei explains how to destroy the machine currently opening the Gate. It involves Planck's Constant, two people turning keys, and a special job for Murray that will guarantee the machine is completely destroyed (although that comes with a word of warning: anyone near the machine at that time will turn to dust — something to tuck away for later, I'm sure). Once at the Hawkins Fun Fair, Joyce and Hopper go off in search of their kids (this search includes hand-holding while on the Gravitron, bless us all) but once Mayor Kline sees they're back in town, he calls in the Russians. Our Big Guy, Grigori, shoots and kills poor Alexei on sight, and has a shootout with Hopper inside the Fun House. Grigori survives AGAIN, but Hopper escapes with one of the Russians' walkies, which proves useful immediately since they overhear that the Russians are closing in on some children at Starcourt Mall. Their kids are in trouble!

Trouble is an understatement. Thanks to Eleven's trip into Billy's memories, the Mind Flayer knows she's in the cabin and sends his now gigantic flesh monster to find and kill her. They do their best to fortify the cabin, but boarded up windows are no match for melted people tentacles! Eventually, one latches on to Eleven's leg — her friends free her, but she's suffered a big injury. They head to the grocery store in hopes of finding bandages and other resources that might help (Lucas makes sure they grab some fireworks for backup the next time they run into the monster). As they try to fix El's wound, a familiar voice comes over the walkie talkie: It's Dustin!

Dustin and Erica manage to get a still very drugged Steve and Robin out of the secret bunker and into an evening showing of Back to the Future to wait out the Russians on their tail. Dustin can only get part of his code red message to his friends at the grocery store, but he desperately needs some backup, since after the movie lets out, Dustin, Steve, Robin, and Erica are left all alone in the mall with some armed Russians closing in on them. Thankfully, El uses her powers to locate Dustin and the grocery store team arrives just in time for El to, you know, casually throw a car across the mall lobby and take out all the Russians as if they were bowling pins.

A massive download of what the two groups have been up to ensues (poor Robin, it's a lot to take in!). The family reunion is interrupted when Eleven collapses to the ground in pain. Her leg! The bite! It's really bad! AND THERE IS SOMETHING MOVING INSIDE OF IT. So, that can't be good.

Other observations:

  • Everything with Steve and Robin has been a highlight this season. Their attempt to understand the plot of Back to the Future is glorious, but the shining moment is really their heart-to-heart in the bathroom. Steve confesses his feelings for Robin, but Robin's gay — she was scared to tell Steve lest it mess up their friendship. But it doesn't, you guys! Of course it doesn't. Steve does, however, have some notes on his friend having a thing for Tammy Thompson of all people. She's a dud, he says!
  • Mike apologizing to Eleven for being possessive and jealous is such a mature move. Nice growth, Mike!
  • I will never get tired of watching Hopper going down that slide to escape the Fun House — amen.
  • "How many times do I have to tell you with the low battery?!" Steve & Dustin 4Eva!

Maggie Fremont

Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt

Finally, the band's back together! Hopper and Joyce (and Murray) roll into Starcourt Mall just in time for Hopper to watch his daughter gather all of her strength and use her powers to pull that piece of the flesh monster out of her own body. Hi, Dad! Afterward, Eleven tells Hop that she just needs to recharge before fighting again, but it becomes clear that Eleven's powers are somehow gone — the girl can't even crush a Coke can with her mind. But we have zero time to unravel that mystery — almost as soon as this reunion starts, our groups have to split up again.

After a tearful goodbye with their kids, the adults head into the Russian base to blow up the machine and close the Gate, which would then cut off the Mind Flayer from his monster, who's still searching for Eleven in all its melted people glory. Since Dustin and Erica are old pros at sneaking around the ventilation ducts of that place, their crew — heretofore known as the Scoop Troop — make their way to Cerebro, which will give them enough of a signal so that they can communicate with the adults once they go underground. Everybody else will go to Murray's fortress to hide from the monster.

Well, that's the plan anyway. Once Nancy hops in the car to drive them to safety, they realize someone stole the ignition cable. That someone was Billy, menacingly sitting in his car at the other end of the mall parking lot. So, back inside the mall it is! Of course, this means they're sitting ducks. The monster wastes no time in showing up, crashing through the Starcourt ceiling and terrorizing Eleven and her friends.

The adults' plan isn't going exactly as they hoped either. After Hopper guns down some officers and takes their uniforms, Murray (excuse me, Bald Eagle) gets his job done with an assist from Dustin and Erica, but when Hop and Joyce reach the vault with the keys, Murray doesn't have Planck's Constant correct and they can't open it. But Dustin's listening in and do you know who knows Planck's Constant? Dustin's girlfriend Suzie. She is real, she calls him Dusty Bun, and before she gives him the number, she makes him sing the theme song to The Neverending Story on the radio so everyone can hear.

The number works, but just as Hop and Joyce are about to turn their keys, the Goon Who Will Not Die returns for one last showdown. He and Hopper fight out on the platform next to the machine. When Hopper kills Gregori by throwing him against the machine, things start to go haywire and Hopper is trapped on the platform.

The kids really need the Gate closed, like, now. Billy captures El and calls the monster to finally put an end to her. Nancy and Co. pelt the monster with Lucas' fireworks and El, with no powers, has to rely on her humanity to stop Billy. She reminds him of the memory she saw of his mother, of who he really is — and it works. Billy protects El from the monster and winds up sacrificing himself.

Down below, Joyce has a belt on one key and her hand on the other. Knowing he won't survive the machine's explosion, Hopper gives her a tearful, knowing nod and Joyce turns the keys, blowing up the machine, turning some Russians nearby into dust, closing the Gate, and stopping the Mind Flayer and his monster. Dr. Owens finally arrives with the U.S. military to do damage control, Joyce reunites with her kids, and Eleven stands there in the mall parking lot looking for Hopper, but he is gone.

Three months later…

The Byers are leaving Hawkins and Eleven is moving with them. There are lots of tearful goodbyes: Jonathan and Nancy know this won't break them after all they've been through; Eleven tells Mike she loves him, too; Will vows to never join another D&D party; everyone hugs goodbye and it is all very, very sad! While packing up Hopper's things, Joyce finds the speech she helped him write for his heart to heart with Eleven, but it turns out he wrote his own speech to her, which Eleven finally reads. If you want to know what true emotional whiplash feels like, watch the end of Stranger Things in which we go from scary melted people monster to a dad telling his daughter how hard it is for him to accept she's growing up, how much she changed his life, and how much he loves her. Anyway, I'll be over in a corner, bawling.

But what is this? In a post-credits scene, we head to a prison in snowy Russia where a guard refers to one prisoner we never see as "The American" (please be Hopper, please be Hopper), and then pulls out another prisoner, only to toss him in a cage with…A DEMOGORGON.

Other observations:

  • Steve and Robin are BFFs and three months later they get a new job together at a video rental store, all thanks to Robin convincing Keith (ex-arcade employee) that what Steve lacks in film knowledge, he makes up for in his ability to charm the ladies. I miss hanging out with Steve and Robin already!
  • Everyone having to listen to Dustin and Suzie sing The Neverending Story song while the fate of the world is at stake is one of the funniest moments of the entire series.
  • Joyce finally agrees to a date with Hopper, although he needs to schedule it around his Miami Vice date with El. Joyce, you should've locked Hopper down when you had the chance!
  • "But please, if you don't mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches." No big deal, just crying again.

Maggie Fremont

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Stranger Things

Netflix’s hit sci-fi series follows a group of kids in the '80s battling supernatural forces in Hawkins, Ind.

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