|Stranger Things (season 3)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||8|
|Original release||July 4, 2019|
The third season of the American science fiction horror web television series Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 3, was released worldwide on Netflix's web streaming service on July 4, 2019. The series was created by the Duffer Brothers, who are also executive producers along with Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, and Iain Paterson.
Set in the summer of 1985, the characters have to deal with strange things happening around Hawkins which eventually lead to them discovering that Russians are trying to re-open the upside-down and that the Mind Flayer is still alive. The third season stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Cara Buono. Cary Elwes, Jake Busey, Michael Park, and Francesca Reale appear in recurring roles.
In the summer of 1985 in Hawkins, the newly opened Starcourt Mall has become the focal point of the town, driving other stores out of business. Chief Jim Hopper is conflicted over Eleven and Mike's budding relationship, while Joyce considers moving out of Hawkins for better prospects, leaving the state of the children's friendships and her own relationship with Hopper in the air. However, strange power fluctuations trigger Will's awareness of something otherworldly, and Eleven and Max sense something is off about the town's residents, and despite having closed the portal to the Upside Down, fears that they are all still in danger from it.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|18||1||"Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers||July 4, 2019|
|In June 1984, Soviet scientists attempt to force open a new gate to the Upside Down. One year later in Hawkins, the popularity of the new Starcourt Mall has forced many local businesses to close, angering townspeople. To the chagrin of the now fiercely paternal Hopper, Mike and Eleven have developed a romantic relationship, leading him to seek Joyce's advice. Joyce suggests he have a "heart-to-heart" conversation with them. Dustin returns from summer science camp and, with the help of the other kids, sets up a makeshift radio so he can contact his camp girlfriend Suzie. Dustin is unable to contact Suzie, leading the other kids – who are skeptical as to whether Suzie exists – to leave. Dustin later overhears a strange Russian transmission. Will senses that the Mind Flayer may still be alive but keeps this to himself. Hopper attempts to communicate his feelings to Mike and Eleven, but Mike's smugness angers him and he secretly threatens Mike into agreeing not to see Eleven. Rats congregate in a mill near Hawkins where they explode into an organic mass. Later, while driving by the mill, Billy's car is hit by an unseen creature and he is dragged inside the mill.|
|19||2||"Chapter Two: The Mall Rats"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers||July 4, 2019|
|Billy escapes from the mill after being subdued by the creature, having a vision of Upside Down where a doppelgänger instructs him to "build it". Mike lies to Eleven to avoid seeing her, confusing Eleven and elating Hopper. Max deduces that Mike is lying and that, if he does not apologize, Eleven should break up with him. Nancy and Jonathan, working as interns at the Hawkins Post, investigate an elderly woman named Mrs. Driscoll who claims that rats have been eating her fertilizer and acting rabid. After they leave, a caged rat explodes into an organic mass and escapes. Max and Eleven bond while shopping at Starcourt and run into Mike, Will, and Lucas. Mike lies to Eleven again, leading her to break up with him. Joyce is puzzled when the magnets on her fridge lose their magnetism, leading her to miss dinner with Hopper. Dustin reunites with Steve, who now works at an ice cream parlor at Starcourt with former classmate Robin Buckley. The trio translate Dustin's Russian communication and determine that the incoherent message must be a code. Billy returns from the Upside Down and, struggling with visions and guided by a strange voice, abducts fellow lifeguard Heather Holloway and takes her to the mill where she is subdued by the creature.|
|20||3||"Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard"||Shawn Levy||William Bridges||July 4, 2019|
|Eleven uses her powers to "spy" on Mike and later Billy, finding him subduing Heather before he senses Eleven's presence. Max and Eleven try to track down Billy but fail to find him and Heather at the pool, with Eleven attempting to locate the latter. Nancy finds out more about the rats' strange behavior and reports of missing fertilizer and chemicals all over Hawkins, taking Jonathan back to the Driscoll's house where they find Driscoll eating fertilizer herself. Will has a falling out with Mike and Lucas, frustrated by their preoccupation with girls. Robin decodes the Russian communication to be about a shipment arriving at Starcourt that night, joining Dustin and Steve on a stake-out where they spy on armed Russian soldiers at Starcourt's loading dock. Hopper is angry at Joyce for standing him up, but she convinces him that the magnets must have demagnetized due to an electromagnetic device at the abandoned lab. Hopper and Joyce go to the lab to investigate, but Hopper is attacked by Grigori, a Russian soldier. Max and Eleven find Billy and Heather having dinner with Heather's parents, seemingly fine. After the girls leave, Billy and Heather knock out her parents, which Will senses and reveals that the Mind Flayer has returned.|
|21||4||"Chapter Four: The Sauna Test"||Shawn Levy||Kate Trefey||July 4, 2019|
|Billy and Heather take her parents to the mill. Nancy and Jonathan are fired for harassing Driscoll, whom Tom Holloway claims to be a paranoid schizophrenic. Will reveals his connection to the Mind Flayer to Mike, Lucas, Eleven, and Max, speculating that the Mind Flayer still resides in the real world and has possessed Billy. Hopper recalls having previously seen Grigori meeting with the town's mayor, Larry Kline. Hopper and Joyce force Kline to reveal that Grigori works for the owners of Starcourt, who have been purchasing abandoned properties across Hawkins. Kline later alerts Grigori that Hopper and Joyce are planning to search the properties. At Starcourt, Dustin, Steve and Robin enlist Lucas' sister Erica to break into the loading dock, discovering it is an elevator. The elevator plunges deep below the mall with them trapped inside. Still suspicious, Nancy goes to visit Driscoll at the hospital, while the kids trap Billy in the pool's sauna to confirm that he is possessed. Billy gains superhuman strength and breaks free, while Nancy witnesses Driscoll similarly transform. Billy regroups with Heather at the mill, where dozens of other townspeople have been possessed.|
|22||5||"Chapter Five: The Flayed"||Uta Briesewitz||Paul Dichter||July 4, 2019|
|Hopper and Joyce search one of the abandoned properties, discovering a hidden laboratory. Grigori arrives to kill them, and they narrowly escape with a hostage – a Russian scientist named Alexei – in tow. Dustin, Steve, Robin, and Erica arrive in a Russian lab underneath Starcourt and hide from Russian soldiers unloading crates from the elevator. Attempting to find a communications room, the group discovers a large testing area where scientists are trying to force open a portal to the Upside Down. As Alexei does not speak English, Hopper and Joyce take him to Murray – the only Russian speaker they know – to translate. Grigori tries to follow them but loses the trail. Nancy and Jonathan regroup with Will, Mike, Lucas, Eleven, and Max and then theorize that Billy and Driscoll are both possessed by the Mind Flayer, who is using them to "flay" (possess) people to create an army. The group decide to visit Driscoll at the hospital to learn more but find her gone. They are attacked by Tom and Bruce who are now of the Flayed who, after Nancy and Jonathan kill them, dissolves into single organic mass resembling the Mind Flayer.|
|23||6||"Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum"||Uta Briesewitz||Curtis Gwinn||July 4, 2019|
|Eleven, who had just then reconciled with Mike, uses her powers to incapacitate the Mind Flayer, forcing it to flee to the mill. In the Russian lab beneath Starcourt, Steve and Robin are captured, drugged, and interrogated, but Dustin and Erica manage to rescue them. With Murray translating, Hopper and Joyce hold Alexei hostage, forcing him to reveal that the Russians are attempting to access the Upside Down and that they are opening a portal beneath Starcourt. Hopper calls Owens to warn the U.S. Government of the threat but Joyce insists that they return to Hawkins immediately, fearing that their kids may be involved. Grigori corners Kline at Hawkins' Independence Day fair, demanding he step up efforts to find Hopper. Mike inadvertently admits his love for Eleven. To find the Mind Flayer, Eleven uses her powers in an attempt to psychically communicate with Billy, learning of his troubled childhood and finding the Flayer at the mill. Billy senses Eleven's presence, giving the Mind Flayer access to her location, and reveals that the Mind Flayer's plan is to kill her in revenge for her closing the gate. The Flayed converge on the mill, dissolving into an organic mass and merging with the Mind Flayer.|
|24||7||"Chapter Seven: The Bite"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers||July 4, 2019|
|Eleven and the others determine the Mind Flayer is coming for her since she was the one who previously closed the gate. Will senses the Mind Flayer approaching and it attacks them before they flee, wounding Eleven. Dustin and Erica drag a drugged Steve and Robin to the movie theater in Starcourt. Eleven's group break into a supermarket to help treat her wounds and gather more supplies. Dustin contacts them over walkie-talkie to try and explain their situation before he loses battery power. Eleven uses her powers to find Dustin and the group takes off for the mall. Steve admits that he has feelings for Robin, but she comes out to him as a lesbian. Hopper's group make their way to the fairgrounds in Hawkins to find the children where they are spotted by Kline, who alerts the Russians. Alexei is fatally shot by Grigori in front of Murray. Murray, Hopper, and Joyce evade several Soviet agents and learn the agents are looking for the children at the mall. At the mall, Eleven's group arrives in time to stop the Russians from shooting Dustin's group. Eleven collapses in front of the children, her wound pulsing.|
|25||8||"Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers||July 4, 2019|
|Eleven rids herself of a piece of the Mind Flayer that had been embedded in her wound as Hopper's group arrives. Plans are made to take Eleven to safety, while Hopper, Joyce, and Murray will shut off the machine, with Dustin and Erica navigating for them from his radio tower. Dustin enlists Suzie's help for a necessary code, Planck's constant. Billy and the Mind Flayer trap Eleven at the mall, and Billy seizes Eleven. While the others distract the Mind Flayer by attacking it with fireworks, Eleven is able to awaken Billy's mind from his memories, and Billy sacrifices himself to protect Eleven. Hopper fights with Grigori in the gate room as Joyce prepares to trigger the shutdown. Hopper throws Grigori into the machine, causing it to go haywire and block his exit. Hopper nods at Joyce to trigger the shutdown, disintegrating everyone in the gate room, seemingly himself as well, and killing the nearby Mind Flayer. As Dr. Owens arrives with military forces, El learns from Joyce's expression that Hopper is gone. Three months later, Joyce's family and a powerless Eleven prepare to move out of Hawkins. Mike and El make plans to see each other at Thanksgiving. Joyce gives Hopper's written speech, that he was going to say during their heart-to-heart, to Eleven. In Kamchatka, Russian guards are instructed to feed a prisoner, but "not the American", to a captive Demogorgon.|
Levy noted in November 2016 that he and the Duffer Brothers had already begun planning a potential third season, saying, "We are not gonna be caught off guard and we don't wanna be making stuff up like the day before we have to write it and make it, so we are definitely optimistic and we have started thinking ahead." The Duffer Brothers anticipate having about four to five seasons to work with, but do want to "have a really finite ending" while the series is still at a height of success, according to Matt, rather than letting it draw out indefinitely. In August 2017, the Duffer Brothers confirmed there would be a third season, with the likelihood of one more season following that, with Ross saying, "We're thinking it will be a four-season thing and then out". However, executive producer Shawn Levy later suggested that either four or five total seasons were possibilities, claiming that "the truth is we're definitely going four seasons and there's very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely." Matt Duffer later commented that no official decision has been made, claiming that "It's hard, like four seems short, five seems long. So I don't know what to do." In December 2017, Netflix officially confirmed that they have green lit the third season, consisting of eight episodes. Levy also confirmed that a fourth season was "definitely happening" and that there was potential for a fifth season. A year later, the episode titles for season three were revealed, along with confirming the season would be named Stranger Things 3, similar to the second season.
Writing for the third season began before the second season's premiere, with a good portion being written in twelve-to-fourteen-hour bouts by the series' creators. It was reported that Netflix wanted both the third and fourth seasons to be written simultaneously as to facilitate a back-to-back production schedule, for the actors were aging faster than their on-screen characters, but both the Duffer Brothers and producer Shawn Levy optioned to focus only on the third season to ensure it was better-developed and more fleshed out.
In terms of narrative, Levy said the season would be less about Will, saying, "We're not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He'll be dealing with stuff, but he won't be at rock bottom... We're [going to be] dealing with forces of evil that are new." David Harbour has said that the third season also draws heavily from the film Fletch. Both Levy and Natalia Dyer echo sentiments that this season's events will be more adult-oriented, with Dyer calling the season's narrative "...Bigger, darker, [and] scarier."
The third season sees Ryder, Harbour, Wolfhard, Brown, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, Schnapp, Sink, Dyer, Heaton, Buono, Keery, and Montgomery return. In March 2018, it was announced that Priah Ferguson's character had been promoted to a recurring role, and that Maya Hawke has been cast as Robin, a new lead who's been described as an "alternative girl." Hawke's character was later revealed to be Steve's co-worker at the Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor in the newly-built Starcourt Mall. Cary Elwes and Jake Busey's castings were announced in April 2018; Elwes was cast as Mayor Kline, a " classic '80s politician – more concerned with his own image than with the people of the small town he governs," and Busey as Bruce, a shifty reporter who works at The Hawkins Post. Francesca Reale was cast as Heather, a popular lifeguard at the community pool. As of September 2018, casting had still not been completed for the season, which at that point had been shooting for five months and was less than two months from completion. Carmen Cuba, the show's casting director, attributed the slower-than-usual casting process to the heightened secrecy of the plot paired with certain roles' shifting characterizations and importance.
For the third season, it was reported that several of the cast members would receive pay raises. Ryder and Harbour received an increase to $350,000 an episode from $150,000 and $80,000 respectively; Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, and Schnapp earned a pay increase to over $200,000 an episode, possibly as much as $250,000, a significant increase from the reported $20,000 they had made in season one (later increased by $60,000); and Dyer, Heaton, and Keery received approximately $150,000 an episode. Brown's wage increase was not disclosed, but was estimated to be bigger than that of her young counterparts. Some sources suggest she made at least $250,000 and may have received between $300,000 and $350,000 per episode.
Filming for the third season officially began on April 23, 2018. Jackson, Georgia remained as primary filming area for scenes in Hawkins' downtown area. The South Bend Pool in Atlanta served as the Hawkins community pool. The major setpiece of the season, Starcourt Mall, was filmed at a re-dressed Gwinnett Place Mall near Duluth, Georgia. The production team had searched around Georgia for a dead mall, one either closed or with significantly reduced vacancy, for film, and found Gwinnett was nearly perfect, having been built in 1984 and thus having the staples of construction from malls in that period. They secured a portion of the mall that had been vacant for some time, redressing the storefronts and food court to feature brands of the 80s, paying attention to which stores likely had made it to Indiana by 1985. Outside "Scoops Ahoy!", a fictional store, they had to make one exception for "Glamour Shots", which was a real chain of photo studios but did not come to malls until after 1985; as a scene of Eleven and Max enjoying a photo shoot was a necessary plot element, the design team created a similar photo studio but with a new fictitious name. Not only did they recreate the facade of each of the storefronts, but they worked to fully stock them as well, in anticipation of any last-minute filming ideas the Duffers may have had.
On September 27, Millie Bobby Brown was spotted filming an emotional scene with stunt doubles and a child dressed in a baseball uniform at a beach in Malibu, California. The third season concluded filming on November 12, 2018. Regarding the lengthy hiatus between the second and third seasons, Netflix programming executive Cindy Holland noted "[the Duffer Brothers and Shawn Levy] understand the stakes are high. They want to deliver something bigger and better than last year. I think it's going to be a fantastic season. It will be worth the wait."
The original soundtrack album for the third season, titled Stranger Things 3, was released digitally on June 28, 2019, via Lakeshore and Invada Records. Like the previous two seasons, the soundtrack was composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the electronic band Survive. The album will be also released on physical formats such as CD, vinyl, and cassette.
In addition to Dixon and Stein's original soundtrack, the season features several songs selected from the 1980s and earlier eras. Legacy Recordings released a 16-track compilation of these songs on July 5, 2019.
Of note was the use of "The NeverEnding Story", the theme to the 1984 film of the same name, which is used in the final episode when Suzie refuses to provide the critical code until Dustin sings it to her. The Duffers had wanted to introduce Suzie into the show's narrative in some dramatic fashion while giving Matarazzo, who has sung on Broadway before, a chance to show off his own vocals. Initially, they were planning to use "The Ent and the Entwife" song from The Lord of the Rings, but aware that Amazon Studios were developing its own Lord of the Rings series, decided to change direction. The Duffers credit writer Curtis Gwinn for using "The NeverEnding Story" as the replacement. Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo, the actress playing Suzie and also a seasoned singer on Broadway, were on sets near each other when they sang the song together and were able to harmonize the song as well without the backing music. As their characters were not meant to be in that much synchronization due to being in two different places, the song's backing track and some autotuning were used to blend their singing to their respective settings and the tone of the soundtrack. According to the cast and to composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, the song became an earworm for many of the cast on the day that scene was filmed. Later in the episode, Lucas and Max, played by Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink, sing the song in duet back to Dustin to mock him; both McLaughlin and Sink also have had experience in Broadway musicals. As a result of its appearance in the series, "The NeverEnding Story" drew an 800% increase in viewership and streaming requests on YouTube and Spotify over the days after initial broadcast, putting Limahl, the song's artist, briefly back in the spotlight.
Stranger Things 3 was widely anticipated, and Netflix backed the show with extensive marketing campaigns. Promotion for the third season began with the first day of production, when Netflix released a video featuring the cast as they met for the season's first table read. On July 16, 2018, the first teaser trailer for the season was released. The teaser, which is the first to feature footage shot for the new season, is styled as an in-universe commercial for the newly-built Starcourt Mall, one of the main settings for the season's events. The "commercial" lists some of the stores found in the mall as well as restaurants in the "state-of-the-art" food court, and closes with Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) saying "Ahoy!" during a short plug for one of the food court's establishments, an ice cream parlor called Scoops Ahoy. On December 9, 2018, during an appearance at the 2018 Comic Con Experience at the São Paulo Expo in São Paulo, Brazil, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, and Caleb McLaughlin presented a new teaser which revealed the titles of the eight episodes in the new season. Hours later, the teaser was released online across all of the official Stranger Things social media accounts.
On December 31, pedestrians in New York City's Times Square noticed a video playing on a loop advertising a special announcement "sponsored" by the Starcourt Mall. According to the video, the announcement was slated to be aired on the fictional ABC network affiliate WIYZ. At midnight EST, Netflix released a new teaser announcing the release date of the season to be July 4, 2019. The teaser utilized footage from Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 1984, specifically the countdown to the New Year. As the countdown commenced, the video slowly turned upside down and became fuzzy, and Mike could be heard calling out for Eleven as the video cut in between different recordings of computers running MS-DOS. The season's first poster, featuring a menacing creature slowly approaching the cast while they're enjoying Independence Day festivities, was released concurrently with the teaser.
On March 19, 2019, the Stranger Things social media accounts posted a short clip of rats scurrying through a dilapidated industrial area with the caption "It's almost feeding time." This turned out to be a prelude to the release of stills and the first official trailer the next day on March 20. The trailer quickly became the most-watched video on Netflix's YouTube channel, amassing 22 million views in the first week following its release. On May 21, the first clip from the season was released in tandem with cast posters. The clip, which features Billy flirting with Karen Wheeler at the local pool, includes notable references to the early-1980s comedy films Caddyshack and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Netflix released the final trailer on June 20, 2019.
In July 2019, actors Finn Wolfhard and Caleb McLaughlin took part in a Q&A session at the Open'er Festival in Gdynia, Poland. The festival also boasted a replica of the Palace Arcade filled with retro coin-ops – such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Dig Dug.
Netflix revealed they had partnered with around 75 companies to produce tie-in products to promote the third season. For many of these deals, there was no financial exchange between Netflix and the third-parties, with Netflix allowing the third-parties to generate their own marketing buzz for their products while helping to promote Stranger Things. Some of the more notable tie-ins include:
A video game adaptation entitled Stranger Things 3: The Game was released hours after the third season premiered on July 4, 2019. It was developed by BonusXP, published by Netflix, and was designed with a retro look. The game was criticized by reviewers for being an exact scene-by-scene replica of the season.
Within four days of its release, Netflix reported that over 40.7 million accounts had seen at least 70% of one episode of the third season, a record viewership for any Netflix program, while 18.2 million had seen the entire season within the time. Netflix reported in October 2019 that over 64 million households had watched Stranger Things 3 within the first four weeks of its release.
Nielsen ratings recorded viewership data for those who viewed the series within the United States on a TV set; the data does not account for mobile, tablet, and PC devices, nor viewers outside of the United States.
|No.||Title||Release date||Same day viewership||Three day viewership||Refs|
|Persons 2+ rating||Persons 2+
(AMA[a] in millions)
|Persons 2+ rating||Persons 2+|
(AMA[a] in millions)
|1||"Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy"||July 4, 2019||2.9||8.86||6.3||19.16|||
|2||"Chapter Two: The Mall Rats"||2.2||6.75||5.8||17.61|
|3||"Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard"||1.6||5.03||5.2||15.92|
|4||"Chapter Four: The Sauna Test"||1.2||3.63||4.6||13.93|
|5||"Chapter Five: The Flayed"||0.9||2.72||3.9||12.01|
|6||"Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum"||0.7||2.11||3.5||10.77|
|7||"Chapter Seven: The Bite"||0.4||1.18||2.4||7.35|
|8||"Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt"||0.4||1.13||2.9||8.70|
Stranger Things 3 received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the third season received an approval rating of 90% based on 121 reviews, and an average rating of 7.89/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Vibrant and charming, Stranger Things transforms itself into a riveting—if familiar—summer ride that basks in its neon-laden nostalgia without losing sight of the rich relationships that make the series so endearing." Writing in the New Statesman, Emily Bootle considered the third season an improvement on the second stating that the third "returned to strength" after a confusing second season and that "season three has largely brought back what made the show unique in the first place". Hugh Montgomery at the BBC awarded 5 stars, describing the third season as "an exhilarating example of a franchise hitting new heights that Hollywood would do well to learn from." On Metacritic, the third season has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
On the dissenting side, Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly criticized the third season for looking like a Reagan-era pop culture mixtape. Ed Power of The Telegraph blamed Duffer Brothers for refusing "to stray from the Goonies-meets-Stephen King formula" and recycling their "well-worn bag of retro references to increasingly underwhelming effect", producing the limpest installment of the three. His opinion was echoed by Hank Stuever of The Washington Post, who felt almost heartbroken for "the Duffers working so hard to re-create an elusive vibe" of the 1980s with a "mishmash of ingredients" only to fail to create a fully entertaining show. Writing in National Review, Daniel Payne criticized the season's "sloppy storytelling" and "cornball humor" compared to the previous seasons, claiming that season three was "frenetic and bewildering where the first two seasons were slow, careful, and rewarding in crafting their plots."
As part of the 2019 Teen Choice Awards Stranger Things received a nomination for Choice Summer TV show. Caleb McLaughlin, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Noah Schnapp were all nominated for Choice Summer TV actor for their work on the series while Millie Bobby Brown was nominated for Choice Summer TV actress for her work on the series. Stranger Things, Schnapp, and Brown all won awards in their respective categories.