Stranger Things is one of Netflix’s most successful shows. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, the show has broken Netflix records, captivated audiences around the world and has created a widespread following. Since its release in August 2016, the fandom is stronger than ever. In the third season, the Hawkins, Indiana, gang is back, with a new mall, new relationships, new enemies and New Coke. 

There are a lot of new aspects to this season, including Billy (Dacre Montgomery) as the main antagonist and the show exploring Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder)’s relationship. The biggest arc this season is the newfound friendship between Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Max (Sadie Sink). Last season, Eleven seemed to harbor negative feelings toward Max, but quickly into the third season, the two become thick as thieves. The two not only set a great example for female friendship, but Max helps Eleven find herself outside of her relationship with Mike (Finn Wolfhard). 

The season bombards audiences with ’80s nostalgia, from Dustin’s magical rendition of The Neverending Story theme song to the premiere of Back to the Future. The most prominent form of nostalgia in the season is the fashion from costume designer Amy Parris. The decade of bold style is in full swing on each and every character, with the loud patterned shirts, the thick shoulder pads and the bright one piece bathing suits. 

Throughout the season, the show reminisces on the days where the Hawkins kids were young and sequestered to their Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. Each Hawkins child is growing up right in front of viewers’ eyes, and it’s more evident than ever this season with their newfound relationships, empowerment and teenage hormones. 

Stranger Things wouldn’t be the incredible show it is without its phenomenal cast. Everyone in the show is known for bringing their all to their characters, but this season proves to be a game changer, bringing surprisingly wonderful performances from some, the same energy level from others and failing to utilize some of their best talents. 

It’s surprising to see just how little the plot uses Noah Schnapp this season. His character, Will Byers, has always been the focus of the show, between his kidnapping in season one and his possession by the Mind Flayer in season two. Season three, however, features Schnapp only sensing when the Mind Flayer is near the group of kids, instead of integrating his character into the story. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) also played a lot smaller of a role than previous seasons.

The bright side is, the absence of the larger roles of these characters left room for other characters to have more screen time to shine, like the new addition of Robin (Maya Hawke), as well as Billy. Billy, was introduced in season two, as one of the smaller-stakes antagonists that was a sought-after school bully archetype on steroids. This season, Billy is chosen as the Mind Flayer’s new host, so he plays a much larger role in the overall plot. Montgomery’s honest character portrayal shows not only someone who is possessed by pure evil, but also shows glimpses of a boy who is struggling to cope with his life and always has a mountain of feelings buried just beneath the surface. 

One of the great things about Stranger Things is the option of how to watch it. Audiences can watch the show like a regular series and split up the episodes, or it can be watched by binging the whole season straight through in the style of a film. The episodes always end on a slight cliffhanger, which aren’t so urgent that you need more episodes immediately, but they’re just enough that it makes you want to keep watching. The bad part is, with the good flow of the episodes comes the standard setup episodes, which lack great pacing but give the necessary set up for the rest of the season, and the third season doesn’t really pick up until episode four. 

Season three is by far the goriest season so far, creating a new design of monster that leaves audiences feeling sick to their stomachs. The exploding rats and people combining together to form the new monster make a clever and twisted adaptation of the Mind Flayer, while making season three’s monster the scariest yet. 

With everything the Hawkins gang has been through it seems things can’t get much worse, but the ending of every season proves the Duffer brothers are going to make things stranger and stranger. The end of the seasons provides a great opening for seasons to come, and leaves audiences helplessly dangling off a cliff, begging for more content. Season three leaves some things to be desired, but also adds a lot of strong plot points, characters and character arcs to leave audiences excited for the next season.