Finally, the third season of Stranger Things is here!
The last time we saw our Hawkins heroes, they were dancing the night away at the school’s Snow Ball. Will had been healed and was no longer a host for the Upside Down crazies, Mike and El finally kissed, and Hopper was helping Joyce through her grief (and ours, really) over losing Bob Newby.
But the last scene showed us that the Upside Down was still alive and well and right under the surface, waiting to return.
So what will season three bring? We’re going to recap each of the eight episodes for you, one recap a day. So let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead, so beware!
Episode one’s “Suzie, Do You Copy?” starts out in a laboratory, with men in white coats preparing something that looks very important. All the big wigs are there to observe, and the date of June 28, 1984 is displayed on the screen. (So this is taking place about four months before the start of our Halloween-centered second season.) Two white coats insert keys into an ignition device and turn them simultaneously. This activates some sort of reactor or generator at the center of the laboratory, and its wheels turn furiously and electric arcs sizzle all about.
A giant beam is shot from the reactor at a wall, and slowly the wall opens to reveal an entrance into the other world: fingers from the Upside Down begin to crawl out of the wall, and the scientists look very pleased. But something goes wrong — the reactor blows up, killing some scientists, and the portal to the Upside Down is closed once again.
Speaking in Russian, the biggest wig of them all, Comrade General, informs his men they have one year to fix this mess and to successfully reach the other side. He leaves the lab and boards a helicopter in what looks to be the middle of Siberia.
It’s now one year later, and we see Mike and El in El’s 80s-adorned bedroom, making out furiously like many hormone-ridden teenagers are wont to do. And outside her bedroom is an anxious and seething Chief Hopper, who is rage-eating Tostitos and is forced to listen to the sappy Corey Hart music playing too loudly on El’s stereo, horrified to think of what the two lovebirds might be doing.
When he finally summons the courage to sneak a peek, he does not like what he sees. But before he can stop them, El slams the door shut with her mind, forcing Hopper to bang on the door and beg her to open it. When she finally does, she and Mike are sitting a sufficient distance apart from each other, looking innocently at Hopper, feigning confusion as to what Hopper could be so upset about.
Next, Mike has left El’s and has joined Max, Lucas, and Will at the illustrious and very neon Starcourt Mall. With the help of Scoops Ahoy employee Steve Harrington, they sneak inside the mall’s theater to see Day of the Dead, backpacks stuffed with drinks and snacks in tow. But during the movie, the town loses power — the entire town, that is — and we see something brewing on the outskirts in an abandoned warehouse… something shadowy and Upside Down-y…
But a few minutes later, the power returns, the movie picks up where it left off, and everything is fine. Or, maybe it isn’t for Will, who senses something amiss and gets a chill. He knows whatever he’s sensing is something familiar…
The next day, Nancy and Jonathan wake up late — and together — for their jobs. Nancy sneaks out of Jonathan’s house after getting dressed, and Jonathan meets her outside and drives them to town. (As Joyce and Will sit down to breakfast, we see Joyce pick up a drawing of Bob Newby that had fallen on the floor and put it back on the refrigerator. It’s a sweet nod to Bob, who we lost last season.) Jonathan and Nancy now both work for the Hawkins Post, he as a photographer, and she as a “coffee delivery machine,” to use her words. She wants to write for the Post, but none of the established folks there will give her a chance or take her seriously. Jonathan tells her that she’s overreacting and they’ll eventually see how talented she is and to be patient. Oh, Jonathan….
Meanwhile, Dustin is being driven home by his mom from a summer science camp. He’s desperately trying to contact his friends via the two-way radios they all relied on in previous seasons, excited beyond words to see everyone again. But no one is answering. His mother says that maybe everyone forgot he was coming home.
In his bedroom, Dustin laments that his friends have all forgotten him, when all of his electronic toys suddenly come to life. They all assemble in the middle of the floor and march together outside into the hallway. Dustin grabs his can of Farrah Fawcett hairspray (What? It’s the 80s, man!) and heads outside to battle whatever force has awakened the toys.
But it’s just El working her magic, who is hiding next to the others quietly, all waiting to surprise Dustin and welcome him home. And when they do jump out and yell “Surprise!” it’s Lucas who gets smacked in the face with the full contents of the Farrah Fawcett hairspray can. Man, Lucas sure can scream like the dickens….
At the Hawkins community pool, Mike’s mom Mrs. Wheeler and her neighborhood friends are working on their tans. Or perhaps they’re just waiting until a certain lifeguard arrives on duty. In a hilarious callback to the infamous Phoebe Cates scene of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (you can see a sanitized TV version of the scene here), everyone’s favorite bad boy Billy arrives right on time and makes his entrance (in red swim trunks, no less) while The Cars’ “Moving In Stereo” plays, to the delight of every female within a mile of the pool.
In town, Joyce is at work and is visited by Chief Hopper, who needs some serious help dealing with the wild child he lives with. He wants to murder Mike Wheeler, and suggests he could get away with it because he’s the chief of police after all, but Joyce offers to coach him on the finer points of having a heart-to-heart talk with the teenagers. (“A ‘heart-to-heart’? What is that?!” Hopper exclaims.) Joyce writes down a few key sentences for Hopper to memorize.
Back at Dustin’s house, Lucas has washed almost all of the hairspray out of his eyes. Meanwhile, Dustin is showing off his science camp inventions to the others. His prized possession is a powerful ham radio called Cerebro that’s strong enough to reach his girlfriend, Suzie, who lives in Utah. (Ah, so that’s who Suzie is!) He and the gang head out into a large field so he can install the signal tower and talk to Suzie. But Mike and El bow out at the last minute because of El’s curfew (um, it’s 4 p.m., guys), even though it’s clear that they just want to be left alone to make out to more sappy Corey Hart music. “Romantic,” “gross,” and “bullsh*t” are some of the words the others use to describe Mike and El’s relationship.
Another reminder of what’s going on beneath the town of Hawkins is seen again here, when Will gets another chill or sensation that something is present that shouldn’t be. Eventually, he bounds off with the others in pursuit of reaching Suzie from Utah, while all of the rats depicted in the scene below scurry off unknowingly to a painful and really gross death.
Back at the pool, Lifeguard Billy commends Mrs. Wheeler on her form while swimming. She commends Billy on his form while…not swimming. He offers her lessons, but she retorts that she needs no lessons. Billy suggests that she’s never had the right teacher. And by the time they reach the end of the world’s most obvious metaphor, Mrs. Wheeler and Billy agree to meet later that night at a motel.
High atop a hill in the middle of nowhere, Dustin and team have assembled his Cerebro science project successfully, and Dustin tries to reach Suzie. But she never answers. He tries for hours to reach her, to no avail. The others get impatient, accusing Dustin of lying altogether about Suzie (who’s a genius and hotter than Phoebe Cates, according to Dustin, so she must be real), and everyone leaves.
But as soon as he’s alone, Dustin gets a transmission, but it’s not from Suzie. It’s a man speaking Russian, and we’re taken back to the laboratory we saw at the beginning of the episode. The scientists from a year ago seem to have succeeded where they failed a year ago.
At the Byers residence, Joyce is having dinner alone. While she’s sitting on the couch watching television, we’re reminded of Joyce’s grief over losing Bob, and we see a brief memory of him and Joyce sitting on the same couch together, in happier times. When the camera pans out, though, we’re taken to the kitchen, where that drawing of Bob that Joyce had to pick up that morning falls to the floor — as if someone or something moved it.
At the Hawkins Post, Nancy is cleaning up the offices when the phone rings. She answers it and jots down some notes from the call. On the notepad are written a woman’s name, her address, and the words “DISEASE” and “RATS.”
At Hopper’s house, REO Speedwagon is playing too loudly, and Mike and El are at it again, making out like it’s their last day on Earth. In his bedroom, Hopper has traded rage-eating for rage-smoking and is furiously repeating Joyce’s words over and over, willing himself to get up the nerve to confront the horny teenagers. And he does! He goes into El’s room, turns off the music, and prepares to have his very first heart-to-heart. Except, Mike and El see that he is nervous about something and begin to laugh at him. This throws off Hopper from his game, so he tells Mike that he has to leave immediately. In his car, Hopper tells him, using his own words and not Joyce’s, that if he is lucky, he will allow Mike to continue dating his daughter. Mike gets the message loud and clear.
At the Wheeler residence, Mrs. Wheeler is getting ready for her “swimming lesson” while Cutting Crew’s “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight” plays. (This soundtrack is delicious 80s music the whole way through!) She makes her way downstairs and sees her husband asleep, with their young daughter in his arms, in the living room La-Z-Boy. She stops and thinks about what she is about to do.
Before we see whether Mrs. Wheeler decides to go through with her decision, we see Billy racing like crazy to the motel. Driving down a dark road in his muscle car, as Billy practices his smooth pick up lines in the rear view mirror, something hits his windshield, causing him to wreck his car into the abandoned warehouse we’ve seen throughout the episode. (RIP, all those rats.) As Billy tries to salvage what he can from his car, he is ultimately grabbed by… something and is dragged violently into the warehouse, where the episode ends with Billy screaming off camera.
Can Will’s connection to the Upside Down ever be broken? What are the Russian scientists trying to do, exactly? What’s causing Bob’s refrigerator drawing to keep falling? Did Mrs. Wheeler leave to meet Billy? Can anyone really be a genius and hotter than Phoebe Cates?
Stay tuned for a recap of episode two, “The Mall Rats,” tomorrow. And watch the new season of Stranger Things now on Netflix!