Why Stranger Things Season 3 was SO Goddamn Boring
In recent memory, have you or a loved one ever found yourself settled onto a couch, ready to engage with the third season of Stranger Things, only to find yourself bored and angry?
Were you surprised by how disinterested you were in the story? Did you blame yourself for feeling a sense of relief when it finally dragged itself to its crappy conclusion?
Well, you’re not alone, and you certainly shouldn’t blame yourself for feeling this way.
The third season of Stranger Things felt so disconnected from the previous two seasons that it was as though it had been made by an entirely different production team. It wasn’t any one problem that caused this season to be so terrible however, but instead, a collection of problems that were the natural consequence of bad writing.
So today, let’s look at the symptoms that collectively made Stranger Things 3 a terrible season of Netflix programming.
**Caution: Major Spoilers Ahead**
Characters Thrown Down the Toilet
When I watched Season 2 of Stranger Things, I was intrigued and delighted by the introduction of Max and Billy Hargrove.
Max was introduced as Mad Max, the “gamer girl” who beat the boy’s high scores and rode around on a skateboard. She was an ‘alternative girl’ with a big attitude and a tortured past.
An equally tortured character was her psychotic step-brother who seemed like the type of person that may have strangled cats during his formative years.
We weren’t given much information into their backstory, and instead had to make our assumptions based on their character’s actions and dialogue.
Max was slow to believe the party and their wild stories of other worlds and alien creatures. Not only was she slow to believe them because the stories seemed absolutely ridiculous, but also because of the reason she was being told the stories at all. The boys were fighting over her, and seemingly did or said anything they had to when trying to get a leg up in securing her as a girlfriend.
She cemented herself as a character that was soft on the inside, but hard and rugged on the outside. She wasn’t interested in being lied to or used, and was proud of her character traits that were seen as traditionally “boyish” such as sports and video games.
Her brother Billy was an unbelievably interesting character because of how well he was played by Dacre Montgomery.
His motivations were clearly driven by a terrible childhood and an abusive father, and I was excited for a story arch that would have seen him plummet to his lowest point before potentially redeeming himself, or dying a villain.
Instead, the Season 3 writers turned Max into a girly girl and Billie into a cartoonish body-snatcher victim.
Don’t Blame Puberty
I understand that puberty has an effect in changing the personalities of adolescents.
Teens can become more moody, horny, reckless, and annoying. But despite this, it’s not common for teens to radically change their personalities just because they’re experiencing new feelings for other teenagers in their vicinity.
After gaining a boyfriend in Lucas, Max becomes the resident boyfriend expert and lover of the local mall. Max and Eleven discuss boys and pretty clothes, use Eleven’s powers to spy on boys, and do little more than discuss boys and their many flaws.
The personality Max used to have was eluded to in one scene when she showed Eleven a Wonder Woman comic book. However, the motivation of the scene was ultimately to show Eleven yet another way that girls are better than boys.
The point of the comic book wasn’t to play to what used to be her alternative personality, but rather, to cement her value as a better alternative to a boyfriend.
We get it.. boys suck…
Didn’t this used to be a compelling sci fi series?
Her personality was completely re-written for the third season. The interesting and tortured version of Max was entirely replaced with an unlikeable mall brat who talked about boys and had no other definable traits.
The only way she serviced the narrative was by trying as hard as she could to make Eleven deeply unlikeable to the audience, a goal that she unfortunately succeeds in accomplishing.
Eleven was a headstrong character that was expanded on in season 2 with a family when she discovered her long-lost mother and adoptive sister.
All that progress is lost with a third season that forgets every memorable and interesting season 2 character, and instead fills the time with clothing try-on montages and teenagers being absolutely terrible.
Why has Eleven forgotten her mother? Isn’t she at all curious of what her sister is up to?
Now that she’s been stripped of her powers for no more reason than to add imaginary stakes to a crappy story, wouldn’t it be of use to the gang to seek out another super powered teenager to help fight the monsters?
Couldn’t we go out and find the other teenagers out there that clearly exist seeing as we’ve only met numbers Eight and Eleven so far?
No, it’s far more important that Eleven tries on enough dresses until she finds that one that’s totally her.
That’s, like, for reals what we’re all here for.
The worst thing is that they made Eleven and Max unlikable for no reason. Taking away their likability didn’t advance the plot or service the narrative at all, it only contributed to the constant mess of unconnected scenes and contrived narrative nonsense.
When They Pulled the Rug Out on Billy
We lost Billy as a character early in the season, because the show decided to go down the well-worn body snatching path and have him possessed.
When I say we lost him, I mean that we lost everything good and unique about the character that had been building since season 2.
Last season, the writers worked hard to set Billy up as an interesting character to watch, and Montgomery played the character really well.
I predicted that he’d probably kill someone in season 3, then this would force Max to either take his side or turn him in, which could have been really interesting.
Instead, his personality and backstory were thrown away when the mysterious creatures of the Upside Down inexplicably expanded their body-snatching powers from season 2 and took complete control of his body.
Now it’s not Billy anymore, it’s the Upside Down monster.
Everything interesting is gone, and his backstory only comes in handy when Eleven cry-talks it at him during the contrived moment when he “remembers himself” and fights back against the monster in yet another example of the played-out body-snatcher trope being whipped to death in an already unwatchable season of hot nonsense.
The writers developed all that backstory and all that character development, just to waste it during a ham-fisted “remember your youth” scene that plays out seconds before his death.
It feels as though Montgomery’s work building the character in season 2 was wasted, and our investment in the character was thrown back in our face.
When Science Fiction is no longer Science
The laws of physics and biology were also thrown in our faces when we were expected to believe that a body-snatching “virus” (as it was described in season 2) was capable of melting humans into animated sludge monsters.
When your plot revolves around human-flavoured flesh monsters that slurp around town and melt together into one giant sludge dinosaur, you’ve got problems.
It’s officially too much to ask the audience to believe that a group of possessed townsfolk are eating poison, mysteriously not dying, then at the correct time, melting into sludge monsters that can attack people because of instructions being sent by a hive mind hiding out in an abandoned shed.
As educated viewers, we know enough about the human body, the limits of a virus, and the physical limitations of sludge monsters to feel that we’re being treated like morons.
It doesn’t feel as though the writers were interested in creating plausible science fiction anymore than they were interested in maintaining the integrity of their characters.
If the problem was simply that the story was a ridiculous and hackneyed clone of decades old body-snatcher films, I wouldn’t be this mad.
If the only problems were just that the characters were written terribly and all the good plot points forgotten, I would simply roll my eyes and move on.
But it’s the combination of a terrible story, horrible characters, and downright wasted opportunities that compel me to vocalise my sincere frustration at how bad this season was.
Stranger Things season 3 was so bad that it somehow manages to ruin season 2 by proximity.
Everything that the writers got started in season 2 such as storylines and characters were either forgotten or butchered. This turned what should have been a set-up season into an enormous waste of time.
Therefore, I can only conclude that Stranger Things was a single-season short series. I have purged from my mind the very existence of any follow-up seasons.
That’s not to say that I’m not going to give season 4 a chance, but I will be watching with very, very low expectations.