The Hawkins crew is growing up — and apart. In Stranger Things season 3 — out Thursday, July 4 on Netflix — the kids are now teenagers, which in turn affects not just the dynamic between the group but also the show on the whole. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) are spending most of their time with each other, to the displeasure of the rest of the gang and her adopted father Chief Hopper (David Harbour). Having lost over a year of his childhood to the monsters, all Will (Noah Schnapp) wants is to play Dungeons & Dragons like the boys used to, but Mike and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) — who also has a girlfriend in Max (Sadie Sink) — aren’t really into it anymore. And Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), feeling ignored by everyone, starts to spend more time with Steve (Joe Keery), which further suggests that the AV Club is ready for a split.
While Stranger Things has been a coming-of-age story from the start, at least for most of the young characters, the third season of the hit Netflix series seems to be the pivotal turning point of their arcs. Eleven is at the heart of this, as she finally gets the chance to discover herself after two seasons of having to be hidden for her own safety. The start of Stranger Things season 3 hints that Hopper and El’s parent-daughter relationship might not have a long future when the dust settles. That’s just one of several subplots that are set in motion during the early going, with the third season continuing the second season trend of sending groups of characters on branching storylines, which will naturally come together as the season progresses.
Additionally, Stranger Things 3 benefits from the change of setting. It’s set in the (American) summer of 1985, which allows it to leave behind the gloomy autumn that contributed to the mood on the first two seasons. On screen, that also contributes to a vibrant blast of colours and nowhere is that more obvious than at the new locale that brings everyone together:…