Stranger Things 3 (“The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”)

Season 3, Episode 3
Date of release: July 4, 2019 (Netflix)

It’s the episode that moved things forward. It’s the episode with a heavy rain storm, because there is no summer on this green-and-blue planet during which you get drowned by heavy rain. In fact, I am a little surprised that Hawkins wasn’t flooding under all this rain, but then I guess maybe the town had a proper sewer system, which was able to drain the rain water out of the town and direct it to wherever water normally goes. This was quite an interesting episode, which almost made up for the previous one. It turns out that the teenage drama stuff needed to be in the previous episode to have max and Eleven team up for this episode, and the break-ups needed to happen in the previous hour, so that Will had his opportunity to try and be a child with his friends again, to forget the nightmares of the previous season and to bask in the notion that boys don’t need girls to have fun. I quite loved Will’s destructive moments in front of Castle Byers, and I loved the notion that Will has been the last of the party to realize that he has some growing up to do, although in his case growing up with all the memories from the previous two years is a little harder to do, which explains why he wanted to be a child in this episode and just remember the good-old Dungeons & Dragons times with his friends. Maybe his development got kind of stuck right before the moment he disappeared into the Upside Down and now he is catching up on all the teenage drama he has missed.

Someone needs to lose some weight…

I also liked this episode for the way it separated the team-ups and have them discover an individual clue to the greater story arc. Eleven and Max worked the disappearance of Heather, realizing that something very weird and very bad is going on with Billy. Dustin, Steve and Robin worked the Russian angle, realizing that something very sinister is going on here. Hopper and Joyce worked the electromagnetic angle and found themselves back at the lab, where they were attacked (okay, only the man was beat up, but still), which means something sinister is going on. Nancy and Jonathan followed the rats back to Mrs. Driscoll, who is definitely not human anymore, which means something weird and mysterious is going on. And then there are Will, Lucas and Mike, who now come to learn that the monster is back. This episode had five different arcs and each of them led to a different angle of the supernatural story of the season. It’s something I wasn’t expecting after the previous episode, but here we are. The writers have finally put that pedal to the metal and the narrative is now able to race through the next five episodes. Now the obligatory waiting period has started, in which we just sit in front of our screens and count the minutes until all five teams join forces to fight against the monster as one — it’s not like STRANGER THINGS has not made us do that before.

Still, there were some annoying plot points I was rolling my eyes to, and most of them belonged to Hopper, who could not have been more ridiculous throughout the first third of the episode. He bitches and moans that Joyce didn’t show up for their date, he screams at her for not listening, and then he doesn’t believe her when she is worried that something might be going on at the lab. Considering the crap they have gone through together over the past two years, I am actually shocked that Hopper wasn’t listening immediately, getting curious in the process. No, he was only allowed to be angry that he was stood up. That made Hopper a foolish and dumb character and I didn’t mind that he was beat up at the end of the episode. One can only hope that the pain he will be suffering in the next episode is waking him up to all the weirdness that is happening in town, and this time he will listen when someone has something to say about what is happening.

The American amateur spies spy on the professional Russian spies.

Eleven and Max’s teenage investigation into Heather’s fate was pretty cool on the other hand. I’m glad the two girls have teamed up to have their own adventure together, although not unlike Hopper’s story, I was slightly disappointed that the girls didn’t believe something really awful was happening. Eleven saw Billy in a compromising situation and she felt that he saw her. Then the whole thing with Heather screaming for help in the dark world, which apparently didn’t give Eleven nightmares at all. No, the girls only went to Heather’s place and were not weirded out by what was happening there. Still, the whole story had a great INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS vibe and that part of the episode I loved. There need to be a television adaptation of the film, and scenes like the final one, in which Heather struck down her father, need to be standard horror fare for such a show. I mean, she hammered her high heel into her father’s back — that is brutal as hell!

Meanwhile, the Starcourt gang were almost dealing with Russian terrorists, judging by the hardware they were wearing to protect themselves. It’s a story I didn’t really care for, but there is fun in Steve and Dustin’s verbal repertoire, and I must say I found myself surprisingly liking the Steve/Robin “romance.” Not only would a teenage romance like that bring Steve down to the level of the kids and be their equal, it would also mirror Will’s story: The Byers kid wants to be a kid again, but is forced to grow up. Steve on the other hand is supposed to grow up after finishing high school (it’s nice of the episode to mention that fact), but it turns out he is kind of growing back a few years, just so he can have some fun with a 13-year-old kid, or however old Dustin is. That would also help make the romance part of Steve’s life a little easier, even though I would never believe that Robin is still in school — she is just too cool and too smart to still hang around with idiots who like to disco with too much Farrah Fawcett hairspray on their head.

And finally, the investigative part of the episode, which I did not like and then I barely cared about. The way Nancy was being made fun of by the reporters on staff is by now an annoying part of the show, as it has been happening for the second or third time now. Yes, we got that the guys at the paper are idiots and sexist, there is no need to remind us of this every 35 minutes. If we could move on from that plot and Nancy and Jonathan towards the danger in Mrs. Driscoll’s basement, that would be great.

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