Stranger Things 3 has been out for a few weeks, and now that we’ve had time to really digest the things we liked and didn’t like, our minds have drifted toward what’s next. So far, the Duffer Brothers have only offered some vague teases for season four—which Netflix has yet to officially confirm, though it sure feels inevitable—but we have some questions, suggestions, hopes, and demands to toss out there.
In keeping with the show’s established chronology (season one was November 1983; season two was Halloween 1984; season three was summer 1985), Stranger Things 4 should take place in 1986. But it might actually be more interesting to set things a few years later, when the main group of kids are all in their junior or senior year of high school, the same age Nancy, Steve, and Jonathan (and Barb) were back in season one. They can drive, they’re worried about college or other post-grad plans, they have after-school jobs, they’re slightly more emotionally mature, and the horrific memories of the Mind Flayer have receded a bit. The kid actors are almost aging faster than their characters at this point, so the Duffers may not have much of a choice unless they start filming new episodes ASAP.
Obviously, the next season of Stranger Things will need to address the unseen “American” languishing in the Russian prison (presumably, a still very much alive Hopper), a place where inmates are regularly fed to the resident demogorgon. If it is Hopper, season four will have to deal with that whole situation—“Fat Rambo” will probably escape or be rescued, and there’s no predicting his state of mind (or what his trademark Dad Bod will look like) after he emerges from his ordeal. Also, what are the Russians’ long-term plans for that demogorgon? And what other dark secrets are they hiding that involve the Upside Down?
The other big cliffhanger of season three is whether or not El will regain her superpowers. Season three saw her using them for casual purposes—slamming her bedroom door, spying on Mike and the boys, pranking snooty girls at the mall—until the Mind Flayer emerged anew. Then, battling the creature drained her powers completely. Was it that nasty bite on her leg? The sheer energy required to fight that massive monster? A combination?
Whatever the cause, three months after the showdown at Starcourt Mall, she’s still powerless. It’s a state of being that’s yielded fewer nosebleeds, but you have to imagine it’s also left her struggling with her sense of self—something she was just starting to really explore for the first time after her breakup with Mike. How will she regain her powers? Will she enjoy being “normal” without them? And, while we’re taking Eleven...will she ever reunite with any of the other “numbered” kids, or was season two her only chance to connect with her superpowered peers?
Aside from the season’s big cliffhangers, the poignant departure of Joyce, Jonathan, Will, and new family addition Eleven in the last episode signaled a huge change for the show moving forward. The script didn’t specify exactly where they moved—somewhere close enough to plan a Christmas visit, and within “Cerebro”-enhanced walkie-talkie range, but also definitely not close enough to just zip over on a BMX bike. (One fan theory: Maine, home state of the thematically compatible Stephen King, and also where the late, great Bob Newby proposed they move in season two.) With Will and Eleven at a distance, the dynamics of the friend group will certainly shift—how will Mike and company deal with their absence? Will Jonathan and Nancy stay together? What about El and Mike? Will a change of scenery help Joyce put all those mountains of grief behind her? What reason will the show come up with to lure everyone back to Hawkins?
The Duffers hinted that future seasons could include portals to other places besides Hawkins, which has been a long time coming for a show that is centered mostly on a single small town. It’s unlikely that the show will ever completely uproot from Hawkins; it’s part of what gives Stranger Things its nostalgic appeal. But maybe some of the future action will happen wherever the Byers are now living. Maybe the show will introduce a different secondary setting that brings in a new and diverse array of characters. Expanding the world of Stranger Things makes sense, especially since some key characters are now far away from Hawkins, and—as that tabloid news report teasing “Horror in the heartland!” at the end of season three suggested—the general public is finally starting to be aware that a lot of weird stuff’s been happening in one little part of Indiana.
We already complained about the newspaper subplot in our assessment of the season as a whole, but it sure would be nice to see “Nancy Drew” find a new journalism gig someplace that isn’t totally toxic. Her instincts are on point—as when she suggested a story about the mall ruining Hawkins’ downtown, or pursued that wild-sounding tip about diseased rats—and while a certain amount of dues-paying is to be expected early in one’s career, she deserves better. Someone’s gotta give her a chance to do some actual reporting instead of just making coffee deliveries.
Will was stuck in the Upside Down for most of season one. In season two, he played a huge and complex role in the story as he struggled with being possessed by the Mind Flayer. It was disappointing, then, when season three couldn’t quite figure out what to do with him, other than give him the nominally useful ability to sense when the Mind Flayer was nearby, and make him the one boy who wasn’t quite ready to leave childhood behind. There’s also an ambiguous mention of how Will doesn’t like girls, with no further explanation—something that season four could certainly dig into, along with giving Will more purpose beyond simply reacting to everything happening around him. Also, up until this point, we’ve barely seen Will and Eleven interact with each other—despite all the spooky stuff they have in common—but perhaps season four will see them doing some adoptive-sibling bonding.
The show’s first confirmed queer character also happened to be the fan-favorite breakout of the season. The fearlessly smart and sarcastic Robin immediately fit right into the fabric of the show, and the scene where she delicately comes out to Steve—not long after they’ve both shaken the effects of being high as hell off Russian truth serum—instantly became one of Stranger Things’ most memorable moments (which is saying a lot for a show that features a kid with magic powers and a giant blobby monster). Season three ends with former ice-cream scoopers Robin and Steven getting new jobs at Hawkins’ local indie video store, a perfect new setting for a show that’s enamored with retro movies itself—and, as Robin points out to her new boss, the perfect place to meet hot chicks. Bring it!
Stranger Things season three is now available on Netflix.
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