Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)
When you set your story in a sleepy American hamlet in 1985, it’s a matter of time before the Russians make their way there to wreak havoc. But the Red Menace is the least of the Netflix Goonies’ problems: they also have to grapple with puberty issues (holy, hoarse voices!) and the return of the resident big-bad, the Mind Flayer. The first half of Season 3 briskly establishes the new relationship combos (Joe Keery’s Steve ‘The Hair’ Harrington and Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin Henderson win hands down in the Best Duo or Group Performance category); the second part follows a more predictable them-vs-Monster trajectory. Maya Hawke (Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman’s daughter) is a nice addition to the mayhem but can’t say the same for — cue ‘80s pop-culture stunt casting — Cary Elwes who’s stuck with the one-note smarmy ‘Mayor from Jaws’-esque role. Elsewhere, a major character demise lends heft but the post-credits stinger, which suggests that nothing is what it seems, might have dampened its impact. The retro trip is still fun, if a little familiar, but the fatigue signs are obvious. If Netflix decides to renew the nostalgia-fest (chances are they will), they may want to hit the reboot button. If they're planning to set next season in 1986, how about they throw in a Tom Cruise cameo? (***)
Watch it on: Netflix
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