Stranger Things season 3: First reviews, the release date, the cast and the story so far

The latest surreal happenings in Hawkins have won fantastic reviews from critics, the show's best ever fan ratings on IMDB.

Stranger Things season 3 is now streaming on Netflix and it's quickly becoming the most talked about drama of the summer.

Back in the summer of 1985 - the year of New Coke, Back to the Future - the curious town of Hawkins has just opened a Starcourt Mall. However, the dark world of the Upside Down 

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[Stranger Things: The best fan theories]

Here's everything you need to know about season three..

First reviews and IMDB ratings

Stranger Things season 3

Slash Film said that the new season "roars back more exciting and emotional than ever".

USA Today said: "The series builds upon its Steven Spielberg and Stephen King influences with an homage to alien invasion and zombie films, creating a genuinely terrifying (and really rather disgusting) new threat."

Bloody Disgusting wrote: "The nostalgia is perfection, as are all of those nods and homages to '80s classics we hold dear.

"Stranger Things 3 delivers the requisite holiday fireworks and then some.

"Above all, it leaves you with that joyous feeling of serious anticipation for what comes next."

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone declared: "Netflix's Eighties-set supernatural series returns bigger and badder, with the action shifting to summertime and the teens of Hawkins going through changes."

The IMDB ratings are currently ranking season 3 as the best yet, with every episode getting over 9.0 reviews.

Chapter 3, The Case of the Missing Lifeguard is currently the show's highest rated episode of all time with an average of 9.5, which is even above the season 1 and 2 finales.

Stranger Things drops spoiler-filled new trailer

 

If the first trailer for Stranger Things season was filled with 80s nostalgia and July 4 sunshine, the latest trailer reveals a darker edge to the new episodes.

The footage shows the return of the tentacled Mind Flayer, which looks like it has found a new vessel (Billy?) to help it destroy Hawkins and its residents.

The ominous message for our Hawkins heroes is: "You let us in.... and now you are going to have to let us stay."

The Mind Flayer is heard speaking to Eleven, Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas, threatening them and revealing that rather shutting it in the Upside Down in season 2, it has locked it in Hawkins and it is here to cause havoc.

There are a couple of retros '80s logos for mall stores The Gap and JC Penney and a massive '80s walkie-talkie and also a couple of sweet moments for Hopper, Eleven and Mike fans as the trio share some touching moments together.

[Stranger Things theme song and music: Everything you need to know]

Watch the first official trailer for season

Stranger Things season 3

It's the summer of 1985 and we've got new ice cream parlour Scoops Ahoy, jazzy patterened summer shirts, rats, The Who's Baba O'Riley and more slimy, scary creatures.

The footage largely centres around the locations of the Starcourt Mall and the Hawkins Country Fair.

 

Season 3 - First look pictures 

Stranger Things season 3

The trailer and images show that Hopper (David Harbour) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) have discovered the 80s fashion for Hawaiian-style print shirts, while Joyce (Winona Ryder) also has a fresh new haircut.

Dustin and Steve's bromance looks like its blossoming, while some characters have new jobs with Steve working at the Starcourt mall, Billy (Dacre Montgomery) as a lifeguard and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) at the local newspaper.

[Stranger Things Cara Buono - Everything you need to know about Karen Wheeler star]

[Stranger Things Maya Hawke - Everything you need to know about Robin star]

Stranger Things season 3

The trailer also includes the first footage of new arrivals Maya Hawke, Jake Busey and Cary Elwes asa Hawkins' new mayor.

 

Netflix has released a spood video about the opening of the Starcourt Mall ahead of season 3.

The video post includes the following message:

Coming to Hawkins in the Summer of 1985...the Starcourt Mall! Starcourt Mall will be one of the finest shopping facilities in America and beyond with options for the entire family. Including The Gap, Waldenbooks, Sam Goody, Claire's and more! Don't forget to cool off at Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream shop. Starcourt Mall has it all!

When is Stranger Things season 3 on TV?

Stranger Things season 3

Stranger Things season 3 is released on July 4, 2019 on Netflix.

It’s been a long wait for new episodes of Stranger Things since the second series debuted around Halloween 2017.

Filming finished on series three in November 2018.

[Read more: Stranger Things season 3 air date confirmed]

What is the story so far?

Stranger Things is a glorious celebration of the 80s and its movies about childhood friends taking on the world together.

When Will Byers went missing on the way home from an evening playing Dungeons and Dragons with his best buds, it kicked off a weird series of events that uncovered an otherworldly threat preying on the town of Hawkins.

Around the same time, a mysterious young girl called Eleven arrived in town seemingly with no family, and took up residence in Will’s best mate Mike Wheeler’s basement while helping the boys to look for Will.

However, it soon became clear that as well as being their greatest asset in fighting the forces of evil in the parallel dimension - called the Upside Down - that were controlling Hawkins and holding Will, she was also attracting no end of trouble as a secret group of government scientists were on the hunt for her.

[Read more: Episode titles revealed for Stranger Things 3]

Series two saw Will saved from the Upside Down and the portal leading into it closed with the help of his big brother Jonathan and Mike’s big sister Nancy, as well as his feisty mum Joyce and rogue police chief Jim Hopper, who bravely entered the monstrous underworld in search of Will.

It was far from a simple task and involved battles with various terrifying creatures, all overseen by the Mind Flayer who had been haunting Will and looked to have settled over their school in the last episode.

The last series wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as it finally saw Jonathan and Nancy get together (hurrah!) and the younger cast enjoyed their first school party at the Snow Ball, even managing to dance with some girls.

But with a deadly shoot-out at the secret government plant and the Mind Flayer seemingly still at large, Hawkins is a long way from being saved just yet.

What happens next?

Stranger Things creators the Duffer brothers know the show’s fans want surprises and twists galore so we’re not expecting too much in the way of plot spoilers before the summer.

However, we do know that the third season will be set in 1985, which is less than a year after the last series ended, and Ross Duffer has teased that it will be the last summer of their childhood.

Whether that means it’s the show’s finale, or just that they’ll be taking on more adult roles after that, remains to be seen.

A teaser has shown that there’s a new mall in Hawkins, and we’re expecting it to act as the backdrop for much of season three.

In fact, it will also be the new workplace of Nancy’s ex-boyfriend Steve Harrington, who will get a job in the mall’s ice cream parlour alongside newcomer Robin, who’s looking for a little excitement in her life outside of her mundane day job.

We know Robin will uncover a dark secret in Hawkins, and with Steve having been a key part of rescuing Will from the Upside Down, it seems likely that she’ll be drawn into the group’s dealings with monsters.

Lucas Sinclair’s strong-willed little sister Erica is also set for a bigger part this season as she and her friends get involved in a risky fight to save Hawkins. Could they provide the new direction for the show after series three when the boys have grown out of their Dungeons and Dragons games?

Eleven will of course be a key part of the plot again, and we’re expecting to see more of her off-the-rails sister Eight, who made an appearance in season two with her band of criminals.

And of course, there’s still the little matter of the Mind Flayer to deal with…

[Read more: 7 Questions with... Stranger Things book author Adam Christopher]

Who is in the cast?

Look back at Stranger Things season 3

We’re can confirm that all the original cast are back – it just wouldn’t be Stranger Things without them.

That means Noah Schapp as Will, Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven all return.

Outside of the child cast, there’s Winona Ryder as Joyce and David Harbour as Jim, and older teens Charlie Heaton as Jonathan, Natalia Dyer as Nancy, and Joe Keery as Steve all make a welcome comeback.

Remember the gang’s new friend Max (Sadie Sink) and her violent stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery)? They’ll be back in the cast, too.

As previously mentioned, Priah Ferguson gets a more prominent role as Lucas’s sister Erica, and Maya Thurman-Hawke (daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke) joins the gang as ice cream seller Robin.

Other new cast members for season three will include Francesca Reale as pool lifeguard Heather who is the focus of a new dark mystery, Jake Busey as Bruce, and Cary Elwes as Mayor Kline.

It also looks like Cara Buono will have an increased role in season 3 as Karen Wheeler. Her flirting with Billy in season two looks like it might go up a few notches in the latest episodes, as the pair's sizzling chemistry is highlighted in a trailer for the show.

[Stranger Things: 3 reasons to watch season 3]

Episode Titles

Stranger Things season 3

Fan searching for clues about what may happen in the third season can look at the episode titles, which offer a few hints about what may happen in Hawkins.

The eight titles are:

Mall Rats

The Sauna Test

The Case Of The Missing Lifeguard

Suzie, Do You Copy?

The Source

The Birthday

The Bite

The Battle Of Starcourt

Episode guide

The Netflix previews for the eight episodes are...

Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?

Summer brings new jobs and budding romance. But the mood shifts when Dustin's radio picks up a Russian broadcast, and Will senses something is wrong.

Chapter Two: The Mall Rats S3, Ep2

Nancy and Jonathan follow a lead, Steve and Robin sign on to a secret mission, and Max and Eleven go shopping. A rattled Billy has troubling visions.

Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard S3, Ep3

With El and Max looking for Billy, Will declares a day without girls. Steve and Dustin go on a stakeout, and Joyce and Hopper return to Hawkins Lab.

Chapter Four: The Sauna Test S3, Ep4

A code red brings the gang back together to face a frighteningly familiar evil. Karen urges Nancy to keep digging, and Robin finds a useful map.

Chapter Five: The Flayed S3, Ep5

Strange surprises lurk inside an old farmhouse and deep beneath the Starcourt Mall. Meanwhile, the Mind Flayer is gathering strength.

Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum 
S3, Ep6

Dr. Alexei reveals what the Russians have been building, and Eleven sees where Billy has been. Dustin and Erica stage a daring rescue.

Chapter Seven: The Bite - S3, Ep7

With time running out - and an assassin close behind - Hopper's crew races back to Hawkins, where El and the kids are preparing for war.

Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt S3, Ep8

Terror reigns in the food court when the Mind Flayer comes to collect. But down below, in the dark, the future of the world is at stake.

Upside Down Burgers, New Coke and Scoops Ahoy ice creams - all the best Stranger Things tie-ins

Stranger Things season 3

The popularity of Stranger Things means that there are loads of tie-ins and special promotions, which mean that fans of the show can 

The move to 1985 for season 3 means we're in the year when New Coke was launched and Netflix have released a spoof advert for the famous soft drink spin-off, which ultimately was dropped and replaced by the original Coca-Cola.

Other tie-ins for the new season include an Upside Down burger from Burger King and a special 'Hopper' Meal.

 

A new location for the third season is the Scoops Ahoy ice cream shop in the mall, which is where Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) will e working.

Baskin-Robbins are helping bring Scoops Ahoy to life with limited edition Stranger Things ice creams including an Eleven’s Heaven (waffle cone flavour), an Elevenade Freeze , Upside Down Pralines and a Demogorgon sundae. Yum.

True Stranger Things fans can also invest in a pair of Nike's Hawkins line trainers or an Upside Down Lego set, which should keep you busy while you wait for the new season to arrive.

Eleven's favourite Eggo are also getting in on the action with a retro-inspired campaign, selling their waffles in 1985 packaging.

"Stock up for the big 4th of July bash 1985-style", said the company. "Order the Limited Edition 1985 Ego Box from AmazonFresh now while you still can!

"After the 4th of July, keep the retro Eggo celebration going. Hunt for the rare Limited Edition Eggo Boxes in select stores across the US, beginning in July, while supplies last."

On Thursday 11th July, Hawkins is coming to Shoreditch as Coca-Cola launches a Stranger Things pop-up Arcade!

The Hawkins themed Arcade, which fans will remember from season 2, features authentic 80's video games as used in the set, as well as a secret 'upside down' room, only accessessible to those with a keen Stranger Things eye...

The first 800 guests who are able to find this secret space will get their hands on a limited edition, upside-down world Coca-Cola x Stranger things can (please see image below)

Hawkins comes to Shoreditch

Stranger Things arcade opening in Shoreditch London

UK Stranger Things fans will get the chance to get a taste of Hawkins when Coca-Cola turn our world Upside Down.

A Coca-Cola and Stranger Things arcade is opening on Thursday, July 11th from 11am to 9pm in Spitalfields.

Fans will get the chance to play the original arcade games featured in the series and collect a limited-edition Coca-Cola and Stranger Things Upside Down can. Only 800 are available and will be on a first come, first served basis.

Entry to the arcade is free and visitors will get special tokens to play the games.

The Arcade pays homage to the story of 'New Coke' which launched in 1985 and is referenced in season 3.

Stranger Things fan theories

Stranger Things season 3 - Key art

One theory about season 3 is that Billy Hargrove will be the show's new villain.

This is backed up by the key art poster for the new season (above), which features the character played by Dacre Montgomery, standing underneath the monster in the Upside Down.

Could Billy be a vessel for the monster in season 3?

Speaking to The Wrap about the idea, Dacre said: "That’s really interesting - you mean using my body as a host?

"I don’t know, I don't want to speculate too much."

In the trailer for the new series lifeguard Billy causes a stir with female customers at the swimming pool and is seeing flirting with Mike and Nancy Wheeler's mum Karen.

Will there be a Stranger Things season 4?

The success of the Netflix series means an end after season 3 would be unlikely. Speaking at the 2019 MTV Movie and TV Awards, the cast suggested that at least one more season was required to wrap up loose ends from the upcoming episodes.

Mike Wheeler actor Finn Wolfhard told Entertainment Tonight: "I think we definitely need one more to tie it all up."

Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers, suggested that there should be "probably like five [seasons]" and Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin Henderson, added: "I think we should stop whenever the story feels like it needs to be completed.

"I don’t think any season should be pushed. If there's no more story, there's no more story."

What are the chances of a Stranger Things spin-off series

Millie Bobby Brown - Behind the scenes on Stranger Things season 3

The incredible characters in the series mean there is plenty of potential for a companion show, prequel or spin-off.

Writer Adam Christopher has produced a companion book for the show, which explores the back story of Hawkins Police Chief Hopper and he believes that the book - which is set in the 1970s - could be turned into a TV series.

"I reckon you could do a Stranger Things prequel TV show. There’s a lot in the book," he told BT TV.

"Of course because the blackout of 1977 [based on a true story, below] was such a large part. When I wrote the blackout sequences, I almost plotted it out like ‘imagine this as an 8-part TV series’. So, if episode 8 is the finale, then episode 6 and 7 is going to be the blackout, which is good because then it kind of helps the pacing of it as well.

"It’s difficult because it’s a book, but it’s important to have that Stranger Things feel to the story, otherwise why am I writing a gritty crime thriller when there’s none of that weird Stranger Things quality to it?"

Stranger Things season three is now available on Netflix.

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Photos: Netflix