Stranger Things dropped its third season on the Fourth of July. We’ll review the first two episodes here, and return to discuss the entire show sometime next week, when you’ve all had a chance to watch.

It’s 1985, and the Cold War touches everything– even other dimensions.

Titles: “Suzie, Do You Copy” and “The Mall Rats”

Cast and Crew

Written and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer

Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers
Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven
Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson
Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair
Noah Schnapp as Will Byers
Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield
Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler
Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers
Joe Keery as Steve Harrington
David Harbour as Jim Hopper
Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler
Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove
Maya Hawke as Robin
Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair
Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler
Sean Astin as Bob Newby
Jake Busey as Bruce
Joe Chrest as Ted Wheeler
Catherine Curtin as Claudia Henderson
Andrey Ivchenko as Grigori
Michael Park as Tom Holloway
Yasen Peyankov, Alexander Chernyshev as Russian Scientists
Francesca Reale as Heather Holloway
Alec Utgoff as Dr. Alexei
Caroline Arapoglou as Winnie
Erika Coleman as Anna Jacobi
Dylan Gage as Johnny
Georgui Kasaev as Russian Comm Officer
Anniston and Tinsley Price as Holly Wheeler

Premise

An intercepted Russian message and some oddly-behaving rats suggest that, once again, things in Hawkins, Indiana, will turn stranger.

High Points

The characters remain credible, no matter how odd the circumstances and how trope-filled, nostalgia-winking the script. Millie Bobby Brown and Sadie Sink excel as bestest friends, while Gaten Matarazzo continues to demonstrate his maturity as an actor.

And I surrender to the manipulation: I cannot wait for those braying jackasses at The Hawkins Post to receive their comeuppance.

Low Point

After a slowish start in the first episode, the pacing picks up, but it really feels like we’re encountering exactly the same threat as before, even if it is using different tactics. Who goes there?

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 It’s July, 1985, and mysteries in Hawkins connect to the Upside Down. Will those meddling kids and Chief of Police overcome their differences and save the day?

The core kids are teens now and a mall has opened, so the characters and setting at least feel a little different than in the first two seasons.

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 6/6 The acting is great, even if the characters are acting like hot-peppered a-holes. Mike and El behave disrespectfully when Hopper tries to cool their teen romance– it’s not like Mike has the highest regard for the chief, after he kept El’s survival a secret last season. Hopper responds by falling a little too far from Ward Cleaver standards. Mike could keep El close by being straightforward and truthful. Instead, he lies. El consults Max, whose advice… What did we expect? The core cast are now teenagers, and Chief Hopper always did walk an unsecured line.

Story: 5/6

Production: 6/6 Everything looks great and, in addition to the latest 80s soundtrack, the original music continues to evoke an era.

I await the Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer” and, of course, a certain Don Henley track. The Duffers won’t disappoint me, will they?

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, Stranger Things, Season Three, Episodes One and Two, receive 35/42