How to Make Stranger Things Great Again

The summer of 2016 was certainly a strange and turbulent time.  Between political divides, Pokémon Go, and a wave of creepy clown sightings, the world felt like it just might be coming to an end.  But among all this chaos, there was one thing that seemed to unite people, and that was the awesomeness that was Stranger Things!

It perfectly tapped into 80’s nostalgia, while also giving us compelling stories and characters to root for.  In October 2017, Season 2 debuted, and while it wasn’t terrible, it didn’t quite capture the spirit of the first.  Now with Season 3 set to drop this week, here are all the things it needs to do if it ever wants to reclaim the glory the series once enjoyed.

Season 3 is already ramping up the nostalgia by introducing a mall, along with this retro fake commercial for it!

Bring Back the Converging Plotlines
When the Duffer brothers wrote and directed the first season, their goal was to create a series that felt like Steven Spielberg adapting a Stephen King novel.  And in many ways, Season 1 does have that long form, novel feel to it.  This is especially apparent in the three concurrent storylines that run throughout.

We have Chief Hopper and Joyce investigating the secret government facility and cover-up, much like X-Files.  We also have Nancy and Jonathan in the middle a slasher film like Nightmare on Elm Street as they come to terms with the monster that is the Demogorgon.  Finally, we have Mike, Dustin, and Lucas playing out an homage to E.T. as they take care of Eleven and try to keep her a secret.

Each storyline was interesting on its own, but together they created a masterpiece!

Each of these storylines were entertaining in their own right, but the series’ brilliance came into fruition as all the characters realized that their individual plotlines were in fact, all connected.  They all came together for a finale that was both satisfying and exciting.  It was obvious that the writing was carefully crafted and this climax the story was the ultimate culmination of the three subplots.

This is where Season 2 suffers the most.  We get multiple storylines, such as Eleven living with Hopper in secret, Will still being connected to the Upside Down, Jonathan and Nancy trying to expose the truth, and Eleven joining the Lost Boys for an episode.  But none of these felt truly fleshed out, some of the only lasting for a single episode.

The Chicago episode was universally panned, but not because it was a bad episode. It just completely felt out of place and broke up the pacing of Season 2. But had it been given more time, it could have worked beautifully as a concurrent plot.

Why not have Eleven spend most of the season with her friends in Chicago, and then really struggle to decide which family she belongs to?  Why not send Nancy and Jonathan down a deep rabbit hole of corruption as they try to tell the world what really happened?

Any of these would have made for more compelling and complete plotlines.  And unlike Season 1, Season 2 just sort of has everyone physically come together at the end, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  It’s quite clear this season was written much faster than the first to get it released by the deadline.

Think of a Different Ending
A common criticism leveled against Season 2 is that it goes the Aliens route when it comes to sequels.  Meaning that, much like the first two alien films, the first entry contained one monster, just to be followed by many in the second.  Both seasons resolve the major conflict by having Eleven use her abilities to close the portal between our world and the Upside Down.

There was nothing wrong with ending Season 1 this way, but just felt lazy the second time around. The entire point of doing a sequel is to try something new and different.  If Season 3 has any hope of reaching the same level of quality that the first did, it will certainly need to have an ending that doesn’t involve Eleven showing up to close the portal…again.

Please don’t have Season 3 repeat this.

Have the Network Supervise
Obviously, having a network or film studio micromanage a project usually leads to the disaster.  That’s not the point, rather it’s good to have checks and balances in place.  Netflix tends to be very hands off with its approach, allowing creators to do as they please.  And while that’s awesome, and leads to some truly spectacular media, it can also lead to creators believing everything they do is brilliant, even if their ideas aren’t.

We all saw what happened to M. Night Shyamalan after the immense success of The Sixth Sense.  Audiences and studios felt he could no wrong, so he indulged whatever ideas he had, and before long he was churning out universally panned films like Lady in the Water, The Happening, and After Earth.  Perhaps the same could have happened with the Duffer brothers.  After Season 1 became such a smash hit, they were exalted to the point that no one was giving them feedback or constructive criticism anymore.

To be fair, Season 2 wasn’t a total disaster, and it does have some redeeming qualities.  The idea of exploring the other children who were experimented on was interesting.  Also, who knew that pairing up Steve Harrington with the kids would make for such a fun and heartwarming dynamic?

Hopefully Season 3 is up to the task.  They took almost two years in between seasons this time, which means there was more time and write and shoot, so it’s likely Season 3 will be an improvement.  We’ll find out for sure on July 4th!

Season 3 looks legitimately fun, and even though we may criticize the series here and there. it’s only because we want it to be awesome!

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