This is a full spoiler review for the eighth and final episode and everything prior of Stranger Things: Season 3. Check back for more Stranger Things 3 coverage throughout the week.
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.
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Kerry, Dacre Montgomery, Maya Hawke, Cara Buono, Cary Elwes, Priah Ferguson, Brett Gelmain, Joe Chrest, Andrey Ivchenko, Matty Cardarople, Gabriella Pizzolo, Paul Reiser,
Directors: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer
Writers: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer
The final episode of Stranger Things 3 brings together not only story beats from throughout this season, but also the second season. ‘Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt’ actually makes characters from the more divisive quality of the second season feel more fulfilling and necessary. Where I left the second season thinking they introduced unnecessary characters, I leave the third season feeling like they finally paid off, and were necessary for the story at large.
This is the bravest episode of Stranger Things as well, moving the show away from its love of 80’s cinema and nostalgia-driven set-pieces and characters. As the cast of the Stranger Things are separated in the very sombre final moment’s things feel most like 1980’s Empire Strikes Back.
After a short moment spent with their kids, Joyce, Jim and Murray head down to the Russian facility to once again attempt to put an end to portals to the other side being open in their town. In retrospect the short scene before they all head off together holds so much more weight — it’s the last time El and Jim spend together, even if you believe he could return to the show, which I’ll get to, this moment still will be an important one to El and the season as a whole. Jim is in no way perfect, and the show doesn’t shy away from that, nor does it try and tell you he is — but he is full of heart, and love for his town, friends and family.
I could smell Jim’s death coming as soon Joyce started the conversation about having a date, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t as effective when it actually happened. Joyce starting to pull the two switches by herself before Jim got trapped in the room with the machine was a sign she was willing to do anything for the kids, and Jim was too. The close up of David Harbour’s face when he nods in approval will go down as one of the most recognisable shots in the show’s history.
Jim wasn’t perfect, but he loved El, his daughter. And she loved him. David Harbour’s delivery in reading the speech he never got to give to El was heart-breaking. Millie Bobby Brown collapsing under the emotional weight of it all was gut-wrenching. I sat with my hand over my mouth in a state of shock and emotional gut-wrench as those final moments played out.
Of course, Jim wasn’t the only death this season. Seeing Eleven able to get through to Billy while bringing up memories of his Mother, and then Billy using that to fight against the control he was under was redemption for a character filled with turmoil and hatred. Max lost a brother too, as much as they had their ups-and-downs, he was still her big brother growing up and it was upsetting to see her cry over his body.
One moment that I can see being controversial is the Dustin and Suzies rendition of The Never Ending Story theme song. I found it funny, but tonally it does fit into a weird spot. And overall the joke about Dustin’s girlfriend being real or not all season paying off in this way was odd, to say the least.
Packing up the Byers house represents a lot about the show moving forward, and separating Eleven, Will and Jonathan is a bold choice going into the next season, which may potentially be the last one.
A lot of the final episode was about Jim, Joyce and Eleven, much like the previous seasons, but most the other characters had their moments in previous episodes. I was happy to see Jonathan get to do some more stuff this episode though, after feeling somewhat like a necessary tag along all season.
The big question on everyone’s mind until we get the next season though is going to be about the Russian’s and the American they mentioned having captured. As the American Army makes its way through the facility it does appear the Russian’s had a secret escape route and have retreated to Russian with a Demogorgon, and a prisoner. I’m sure some will swear it’s Jim every day until the next season drops, but I’ll go on record saying I hope it’s not. It’ll ruin a lot of the emotion that’s in this final episode. It does seem like there must be another door to the Upside Down open somewhere still though with a Demogorgon surviving.
I loved this final episode, and it’d be one of my favourite episodes of the show. It pays off the second season and the problems I had with it while wrapping up a lot of the key things from this season. With a little bit of a longer run-time than the rest of the season, it feels almost like a movie as well, and it looks as good as one. ‘The Battle of Starcourt’ was a fantastic finale that I would eagerly and happily watch again right now.
‘The Battle of Starcout‘ Air Date: 04/07/2019
Stranger Things 3 is currently available to stream on Netflix