Netflix’s Stranger Things
Season 3: “Chapter Three – The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”
Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by William Bridges
* For a recap & review of Chapter Two, “The Mall Rats” – click here
* For a recap & review of Chapter Four, “The Sauna Test” – click here
Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) is with Max (Sadie Sink) talking about Ralph Macchio‘s hotness, hoping Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are weeping over them. El decides to use her powers so they can spy on their “stupid faces.” She sees them together— Caleb, Mike, and Will (Noah Schnapp). Will is trying to get his buddies back to basics. He wants to play Dungeons & Dragons and have a “day free of girls.” Not as fun after their real life adventures. His buddies are totally confounded by “the great mystery of the female species” and El’s grossed out by all the burps / farts. She quickly goes back to the room with Max, right as Chief Jim (David Harbour) turns up half in the bag, thinking she’s in there with her boyfriend.
Next, El and Max play a game. They decide on a random person, then the magical girl will use her powers to look into their life. They land on Max’s stepbrother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery). El is transported to that astral plane. She sees Max doing eerie things. Simultaneously, he sees her at the steelworks in a vague apparition.
Joyce (Winona Ryder) tries showing Jim the magnetic problem in Hawkins. Looks like a bunch of kitchen magnet nonsense to him. He’s already hungover, and pissy about being stood up on their non-date. He’s too caught up in his bullshit to listen to anything. He should know better, considering all he’s seen in their town.
El and Max look through Billy’s room. Mostly ashtrays full of cigarettes and porno magazines. They go to the bathroom. There are bags of ice melted in the bathtub. They find bloody items like a purse and a lifeguard’s whistle. Time for sleuthing.
Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) are dealing with the diseased rat story. She brings it to their bosses. The male staff thinks it’s all ridiculous. The message: “Do what you were hired for.” Sad state of affairs for a young woman in the workplace. Not surprising in 1985.
That evening, Nancy and Jonathan go back to the old lady’s house. They want to bring proof to their boss. What they find is horrifying. They see her chowing down on fertiliser in the basement like one of the rats.
At the mall, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) are up to “spycraft” while Robin (Maya Hawke) continues listening to the Soviet message (listen, it’s Soviet, okay? This is the era of the U.S.S.R., so Russian isn’t broad enough!). The dudes do more talking about “primitive constructs” in human relationships and trying to get girls than they do spying to suss out a Russian.
Will’s pissed off with being passed over for girls. He finds it tough, feeling left out, while Lucas and Mike are essentially in love. Heartbreaking because everyone goes through this when they’re young. Not to mention Will’s own potential struggles with his burgeoning sexuality. Is he gay? Or was Mike’s comment about a general ‘you don’t dig girls’ thing among boys? So sad to see Will beat down his hideout in the rain, calling all those memories stupid— Father Gore cried.
At the pool, El and Max go searching for the lost lifeguard. They decide to use the former’s powers. El goes back into the astral plane. She sees a mailbox, then a red door appears. Past the door is a bathtub full of ice. The lifeguard is inside, sucked below into a black void before El can reach her.
Joyce and Jim go back to the ruins of the former Department of Energy lab. They don’t anticipate any video cameras watching. Hopper insists the place is empty, that there’s nothing going on there anymore. Yet Joyce can’t shake the bad feelings. They start to hear noises. The Chief looks around the building and gets attacked by the big Russian. This leaves Joyce alone in the shadows as the assailant flees.
Are the Soviets working in conjunction with the Americans?
In the mall, Steve and Dustin are watching the guy they think is an “evil Russian.” It’s actually a Jazzercise instructor with a healthy routine so you can sweat to the good stuff, like Wham. At the ice cream shop, Robin’s got ideas. The “silver cat” from the Soviet message could be connected to a local company called Lynx. The “trip to China” and other pieces of the message also connect to shops within the Starcourt Mall. The trio spy on Lynx. They find more than one Russian / Soviet agent at the shipping facility in the mall.
“I want you to feel
like this can still be your home”
El and Max keep looking for the lifeguard, Heather. They go to her house. She’s the daughter of Tom, the boss at the Hawkins Post. They stumble onto dinner. Billy’s there with Tom and his wife Janet at the table, like everything’s wonderfully normal. The girls are shocked to see Heather, fine and well.
But, we know the difference— she’s Upside Down.
Are the Upside Down doubles ‘building’— as Billy was instructed— an army in reality?
Flayed Billy recognises El, having seen what she can do at the DoE, outside the rift to the other side. It knows the girl can close the portal. And poor Will can sense those things in their world, telling his friends: “He‘s back.” Back at the dinner table, Upside Down Billy and Heather are preparing the next step of the grand, sinister plan. They’re making more Flayed now.
Soundtrack note: Great use of Don McLean’s “American Pie” in the final scene
Season 3’s fantastic. Love how the Upside Down creatures are trying to break through into reality fully. That’s why the series stays strong— always something fresh each season instead of dragging things out too much. It’s all a long battle, but there’s consistently unique bits and pieces added, drawing strongly off nostalgia while offering a deep story.
“Chapter Four: The Sauna Test” is next.