“Stranger Things” is one of those few shows that became a surprise juggernaut but managed not to stray from its core look and feel. That’s particularly evident in this effective, exciting third season, which builds off everything that’s come before without succumbing to placating its audience or biting off more than it can chew. The core value of the series remains friendship, and it’s all over the screen in this season: All the show’s characters have established solid dynamics with one another, and some of those have developed into sincere bonds over the course of the events they’ve all survived, and it feels true to life despite the show’s highly stylized visual look. All the performances are strong as usual, but this time Dacre Montgomery as Billy emerges as the standout thanks to an unexpected character arc that both humanizes and softens the character without straying too far. David Harbour and Winona Ryder make for a great bickering team and they’re a pleasure to spend time with, thanks to their winning chemistry and individual likability. The horror elements are more pronounced this time (along with shades of “The Goonies,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes”) and the show does a terrific job of increasing the stakes without crossing into hardcore territory.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)