School’s Out For the Summer in ‘Stranger Things 3’ Premiere (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Stranger Things Season 3 Premiere, “Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?”]
It’s summertime in Hawkins, Indiana, and with all the Demogorgons exterminated, and the portal to the Upside Down sealed shut, it means everyone can just relax and have a good time. Right?
It’s 1985. Michael Jordan has just been named the NBA’s “Rookie of the Year.” Back To The Future is opening in theaters. The Live Aid pop concert is about to take the world by storm. The sun-baked town of Hawkins is popping with teenage romance, trips to the mall, ice cream, pool dunking, and exploding rats. Wait. Exploding what now?
“Suzie, Do You Copy?” lures us into a false sense of summer bliss. It’s been eight months since our gang of misfit heroes saved Hawkins from the tentacled demon known as the Mind Flayer. And, on the whole, things seem to have returned to normal. The kids are just being kids again, sneaking into Rated R movies and playing childish pranks. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is no longer possessed and throwing up slug-creatures. Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) are officially boyfriend/girlfriend, as are Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), though Lucas is certainly pushing his luck in that regard. Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), too, claims to have fallen in love while at science camp, to a Mormon girl called Suzie.
Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) continue their love affair while interning at the Hawkins Post, a local newspaper run by a bunch of guffawing chauvinists. Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) is slinging ice-cream at ‘Scoops Ahoy!’, where his company required sailor hat is cramping both his hairstyle and his flirt game, much to the amusement of his acerbic co-worker Robin (a delightful Maya Hawke). Of course, flirting isn’t a problem for mullet-mopped Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), who continues to put the moves on an infatuated Mrs. Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono). Everything is surprisingly… regular.
That’s not to say all is perfect. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) is adjusting to life without her hero Bob Newby (Sean Astin), who sacrificed himself at the end of last season. She’s also feeling the harmful effects of mall culture on her small-town business. Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is struggling to bottle his angry, overprotective dad tendencies, especially when it comes to Eleven dating Mike. He’s becoming increasingly frustrated with their bedroom make-out sessions and the amount of time they’re spending together (as are Lucas, Max, and Will). “Maybe I’ll just kill Mike; I’m chief of police, I know how to cover it up,” he quips. Joyce tells him he needs to learn how to communicate with the young teens; a real “heart to heart,” not dictating to them law and order style. Hopper fails to follow this advice and ends up using scare tactics on a petrified Mike.
Nancy is also having trouble communicating with her bosses at the Hawkins Post. Bored with making coffee and doing food runs, the scrappy Wheeler daughter wants to prove she is a capable reporter. She has a great story idea on “the death of small-town America,” highlighting the impact of the Starcourt shopping mall on local independent businesses in downtown Hawkins. In authentic 80s style, the Starcourt mall is the buzz of the town and the place to be; it also allows Stranger Things to really up its product placement game (let’s not even talk about the New Coke tie-in). But Nancy’s lofty aspirations are laughed off and dismissed by the boardroom of obnoxious old white men that she works for at the Post.
Communication troubles are also plaguing Dustin, in a more literal sense. While at science camp, he built a battery powered radio tower (“the Cadillac of radio towers”), so that he can keep in touch with the definitely-not-imaginary Suzie. He enthusiastically sets the tower up atop a hill, but the mysterious Suzie doesn’t respond to his calls. The rest of the gang think that Dustin’s summer camp romance is just a figment of his imagination, and so they leave him to stew alone. But Dustin does eventually pick something up on his makeshift radio; however, it’s not the voice of his star-crossed lover, it’s a Russian man speaking in code.
All of these issues seem kind of quaint compared to the demonic madness of the first two seasons, but, of course, there are still dark forces lurking beneath Hawkins… and beyond. Those Russian intermissions picked up on Dustin’s radio are likely related to the Soviet Union laboratory we saw in the cold open to the episode. Scientists are once again trying to force open a rift to another dimension, just as the scientists at the Hawkins Lab had attempted previously. And during a town-wide power cut, that familiar shadow energy sweeps through Hawkins, where it attracts an army of rats into an abandoned Steel Works factory. It even lures in the dirtiest rat of all, Billy, who crashes his car nearby and is then dragged into the pits of hell, hopefully, never to be heard from again.
Whatever this dark energy is, it’s clearly related to the Upside Down, as Will senses something is up. Maybe summertime in Hawkins isn’t going to be all sunshine and mall-shopping after all?
-Welcome to TV Insider’s coverage of Stranger Things! I’ll be writing episodic recaps for the entirety of Season 3. Look out for a new recap per day between now and July 11. Thanks for reading!
-It’s no wonder Steve can’t get a date when he has to greet customers with this piece of poetry: “Are you ready to set sail on this ocean of flavor with me?”
-I’m glad to see Bob hasn’t been forgotten. There are some sweet callbacks in this episode, between the Superhero Bob drawing and Joyce reminiscing about watching Cheers together.
Stranger Things, Streaming, Netflix