Stranger Things Season Three

Stranger Things is something I came to later than most. The hype began and I put it on my list of things to watch. Eventually season two came out and I thought, “no better time to start”. I enjoyed it, there was nothing ground-breaking, simply a show that did all the little things right and told a good story along with it. Bit rough in places, but what show isn’t?

When season three came out, I was in a similar spot. I put on the list of things to watch and I inevitably caved because it’s popularity now means that spoilers are everywhere. I enjoyed the previous seasons, but I didn’t love them. Other than a few minor spoilers, I went in as blind as most would to season three but without the rushing enthusiasm of a big fan. Despite this I had questions: What will this third instalment of the Stranger Things story entail? Will it match the quality, humour and lovable nature of the characters it created?

The simple answer: Yes. Season three feels slightly different than the first two because it has more to tell and more characters to tell it with.  Season two introduced a new main character in Max, but gave bigger roles to season one’s recurring characters, most notably Steve Harrington. Season three continues in this fashion, introducing Robin, and providing Billy and Erica more screen time to create what ultimately becomes quite a large ensemble adventure.

Due to the large size, this season is almost entirely split into three main parties, each unravelling different parts of the mysteries within Hawkins as well as combatting their own issues along the way. This makes the start of season three a little stilted. A consequence of telling a complex, ensemble story in the time allowed. Season three is only eight episodes, one fewer than season two’s nine, and so the opening part of the season is setting up what is to come because of the larger cast.

What follows the slow start is simply the quality we have come to expect from Stranger Things up to this point.  This season manages to interweave character issues better than before, as the distance and time between characters seeing each other adds further depth to their individual struggles. The characters all naturally progress from season to season, with only Hopper seeming a little forced in his development. Stranger Things overarching story about the Mind Flayer is good, but it is the characters that make the show compelling. The show may overuse some of its tropes during this season, the most jarring being the romantic subplot between Joyce and Hopper which unfortunately feels like a carbon copy of Nancy and Jonathan’s season two arc. That particular subplot brings some comedic value but really hurts from being so similar. However, I think it speaks volumes that despite these minor gripes season three feels substantially different than its predecessors due its other character developments.

In the end, season three is worth watching despite the minor flaws it has. Each parties story unravels nicely, with threads coming together in a way that makes the whole thing feel complete. It’s a natural progression of the story that deals with new challenges, new emotions, provides new satisfying additions to each character and still manages to be creepy and heart-warming at the same time.

A special note should be made of the VFX artists for this season. Five studios took up the task for season three: Crafty Apes, RISE, Rodeo FX, Scanline VFX (Munich | Stuttgart), and Spin VFX. The work created by these folks are what make the world of Stranger Things feel so eerie and this season takes it to a new level. The previous seasons had great VFX, but the way it is used in this season combined with what looks like even higher quality standards help to produce some particularly gruesome effects.

We always ask the question of “Is this going to hold up to the previous instalment?” no matter the media type. Stranger Things season three, likes its first two seasons, is not ground-breaking, but it doesn’t try to be. It adds to more to the story, its characters, and world with a quality that is unwavering. Simply put: if you enjoyed it before, you will enjoy it again.


Words by Rhys Campbell

Archenemies

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer is the second instalment of Renegades trilogy. Told in dual perspective between Nova (Insomnia/Nightmare) and Adrian (Sketch/Sentinel), two star crossed lovers on the opposing sides of justice. This instalment picks up immediately from the first book, with Nova continuing her mission to infiltrate the Renegades, the superhero organisation she blames for the murder of her parents. Under the guide of the Anarchists, her adopted family, she continues to learn the secrets of this powerful organisation to bring them down.

The sequel introduces Agent N, a drug which can sap the powers of any Prodigy (those with superpowers) deemed to be abusing their powers. This plot is coupled with the growing attraction between Adrian and Nova, which had taken the backburner in Renegades, who are simultaneously trying to make sure nobody uncovers their respective alter egos, including each other.

One thing Meyer does incredibly well is writing action scenes. Each action scene is heart-pounding, fascinating and unputdownable. The last third had everything we’ve come to expect from a tale of superheroes; action, secrets and betrayal.

Unfortunately, it took far too long to get to that point. This trilogy was originally meant to be a duology and it felt as though by creating a trilogy, Meyer must pad out the sequel. Having read the last book a year ago it was hard to remember every single alias and actual name of over twenty-five characters. Not to mention their superpowers. It became a process of having to recall and constantly flip to the character list every few minutes which interrupted my enjoyment of the book, where as Meyer should have spent the time to reintroduce the minor characters readers may have forgotten about.

Meyer attempts to tackle difficult topics such as what leads disillusioned people to the wrong side of justice. What happens when the line between good and bad seems grey? Yet she does so in a heavy-handed way which makes the reading didactic and preachy. There are no subtleties as we see Nova and Adrian question every move made by the Renegades and bring to light the moral issues with a plethora of rhetorical questions. The idea of the villain infiltrating the good guys is an interesting concept but not when it is used to beat the reader over the head with a constant pointing out of the flaws of the good guys. Nothing is left for the reader to think about for themselves as it is all laid out for them.

It was refreshing to see Meyer go beyond the common clichés of the superhero genre in Archenemies, a pitfall she had not managed to avoid Renegades. This may be because there was a greater emphasis on the romance between Nova and Adrian and the loyalties that their bond might test, to both themselves and their families. Personally, the action scenes were much more engaging, and the romance should have taken the backburner again.

 

3/5


Words by Georgina Banfield

Review: The Cry (2018)

The Cry, a psychological thriller TV series originally broadcast in the UK last year, hit our television screens in early-February. It is also available on ABC iView.

It tells the story of Joanna (Jenna Coleman) and Alistair (Ewen Leslie), young parents whose baby son disappears while they travelled from Scotland to Melbourne to reunite with Alistair’s fourteen-year-old daughter. Subsequently, Joanna and Alistair are subject to both police and media scrutiny, putting pressure on their relationship.

Prior to the disappearance, Joanna is overwhelmed by motherhood, suffering from post-natal depression. She is the primary carer of their son. As Alistair fails to give her proper support, she spirals into a deep chasm of grief following the child’s disappearance. Alistair manages to better control his grief.

Throughout the show, we learn that Alistair is manipulative and controlling, driving his and Joanna’s relationship from the very beginning. After the disappearance, he instructs Joanna on what to say and do during press conferences and interviews. He controls their public image.

Coleman gives a perfect performance as Joanna. I can’t fault her at all. She plays the part of a mother extremely well. In essence, her performance is real and genuine, despite her not having any children.

Leslie also gives a convincing performance as Alistair. As with Coleman, his performance came across as genuine and real. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Coleman win an award or two for their performances.

The Cry is captivating, emotional, and full of twists and turns. I found it incredibly addictive. It’s the perfect example of what a psychological thriller should be.

I’d recommend this show to people who enjoy psychological thrillers.


Words by Callum J Jones.