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

SANSA, DANY, ​AND THE FEMINIST AGENDA

(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.

STOP PITTING WOMEN AGAINST EACH OTHER.’ @juliekosin agreed.

This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

The Avengers: Infinity War

Spoilers ahead!

thanos

When I walked into the cinema, I expected some of my favourite characters to die. Not just because certain actors’ contracts are expiring, but because this film has been ten years in the making. The villain, Thanos, has been working in the shadows of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since The Avengers was released in 2012. Since Iron Man in 2008, eighteen films have been released, and that makes an awful lot of heroes available to show up against the villain, and an awful lot of heroes available to die. Not only that, but the sequel to Infinity War, which continues the two-part war against Thanos, concludes Phase 3 in Marvel’s cycle of films, and a new wave of heroes like Captain Marvel will be introduced to the Avengers team roster.

The film started right off where no one wanted it – with a major character death, and that of a fan favourite. Things only got emotionally worse from there. I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film, grieving for my favourite characters and paranoid that more would fall. The plot was fairly straight forward: a threat is identified and the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, almost every hero and side character is drawn into the battle to stop Thanos from collecting the last Infinity Stones and committing intergalactic genocide. Some take the fight to Thanos, like Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider Man, and Star Lord, while others protect the home front from his invading forces, like Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Vision. Further yet, Thor is the hero who ties them all together as he bumps into the Guardians, sends some of them to Earth, and takes Groot and Rocket Raccoon to a mythical place to forge a new weapon that could defeat Thanos. And this weapon almost does, if Thor had perhaps aimed it better.

Unlike in Captain America: Civil War, the character introspection was quite subtle. Our favourite heroes were put to the test – would they kill the one they love to save them from being destroyed? Could they sacrifice one person for the sake of the universe? It’s a question that heroes often face in superhero films like this, and not all of them make the best choice. We also got an insight into the mind and motivations of Thanos and his determination to exterminate half the universe, as he is also faced with the same choice. However, we didn’t get to see the consequences of Civil War, which was the most recent film with a big Avengers roster, and which directly impacted where the Avengers were and what they were doing at the open of this film.

On the other hand, there were some great character interactions that I had been anticipating for years. The meeting between Thor and Star Lord surpassed my expectations, adding some much-needed humour into an otherwise grim film. My favourite interaction by far was shared between Rocket and Bucky Barnes, otherwise known as the Winter Soldier. They only had a brief moment on screen, but in that time they worked together to shoot the bad guys in a glorious pirouette of death, and then Rocket asked Bucky if he could borrow his arm, which was a wonderful homage to the first film where Rocket constantly tries to steal people’s artificial limbs. One that fans would have been particularly looking forwards to is between Steve and Tony, seeing how Civil War ended, but that never happened. And considering how high the stakes will be at the beginning of the next film, I doubt it ever will.

My only criticism of the film was that I wasn’t a huge fan of the musical score. It fit certain moments, but in others I felt like it was going for the dramatic in the battle scenes instead of a more severe and anxious tone.

Needless to say, I went home and finished off the tub of ice cream.

 


Words by Amelia Hughes

3.5-4 star film, conditional of your love for superhero films, and how the next Avengers film (coming out next year) concludes the storyline.