Stranger Things has managed to pull off a tough feat: Living up to fans’ high expectations for season 2 after a wildly successful first season. With Stranger Things season 3 on the way, details are beginning to emerge about what’s next for the hit Netflix series, including the final trailer for the series and some new hints straight from the show’s creators.
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After its first season arguably earned the show the title of Netflix’s best original series, the bar was set high — especially once the streamer renewed it for two more seasons. Fortunately, the most recent adventures of the Hawkins gang proved to be just as riveting, keeping our hopes sky-high going into season 3, which again comes from the minds of creators Matt and Ross Duffer.
The next set of episodes will debut July 4, so here’s what we know about Stranger Things season 3 so far.
There are spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.
Final trailer and more clues
Netflix released the final trailer for Stranger Things season 3 (see above) on June 21, and the preview seemed to offer the first clue about the threat the Hawkins kids — and their allies, new and old — will face in the next season. After invading Will Byers’ mind and body in the second season, the deadly entity from the Upside Down dimension now appears to have its sights set on Billy Hargrove, the high-school bully who tormented the kids during that season.
Meanwhile, the Duffer brothers hinted at some of the plot points that will shape the third season in an interview with EW that was accompanied by some fresh photos from the season. While it doesn’t reveal any major spoilers, the coverage does seem to track with the suggestion that Billy will be at the dark epicenter of the third season’s story arc.
Official synopsis and lots of photos
Just a few weeks before the premiere of Stranger Things season 3, Netflix finally released an official synopsis for the season. Here’s a preview of what the third season has in store for the kids from Hawkins.
It’s 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, and summer’s heating up. School’s out, there’s a brand new mall in town, and the Hawkins crew are on the cusp of adulthood. Romance blossoms and complicates the group’s dynamic, and they’ll have to figure out how to grow up without growing apart. Meanwhile, danger looms. When the town’s threatened by enemies old and new, Eleven and her friends are reminded that evil never ends; it evolves. Now they’ll have to band together to survive, and remember that friendship is always stronger than fear.
The announcement of the season synopsis was followed by the release of a large batch of official photos from the next story arc of the series.
The full gallery of photos can be found at horror fan site Bloody Disgusting.
First trailer goes full ’80s, breaks records
The official trailer for season 3 of Stranger Things (see above) debuted March 20 and it offered fans the first substantial preview of the show’s next story arc. Along with showcasing the young cast’s shift from children to young adults, the trailer also went all-in on the series’ 1980s aesthetic with a look at how the town of Hawkins, Indiana, has changed since season 2.
The trailer’s debut also proved that Stranger Things hasn’t lost any appeal heading into its third season, as the preview of season 3 quickly became the most-watched Netflix video on YouTube, garnering more than 22 million views as of March 26.
Stranger Things season 3 won’t premiere until the summer, but the show’s official Twitter account is building anticipation with a short seven-second teaser. The brief video shows a horde of rats scurrying through an old abandoned building, and comes alongside an ominous message: “It’s almost feeding time.”
it's almost feeding time ???? pic.twitter.com/20gokeuKJs
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) March 19, 2019
Fans are already working to figure out what it all means. At the very least, it looks like the Hawkins kids are going to have their hands full once again — at Emerald City Comic-Con, Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo teased that season 3 would feature not one but two separate antagonists.
Netflix kicked off the new year by announcing the July 4 premiere date for season 3 of Stranger Things. The announcement was made via the show’s Twitter account, and was accompanied by a promotional image for the next story arc of the series.
JULY 4 pic.twitter.com/UX9M1L02rd
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) January 1, 2019
“One summer can change everything,” reads the tagline on the image.
It’s all in the titles
Much like in the run-up to the second season, Netflix has kept anticipation high for season 3 by releasing a teaser video that reveals the new season’s episode titles.
Although the teaser doesn’t offer any footage from season 3, it provides the following titles for the next set of episodes: Suzie, Do You Copy?, The Mall Rats, The Case of the Missing Life Guard, The Sauna Test, The Source, The Birthday, The Bite, and The Battle of Starcourt.
Let the speculation begin about everything we can learn from the titles.
What about Hopper?
The young cast members of Stranger Things get the lion’s share of attention, but the adult actors have put in celebrated — and in some cases, award-nominated — performances right alongside them. One of the most popular of those cast members, David Harbour, has offered some vague hints about where his character, Jim Hopper, is headed in the third season.
“The scripts are really great this year,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “And in the new directions that we’re going, all of us are taking a lot of risks. We’re all a little bit out of our comfort zone.”
For Hopper, the biggest part of leaving his comfort zone involves raising a teenage daughter — in this case, one with powerful telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
“I wish I could characterize the season, but to me it’s so big,” he said. “Just taking my story, for example, it’s fun to see Hopper having adopted Eleven. She’s become legitimized in the society, in the world of Hawkins. And he’s a father now. He’s raising a teenage daughter, with all that that entails. So I think that can be pretty funny to see his inadequacies in all of this.”
Mark your calendars for summer 2019
Fans of the series may have to hold in their excitement for a while before they get new episodes, as Stranger Things season 3 is targeting a summer 2019 premiere.
During the Television Critics Association press tour in July 2018, Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vice president of original content, was asked why the new season was being pushed to summer 2019 instead of premiering in the fall like season 2.
“Well, it’s a handcrafted show,” Holland explained (as reported by The Wrap). “You know, the Duffer brothers and [director] Shawn Levy have worked really hard and they understand the stakes are high. They want to deliver something bigger and better than what they did last year. And so, they really want to take the time to get it right. I think it’s going to be a fantastic season, it’s going to be worth the wait.”
Previously, series actor David Harbour hinted at a 2019 debut for season 3 in an interview with Variety.
“One of the things that’s annoying for fans is that it takes us a long time to do [new episodes]. Like, you probably won’t get [season 3] until sometime in 2019,” he said, before talking about how hard at work the co-creators were. “Part of the thing is, like any good thing, [the Duffer brothers] need time. And those guys work so hard. I mean, they just sit in their apartment and write for 12, 14 hours a day.”
Ahoy, first teaser!
The first, official teaser for Stranger Things season 3 was released by Netflix in July 2018, and while it doesn’t offer much in the way of plot details, it does provide a tour of a new location that will likely factor into the season’s events in one way or another.
The short video promotes the arrival of the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, Indiana, in the summer of 1985. Filled with all manner of era-appropriate references to the stores, fashion, music, and general vibe of the ’80s, the video also features a brief appearance by everyone’s favorite pseudo-dad, Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), as well as season 3 newcomer Maya Thurman-Hawke, who apparently sells food-court ice cream with Steve.
Happy Father’s Day, Steve
After helping the kids take on Demodogs and the Mind Flayer in season 2, Steve Harrington took his status to a whole new level with both the Hawkins gang and audiences.
The young cast paid tribute to “Dad Steve” in a special video released on Father’s Day, and it’s a real treat for fans.
HEY! HEY! HEY! It's Father's Day. Pay your respects. pic.twitter.com/9KuDvPnpyK
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) June 17, 2018
Keery will have the chance to work his “Dad Steve Magic” once again in season 3, according to Levy. The executive producer admitted that they “stumbled into a gold mine” with the storyline involving Steve and the kids, and they’re planning on doing more with it.
“We’ll definitely get to see some more of Steve Harrington in season 3, and I’ll just say we won’t be abandoning the Dad Steve magic,” Levy told The Hollywood Reporter.
Prequel novel in the works
Season 3 won’t arrive until summer 2019, but there is some exciting news regarding the literary future of the franchise. In addition to a new season, Deadline has reported that the series is getting three new books, the first of which are slated to launch sometime this fall.
Stranger Things: World Turned Upside Down: The Official Behind-The-Scenes Companion will be a behind-the-scenes look at the show. In addition, an unnamed gift book for children is also in the works. In the spring of 2019, fans will be able to get their hands on the series’ first novel, which will focus on Eleven’s mother and the mysterious MK Ultra project. Other projects, for adults and children, are expected to be announced.
A Stranger Things Reunion
While the current Stranger Things cast films season 3, Netflix is taking the time to honor a couple of old favorites whose characters came to tragic ends: Bob Newby and Mews the cat, two victims of season 2. The streamer released a cute video called A Stranger Things Reunion that shows us where Bob (Sean Astin) and Mews the cat are now. Apparently, they’ve been coping with some trauma but are ready to face their Demogorgons.
As you may recall, both Bob and Mews had awful deaths. Bob (Sean Astin) acted heroically when the Hawkins National Laboratory was under attack by Demodogs, but after risking his life to ensure that Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Will (Noah Schnapp) got out safely, he ended up being eaten. Mews similarly became the meal of a creature from the Upside Down. He was caught by Dart, the Demodog that Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) was secretly raising before realizing what he was.
RIP, Bob and Mews.
Enter … the lifeguard?
The start of filming didn’t prevent Netflix from adding another member to the recurring cast of Stranger Things for its third season.
Haters Back Off! actress Francesca Reale (pictured) has joined the series in the role of Heather, a character described as “a popular lifeguard at the Hawkins community pool.” She’s expected to play a key part in season 3, but specific details are — wisely — being kept secret ahead of the season premiere.
Reunited, and it feels so good
Season 3 was set to start filming on April 23, 2018, according to producer and director Shawn Levy. He told Collider that the cast had finished a table read with scripts for the first four episodes. The other scripts weren’t done yet, but Levy said they were on track.
“It is the same number of scripts as last year,” he said. “The rest of them kind of get written as we shoot, as we edit, as we go. I’m once again directing the third and fourth episodes so that I can give the Duffers a breather, and send them back into the writing cave, so that they can buff out the rest of the season.”
Filming did, indeed, begin. Star Noah Schnapp replied to a fan’s request for a birthday greeting on Twitter on April 25, 2018, and when another fan jumped in to ask how it is being back in Atlanta, he let them know how thrilled he was to have started work on season 3.
“It’s awesome,” Schnapp wrote, “so happy to be back filming with my friends!”
It’s awesome so happy to be back filming with my friends!
— Noah Schnapp (@noah_schnapp) April 25, 2018
As you wish
Netflix announced the addition of two new cast members to the series in April 2018, with Cary Elwes and Jake Busey both joining Stranger Things in guest roles for the third season.
Elwes has had a long career, but he’s best known for starring in director Rob Reiner’s 1987 classic The Princess Bride, in which he played farmhand-turned-hero Westley (pictured above). In Stranger Things, Elwes will play Mayor Kline, a “handsome, slick, and sleazy” character further described as “your classic ’80s politician — more concerned with his own image than with the people of the small town he governs.”
As for Busey, he is probably best known for his role in 1997’s Starship Troopers, but he recently appeared in Showtime’s Ray Donovan series and History Channel’s Texas Rising miniseries, among other projects. Busey will be playing a journalist named “Bruce” in Stranger Things, a reporter for the fictional newspaper The Hawkins Post, who has “questionable morals and a sick sense of humor.”
Back to the Future: 1985
PaleyFest brought together Stranger Things stars and producers in 2018, giving them the perfect opportunity to share new season 3 plot details. They delivered, both on the red carpet ahead of the event and during the panel itself.
Shawn Levy, one of the show’s executive producers, discussed the time jump that his colleagues Dan Cohen and the Duffer brothers had previously mentioned, and he was more specific. Levy confirmed that the series will move forward a year, to the summer of 1985, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That means we will see the same gap between seasons 2 and 3 as we did between seasons 1 and 2. Additionally, the particular year opens the door for a Back to the Future reference, as Levy pointed out.
The state of the unions
A lot can happen in a year, especially when it comes to young love. Still, it sounds like the kids’ relationships — those of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) as well as Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) — will have managed to outlast the average middle school student’s. That doesn’t mean they’re rock solid, though. Levy indicated to The Hollywood Reporter that there will be ups and downs.
“Mike and Eleven and are going strong, so that’s a relationship that continues, and same with Mad Max and Lucas. But again, they’re like 13- or 14-year-old kids, so what does romance mean at that stage of life?” Levy said. “It can never be simple and stable relationships and there’s fun to that instability.”
Big money, looming start
In March, The Hollywood Reporter indicated that the stars of Stranger Things — adults and children — will receive a massive pay raise for the show’s third season after a long and intense renegotiation process.
This season’s new girl
Much like the series’ second season, which added Sadie Sink as Max “Mad Max” Mayfield to the featured cast, season 3 is bringing in another new girl to join the kids (and teenagers) in Hawkins, Indiana.
Maya Thurman-Hawke is headed to Hawkins as Robin, an "alternative girl". That is her literal character description so get ready for some angst. pic.twitter.com/zbyUteq3kA
— Netflix US (@netflix) March 2, 2018
Variety reports that Little Women actress Maya Thurman-Hawke (the daughter of actors Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke) will play a lead role in the show’s third season. Her character is described as an “alternative girl” who is “bored with her mundane day job. She seeks excitement in her life and gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a dark secret in Hawkins, Ind.”
The report also confirms that Priah Ferguson — who played Erica, the younger sister of Caleb McLaughlin’s character, Lucas Sinclair, in the second season — will indeed have her screen time increased to a recurring role.
Season 3 returns to original episode count
For those of you who blazed through the first eight episodes of Stranger Things and wished for more, it appeared that Netflix heeded your frustrations when it added an additional episode for season 2, bringing the total to nine. Now it seems that what Netflix giveth, Netflix can taketh away, as TVLine reports that season 3 will return to the eight-episode format.
For some, this is good news, as the episode count for season 2 might have made it seem too long overall. Too much of a good thing, perhaps. But for others, the report is akin to Netflix breaking the cardinal “no backsies” rule.
A break for poor Will
Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has had a rough couple of years. After being abducted by the Demogorgon in season 1 and filled with nasty Upside Down stuff (including baby Dart), Will found himself possessed by the Mind Flayer in season two before Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy turned up the heat to force it out. All the while, Will was experiencing eerie visions and nightmarish flashbacks.
Luckily (for Will, anyway), our young hero will be having an easier go of it in season 3. In an interview with Glamour, executive producer Shawn Levy said as much: “We’re going to give Will a break. We’re not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He’ll be dealing with stuff, but he won’t be at rock-bottom the way we forced the amazing Noah Schnapp to play.”
Season 3 officially gets the green light
We all knew it was going to happen. The Duffer brothers have been open (if a little cagey) about seeing the series span at least a couple more seasons, and given just how successful and popular the series is, Netflix would, of course, want to keep the gravy train running.
The official announcement came care of Netflix’s official Twitter account, with a humorous pair of tweets asking fans if they should make season 3 or not.
Should we make another season of Stranger Things?
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 1, 2017
FOR THE LOVE OF STEVE, DUH! So hold tight baby darts — season 3 is officially happening.
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 1, 2017
With the next season officially on the way, now the waiting game begins.
Taking on the teenage years
The Duffer brothers told IndieWire after their Master Class session at Chapman University on November 3, 2017, they are enjoying exploring the possibilities. Part of that includes the new avenues that have opened up as their young cast has gotten older.
“We are leaning into it,” Matt Duffer said. “I love the fact that they’re going through adolescence.”
Although aging impacts what they can and cannot do moving forward, the Duffers pointed out that the teenage years have built-in drama that will benefit the show. We saw as much in season 2 as characters dealt with crushes and romantic rivalry, for example.
“I think it’s good it forces the show to evolve,” Matt said.
The Mind Flayer looms
Season 2 brought a victory for the Hawkins kids when Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was able to close the gate and trap the Mind Flayer in the Upside Down. The problem, however, is that the monster hasn’t been destroyed and it now has them on its radar. Based on a tease from the Duffer brothers, this could play a role in future seasons.
“They’ve shut the door on the Mind Flayer, but not only is it still there in the Upside Down, it’s very much aware of the kids, and particularly Eleven,” they told The Hollywood Reporter. “It had not encountered her and her powers until that final episode. Now, it knows that she’s out there.”
With that ominous note, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mind Flayer back in season 3.
A scene-stealing actor gets a bigger role
Getting to know the family of Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) meant that we got to meet his hilarious younger sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson). She won us over with her quips about her older brother’s nerdy habits and love life and, not surprisingly, she stole the hearts of the Duffer brothers and writers as well. It turns out that her role was actually supposed to be smaller than it was in season 2 but once they realized how great she was, they gave her more screen time.
“[Ferguson] was just a local hire we made in Atlanta,” Matt Duffer told Yahoo. “Erica wasn’t even supposed to be in [season 2] as much as she was. We fell in love with this girl.”
Matt Duffer described Ferguson as “GIF-able” and said that the writers quickly realized they needed more of her. As such, “there will definitely be more Erica” in the upcoming season, according to Ross Duffer.
No end date in sight
Beyond season 3, the show’s future is somewhat murky. Although the Duffer brothers have spoken about concluding the series after its fourth season, their plan isn’t set in stone. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they shared that while they do have an idea of how they’ll end the show, they aren’t ready to say how many seasons it will take to get there.
“We think we know where we want it to end basically,” Matt Duffer said, “we’re not sure how long it’s going to take to get there.”
Popularity alone won’t keep it going; they also require a “narrative reason.” Not only that, they want to make sure they and the rest of the team are still excited about what they’re doing.
That is interesting to hear, of course, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll return to eagerly awaiting season 3.
Updated on June 28, 2019: Added the final trailer for the season.
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