Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 swiftly establishes the new status quo in Hawkins, Indiana - and raises a lot of questions for the future of the season. It's been almost two years since Netflix viewers last visited Hawkins, and to celebrate we're going through each new episode and asking the biggest questions (with no spoilers for future episodes).
The Stranger Things season 3 premiere, "Suzie, Do You Copy?", is all about setting the scene for the thrills and chills that are about to come. It reintroduces all the main characters, devoting a particular amount of time to the blossoming romance between Mike and Eleven, which is putting strain on the friendships that lie at the heart of the show. Meanwhile, Will is haunted by a sense that something weird is happening again - and he's right, as the Upside Down begins to make its presence felt in Hawkins once again. A dramatic end scene sees Max's stepbrother Billy become the first victim of the mysterious new monster.
So let's explore the mysteries of Stranger Things season 3, episode 1; what are the Russians doing, what is the Mind Flayer's plan, and is there any chance Mike and Eleven will get their Happily Ever After with Hopper on the scene?
5. What Do The Russians Want From The Upside Down (& Hawkins)?
Stranger Things is set against the backdrop of the Cold War, and the USSR has been conducting exactly the same kind of experiments that Dr. Brenner was running at Hawkins Lab. The opening scene of Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 reveal that the Soviets are ahead of the game, and are working on making a Gate into the Upside Down. It looks as though they've been successful by 1985. The episode's end hints that the Soviet project has operatives in Hawkins, when Dustin stumbles upon a coded transmission.
4. What's Happened To All The Rats?
Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 shows something pretty weird happening to all the rats of Hawkins; the rodents are drawn to the basement of an old steelworks, where they spontaneously detonate. Presumably this is the Mind Flayer's latest attack; the opening of the Russian Gate has allowed it to exert its psychic presence on Earth again. The rats could have eaten the remains of the Demogorgons and Demodogs that were killed at the end of season 2, meaning they'd all be infected with the virus that allows the Mind Flayer to bring creatures and even people into its hive mind. As for why they were killed, it appears they've been transformed into Upside Down goo.
3. Is Will Still Connected To The Mind Flayer?
Nobody has been affected by the Upside Down more than Will, who fell under the Mind Flayer's control in season 2. It's clear this has turned him into a sort of mental early warning system, and in Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 he senses something is very wrong in Hawkins once again. Unfortunately, Will doesn't seem to understand what's going on - or perhaps simply doesn't want to acknowledge that the strangeness is back.
2. What's Happened To Billy?
Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 ends with Billy caught in a car crash and falling prey to a mysterious monster. While it's possible he's been killed - the show has never minded shock deaths, as Barb revealed in season 1 - it's more likely that Billy will be infected with the Mind Flayer virus, and become the human antagonist in Stranger Things season 3. The episode avoids giving a glimpse of the creature that attacks him, saving that horror for later.
1. What Did Hopper Threaten Mike With?
The day their daughter begins to date is every father's worst nightmare, and it's particularly rough for the over-protective Hopper. He spends most of Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 trying to work out how to have a very awkward conversation with Mike and Eleven, but finally loses his temper and lies to Mike in order to get him on his own. The episode avoids giving away the conversation, leaving it to viewers' imaginations - and it's sure to drive the plot in the next episode.
Other Mysteries After Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 1...
Meanwhile, Stranger Things season 3, episode 1 sets up a whole host of secondary questions. Will Hopper and Joyce ever get together? Joyce clearly cares for Hopper but feels guilty about being near to moving on from Bob's death. Does Dustin's girlfriend Suzie even exist? She seems improbable, but Dustin goes to pretty dramatic lengths to contact her. What's going on with Billy and Mrs. Wheeler? Mike's mom has clearly been enjoying the attention from Billy, but the episode is ambiguous about whether or not she went out to meet him. If she did, she's been stood up, which could definitely complicate matters.