And just like that, another season of Stranger Things is in the bag, and it was magnificent, wasn't it? It was filled with hilarious moments, exciting conflict, and even a few heartbreaking sequences that promised to shake up the status quo. We can safely say that the Duffer brothers did not phone this season in.
While season 2 is generally considered to be a lame retread of season 1, season 3 found its own identity and, as such, is far more memorable than its predecessor. These are ten things from season 3 that even the shows' superfans were shocked by. Be warned, there are HUGE spoilers ahead!
10 Robin's Integration
Introducing new characters to an established show is always tricky because it can blow up in the show's face. Just ask the weird group from season 2! Luckily, and to the surprise of everyone, Robin proved to be an exceptional character.
It was especially risky to pair Robin with Steve and Dustin, as that duo was one of the most popular aspects of the second season, and messing with that dynamic could have proved disastrous. However, Robin's sense of humor, her surprising development, and Maya Hawke's terrific performance all combined to make her one of the season's standout characters. It was shocking to see it work so well, and we can't wait to see more of her in season four.
9 The Gore
Stranger Things has never shied away from the violence, but season three REALLY amped up the gore. In this season, we saw flesh melting from bones; bodies literally disintegrating into puddles of blood, bone, and gore; faces smashed in; and a particularly grotesque surgery on Eleven's leg.
We knew that this season was taking a more "body horror" approach, and as such, we expected a bit more "grossness" than previous seasons. However, we didn't think it would go such extreme lengths! Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. It was just unexpected, and it nicely honored the gore and blood-drenched horror movies of the '80s.
8 Max & Eleven
Of all the pairings, we think Max and Eleven proved to be the most unpredictable! Most of us were expecting Mike and Eleven mushiness from the trailers, but the show nicely subverted our expectations by having Eleven dump Mike early in the season. Instead, she was paired off with Max, who helped her break free from her past and become her own person.
She also gave her some boyfriend advice, which of course only made the situation between Mike and El that much worse. It was a totally surprising pairing, but we think that it worked wonderfully. The two had great chemistry, and it allowed Eleven to make a legitimate friend and further develop as a character.
7 Hopper's Attitude (& Dad Bod)
The Hopper of season three is an entirely different character than the one found in seasons one and two. For one thing, viewers immediately noticed his new dad bod. It looks like being a father has made ol' Hop a little more complacent, and as such, he's put on a few. But what was even more surprising was his attitude.
Hopper was in an absolutely foul mood all season, mostly thanks to Eleven's growing maturity and independence and Joyce blowing him off at the restaurant. All season he was scheming against Mike, bickering with Joyce, and treating the captive Russian like absolute crap (that said, he did buy him some slushies, so that was nice). It was an interesting change of pace for the character, but your mileage may vary on whether or not it was a good decision.
6 The Obvious Budget Increase
Stranger Things was always one of Netflix's most ambitious and expensive shows, but they really doled out the cash for season three. For one thing, this season looked far more cinematic than its predecessors. The image was much sharper, the camera movements move ambitious, and the sets were massive and detailed to ridiculous degrees.
The soundtrack was also littered with popular songs, including "American Pie" and "Material Girl." And finally, there was an enormous increase in the quality of the visual effects. It makes season one look positively pedestrian! If this is how season three looks, we can't wait to see what heights season four can reach.
5 Billy's Development
Well, we never thought we'd cry over Billy, that's for sure. Billy was admittedly one of the weaker aspects of season two, and he was never really welcomed into the show. Audiences found him rather boring, cliché, and one-dimensional. However, that all changed with season three.
His possession allowed us to feel kind of sorry for him, and we finally learned a bit about his background, which included a loving mother and an abusive father who veered him towards hatred and coldness. At the end, he redeemed himself through sacrifice, drawing the attention of the monster so Eleven could survive. The show took the character in a surprising direction, and it had us all crying over someone we vowed never to like or care for. Now that takes talent.
4 The Change In Genre
Stranger Things mixed it up for season three, which was a breath of fresh air after the redundant bore that was season two. The first season was very Spielberg, complete with a compelling cast of children, a shadowy government entity, and various science fiction tropes. Season two didn't veer too far from the Spielberg angle, although it introduced more horror elements.
However, season three diverged from tradition and took its influence from the likes of John Carpenter, George A. Romero, and David Cronenberg. It mixed zombies, small town conspiracies, Soviet paranoia, and body horror into one compelling package, and it resulted in a far scarier and darker season than the more innocent and sci-fi inspired seasons of Stranger Things past.
3 Eleven Lost Her Powers
If anything promises to shake up the status quo of the series, it's this! The show (and the characters) has relied on Eleven's powers for three seasons now, but season four promises a more "human" and normal Eleven. At the end of the season, Eleven finds herself unable to perform even the most basic of powers, like crushing a Coke can or grabbing something from a shelf.
It's not really explained WHY her powers have disappeared, but we're left to believe that it has to do with either draining them in the Battle of Starcourt or losing them due to her leg infection. Either way, this is a major plot development that promises both change and an intriguing new direction for both the show and the character of Eleven.
2 The Byers Move Away
Early in the season, Hopper mentions that Joyce has been looking into selling her house and moving out of Hawkins. And wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what she does at the end of the season. Following the Battle of Starcourt and rightfully thinking that enough is enough, Joyce, Jonathan, Will, and Eleven (who we assume has been adopted by Joyce) move out of Hawkins to start again somewhere new.
This isn't as consequential as Eleven losing her powers, as we assume that the show will find some reason to bring them back in season four, but it's still a morose and bittersweet note to end the season on.
1 Hopper's "Death"
And finally, we come to what is arguably the biggest talking point of the season: Hopper's death. Some people may think that Stranger Things plays it too safe and is too afraid to kill off major characters, but all changed at the conclusion of season three when Hopper was supposedly incinerated by the exploding machine.
It was a shocking development, but his death was beautifully handled, and we're not ashamed to admit that we cried when Eleven was reading the letter. That said, the credits sequence hints at his survival, as the Russian mentions "the American" they have in captivity. Naturally, most people will assume that it is Hopper, although a popular fan theory also posits that it could be Brenner.