Warning: Only a mouth breather wouldn’t assume that the following recap would contain spoilers for the Season 3 premiere of Stranger Things. But just in case, you’ve been warned.
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“The more things change, the more they stay the same” seemed to be the underlying theme of Stranger Things’ Season 3 premiere. For, although a whole lot about Hawkins was different in the summer of ’85 — the Starcourt Mall was devouring local businesses, Mike and El were joined at the lips, and Dustin had a girlfriend (or so he claimed!) — a whole lot was, for better or worse, familiar. Joyce was still turning a blind eye to Hopper’s ginormous crush, Billy’s rockin’ bod was still getting women to overlook his mullet, and, oh yeah, the Mind Flayer was still sending chills down Will’s spine — and ours right along with it. Read on, and we’ll go over all the deets…
‘OH EL, I WISH WE COULD MAKE OUT FOREVER AND NEVER HANG OUT WITH ANY OF OUR FRIENDS’ | As “Suzie, Do You Copy?” began, the Russian military tried, and spectacularly failed, to open the gate to the Upside Down that El closed in the Season 2 finale. In response, a Dolph Lundgren type throttled the life out of the scientist in charge of the operation as a general whose name I could only assume was Vladimir Crankypants told the soon-to-be-dead man’s second in command that he had a year to succeed where his predecessor had failed. Next, we cut to — how convenient! — one year later, at which point we were quickly caught up on the lives of all of our main characters. Among the most significant developments, Hopper seemed to live in a state of near-constant apoplexy over the fact that El and Mike only ever stopped kissing long enough for him to sing Corey Hart’s “Never Surrender” at the top of his lungs; Nancy and Jonathan had gotten hired at the Hawkins Post as, respectively, a “coffee-delivery machine” and photographer; Steve, his come-hither hairdo hidden under a Scoops Ahoy hat at the mall, appeared to have lost his mojo; and lifeguard Billy’s abs had turned the community pool into a summer hot spot, especially for Mrs.
During a break from his never-ending make-out sessions with El, Mike rushed to the mall so that Steve could sneak him, Will, Lucas and Max (still going strong, by the way) into Day of the Dead through the ice-cream shop’s rear entrance. “Hey dingus, your children are here,” announced Steve’s co-worker Robin (Maya Hawke), an insta-fave. Alas, the classic zombie flick had scarcely started when the projector fritzed out. Wait, it wasn’t just the projector, it was lights out at the whole mall… No, wait. It was actually all of Hawkins that blacked out! Odder still, in the bowels of the abandoned steelworks on the outskirts of town, rats were sent scurrying as particles took the shape of… well, it was hard to tell, actually (though in Hawkins, you could assume it wasn’t going to be the shape of, say, a puppy). When the ominous figure had mostly materialized, power was restored all over Hawkins, and Will felt a chill run down his spine — the kind of chill that caused him to flash back to his possession by the Mind Flayer.
‘THIS IS GOLD LEADER RETURNING TO BASE… ‘ | The following day, Dustin was chagrined not to get a response from his pals over his walkie-talkie upon returning to Hawkins after a month at Camp Know Where (aka summer science camp). “At least someone’s happy I’m home,” he told his turtle, who, to be honest, didn’t seem very excited. Just then, all of the toys in Dustin’s room became mysteriously animated. Arming himself with a canister of Farrah hairspray, he tried to tell himself that he was just dreaming, but in fact, he was wide awake — it was his friends using El’s powers to welcome him home with a practical joke (that left poor Lucas with a painful eyeful of Farrah). After Dustin showed his buddies some of the cool stuff he’d invented while away, he pulled out his masterpiece: Cerebro, “the Cadillac of ham radios.” Thanks to it, he could talk to his new girlfriend in Utah anytime he wanted. Wait, girlfriend?!? Yep, Dustin insisted. He’d met her at Camp Know Where, and was she pretty? “Think Phoebe Cates, only hotter.”
Meanwhile, Hopper paid a visit to the general store to vent to Joyce about El and Mike. They spend too much time together! They’re always kissing! “I need for them to break up!” he raged, sounding adorably like every dad ever. Acting as the voice of reason, Joyce suggested that Hopper try a kinder, gentler, smarter approach. “If you order them around like a cop, then they’re gonna rebel,” she warned. “It’s just what they do.” Instead, he should sit them down for a heart-to-heart. “A heart-to-heart?” he replied. “What is that?” Later, he was sorry he asked. He’d have preferred to just kill Mike and cover it up. For a moment, Hopper and Joyce’s hands touched… but she pulled away the second he asked if she wanted to have dinner. “I have plans,” she lied. (She was just going to reheat leftovers, watch Cheers and have bittersweet Bob flashbacks.) Down the block at the Post, Nancy took a chance and suggested a story on the Starcourt Mall and its impact on local businesses. Unfortunately, sexist reporter Bruce (Jake Busey) reassigned “Nancy Drew” to The Case of the Missing Mustard on his lunch. Charming.
‘WHAT’S WRONG WITH NANA?!?’ | Leading his friends to the top of a hill to assemble Cerebro and say hi to Suzie, Dustin explained that his girlfriend’s family was Mormon, which wasn’t the same as Amish, though it did mean that they were “super religious white people” who’d disapprove of their romance. “It’s all a bit Shakespearian,” he said. Soon, Mike and El realized that they’d gone 15 minutes without smooching and, Dustin’s feelings be damned, bailed to, um, make curfew even though it was four o’clock! As they left, Will got another tingle down his spine when rats scuttled across the field behind him on their way to the steelworks. Once the rodents arrived at their destination, yikes! They began… exploding. At the community pool, Billy and Mrs. Wheeler took turns admiring one another’s form, then finally, he told her that he sometimes gave advanced lessons in (cough) swimming to adults. If she wanted one, he added, there’s a pool at the Motel 6. When she began to demur, he assured her, “It… will be… the workout of your life.”
That evening, Dustin still hadn’t been able to raise Suzie on Cerebro. But after his friends left the hill assuming that she wasn’t real, he did manage to hear something: the Russians speaking in both their native tongue and code! (And, from the glimpse that we got of their lab, it appeared that the junior scientist had made significant progress in his task — perhaps related to the fact that Joyce’s fridge magnets no longer worked?) At the Post, Nancy took a message from a Mrs. Driscoll about diseased rats. At Hopper and El’s place, the chief meant to, really meant to have a heart-to-heart with the youngsters, but they were so snarky and disrespectful — in other words, kids — that he gave up and told Mike his mom needed him home. “It’s your grandma,” he said gravely. Of course, once he had Mike in his truck, Hopper locked the doors and played psycho, threatening the boy to put some distance between himself and El if he wanted to have any hope of being allowed to continue dating her. And, as the premiere drew to a close, Mrs. Wheeler was headed out for her rendezvous with Billy when she happened upon her husband and baby Holly asleep in a chair in the living room. While we didn’t know whether she’d show up for her “lesson,” we knew that Billy wouldn’t: After he crashed into something that left slime all over his windshield, he was knocked off his feet by something unseen and dragged into the bowels of the steelworks!
So, what did you think of “Suzie, Do You Copy?” Grade it in the poll below, then hit the comments.