Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things 3 lie ahead.
With its Stephen King story templates and Steven Spielberg influences, Stranger Things is an unapologetic time capsule of. Now, three seasons in, the show has gone all in on another reference point: itself.
We’ve rounded up a bunch of season 3’s throwbacks to seasons 1 and 2, and other nice little nuances you might not have noticed on first viewing.
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[Puts on Steve Harrington sunnies] Time to dive in to the little details you may have missed in Stranger Things 3.
Friends do lie
Poor El. She may have superpowers, but it seems no one’s immune to lying boyfriends. Mike, who to be fair had just been threatened by a an aggressively overprotective Hopper, tells El his grandma is ill to avoid a date. He betrays the one rule he cemented in El’s mind in season 1: friends don’t lie.
At the beginning of season 2, Hopper attempts a healthier lifestyle mainly by eating at least one green apple. At the beginning of season 3, that’s over. It’s immediately established that he’s taken to stress-eating to deal with parenting a Mike-crazy El. Hopper’s armchair food of choice is a bag of Tostito chips and salsa, with a slurp of Schlitz — Schlitz being that now-defunct American beer out of Milwaukee.
Starcourt Mall is real
Fun fact: This hub of all things ’80s, which happens to sit on a gateway to an alternative dimension, is really a done-up abandoned mall just outside Atlanta. So instead of a sound-stage, the set is real. That allowed the filmmakers to shoot those seamlessly long continuous takes.
As for ’80s references, Starcourt is likely inspired by the mall in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, an ’80s coming-of-age movie the Duffer Brothers have referenced several times, from Dustin comparing his girlfriend to actress Phoebe Cates, to Steve’s sailor uniform resembling a pirate costume worn by one of the movie’s characters. Steve also says one of his all-time favorite movies is Fast Times. They don’t hold back when they’re into something, the Duffers.
Less fun fact: To tie in with Stranger Things 3, which features several characters slurping the fizzy brown stuff, Coca-Cola is going to have limited run of its New Coke reformulation. That version was introduced in 1985, the same year the latest season takes place. More importantly, season 3 explicitly flashes back to season 1, when El uses her burgeoning powers to crush a Coke can. In season 3, with her energy stores depleted, she fails to do the same with a can of New Coke. Damn you, New Coke!
Murray Bauman knew about the Russians in season 2
In case we all forgot what happened in season 2, Murray Bauman is an ex-investigative journalist turned conspiracy theorist who believed Russians had infiltrated Hawkins before Russians infiltrated Hawkins. Early on in season 2, Bauman tries to convince Hopper of said spy presence, but all Hopper heard was that Bauman could inadvertently lead him to a missing El. How right Bauman was.
Welcome to a theory about the postcredits scene — read more on that. But basically, if the Russians have a secret Demogorgon, one who’s survived the closing of the gate between dimensions, and therefore the broken connection between it and its queen, the Mind Flayer, does that mean the Russians have figured out how to train Demogorgons, like Dustin befriended Dart in season 2? So many questions, so much time until the next season.
Joyce’s love of magnets
Just like in seasons 1 and 2, Joyce picks up a new hobby that makes her come across as Crazy Joyce. In season 1, it was hoarding Christmas lights to connect with the missing Will. In season 2, it was deciphering Will’s scary drawings. In season 3, it’s magnets! Joyce skips a date with Hopper to try and figure out why the magnets in Hawkins have stopped being magnetized. Priorities.
She’s played by Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter, Maya Hawke. What else has she been in? Not much. She played Jo March in a BBC Little Women miniseries, and is going to be on screens in the next Quentin Tarantino movie. We’re going to see a lot more of Maya Hawke, one of the standouts of season 3.
More scenes with Erica
Basically, the Duffer Brothers love Erica. They love Priah Ferguson, the very young actress who plays Lucas’ little sister. After everyone fell in love with her brutal sisterly takedowns of her brother in season 2, the Duffer Brothers answered the call of all that is good and gave her much more to do in season 3, like crawling through an air vent and telling Dustin to stop gushing over his girlfriend. Absolutely crucial.
It’s called The NeverEnding Story and it’s the theme from the ’80s movie The NeverEnding Story. Its original version is performed by English pop singer Limahl.
Lee Harvey Oswald reference
When Dustin, Erica, Steve and Nancy hide out in the movie theatre to escape the Russians in season 3, Dustin reckons they’re lying low “like Oswald.” That’s a reference to the man behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was also captured in a movie theatre, as Erica dutifully reminds Dustin.
The relentless Russian thug who rides a motorbike is one “Hasta la vista, baby,” away from being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long lost twin. James Cameron’s The Terminator came out in 1984, the same year the first episode of season 3 takes place.