Summary: El removes the bit of the Mind Flayer in her leg but she finds that her powers have vanished. Hopper's group arrives and they form a plan. Joyce, Murray and Hopper go to the Russian lab to infiltrate it while Steve and Robin drive Dustin and Erica to Weathertop so that Dustin can help them navigate. The others attempt to leave to go somewhere safe but Billy destroys their car and they are trapped. The Mind Flayer shows up and gets into the mall. Some of the kids manage to escape from the Mind Flayer and Steve and Robin arrive to help drive them away. Hopper and Joyce infiltrate the Russians and they prepare to turn off the key. The terminator shows up and fights Hopper at the key. Billy finds Mike, Max and El and he captures El. The Mind Flayer comes back to kill her but Billy's memories reawaken and he sacrifices himself. Hopper kills the terminator and sacrifices himself so that Joyce can close the gate. The Mind Flayer dies. Three months later, the Byers family moves out of Hawkins with El. Mike and El confess their love for each other. Steve and Robin find a movie store to work at together. El reads Hopper's letter about the heart to heart conversation he was supposed to have before she leaves.
The Good: Despite my gripes about this season, I thought that it hit something special in the finale, particularly with the final few scenes. After 7 episodes, the show finally captured the emotions of growing up and moving on, themes that the season had tried toying with before. Everything came together with these final scenes as the show impressively conveyed a wide range of different situations where characters were forced to move on from their past lives. Some were easy and familiar like Steve and Robin locating a new store to work at. Some were filled with optimism like Erica getting Will's D&D set. Others were extremely tough and emotional like El missing Hopper and Max struggling to accept Billy's death. And some were bittersweet like the Byers family having to abandon their old lives to discover a new place in the world. The entire sequence was heartfelt, and adding Hopper's voiceover did a brilliant job of adding to the intense emotion that was conveyed here. I can say with certainty that this sequence was the best that "Stranger Things" has ever been and it could easily work as a series finale because of the sense of finality that it had.
The reunion at Starcourt was a lot of fun and it made sense for everybody to finally end up together in the season finale. The episode had a sense of unity between all of the storylines and I enjoyed how all of the various storylines interacted with the others. This episode felt like more of a complete story than every other episode before it.
I also enjoyed the following scenes of the kids hiding from the Mind Flayer. The scenes were quite tense and I thought they were well executed for the most part. Then in the other half of the episode, we had a totally different story as Murray, Hopper and Joyce sneakily infiltrated the Russian fortress. The contrast worked and it felt like I was watching 2 unique climaxes which gave the episode a fresh feeling.
The ending ended up being really poignant with the dual sacrifices coming from both stories. Billy's death was sad and it felt like a fitting, heroic way for Billy to go out. Hopper's death was much sadder and it only added to the gutpunch of Billy's death by having Hopper die just a few moments after Billy. Both deaths coupled with each other made the final victory over the Mind Flayer feel much more triumphant and hard-earned.
The Suzie moment was very unexpected and it ended up being a surprisingly sweet comedy moment. Having Dustin and Suzie sing The Neverending Story was wonderful, and it worked as an emotional moment and also a comedic moment as the show kept showing everyone's confused faces as they listened in to the song.
There were a few fun moments scattered throughout the episode. I loved The Cutting Edge show as it caught us up on what happened after the timeskip in a unique and thoroughly entertaining way. I also really liked the scene between Hopper and Joyce where they set themselves up a date, providing some nice pay-off for their season-long story.
The Bad: I had some logistical problems with this as usual. The Mind Flayer seems much more interested in roaring and seeming threatening instead of actually killing El and the kids. This took away my investment because I was confident that the Mind Flayer will be defeated and having it be an incapable villain only amplified that feeling. Furthermore, I found it hard to believe that nobody saw or heard the Mind Flayer causing chaos all throughout the city. And also, the sheer amount of last minute saves made me confident that everyone would always be saved which didn't allow me to get as invested in every scene as I could have been.
I was disappointed that the immediate fallout of the Mind Flayer was just glossed over. It would have been nice to see how everyone explained what happened to the public. Additionally, I was annoyed that we never got to see what happened to all of the other possessed people. Did they die? Were there clones that existed like we were shown in "The Mall Rats" or was that just something else? To not get these questions answered was pretty disappointing.
How did the army get into the base? Did they all fit in that elevator? It's way too easy to get into the Russian fortress.
It's the 1980s and the Star Wars prequels don't exist yet. So why is the first Star Wars movie called "A New Hope"? That name shouldn't exist yet. It's a small gripe, I know, but for a show that's usually so good with its 80s references, this is unusually sloppy.
The Unknown: Why have El's powers vanished? Will they come back?
What happened to all of the possessed people? Are they dead?
Interesting mid-credits scene. Is Hopper still alive and is he the prisoner? Will the Russians play a role in season 4?
Where does the series go now? This episode felt like a series finale in a lot of ways. Is there more story to be told? How can the show continue the story for another season?
Best Moment: The final sequence was incredibly emotional. It's so impressive how the show nailed the feelings of growing up. There were so many varying examples of this, and that means that there is at least one moment in this sequence that any viewer can relate to and understand.
Character of the Episode: Hopper.
Conclusion: This was an exciting episode and it served as a fun conclusion to the season. But that phenomenal ending sequence turned this into the best "Stranger Things" episode yet and it worked as a tremendous closing scene. I do wonder where the show can go after this.
As a whole, this season was disappointing. The characters were very different from prior seasons and a lot of the season's writing was uninspired, repetitive and boring. Still, the season was a fun watch overall like the previous two. And much like the previous two, I'll conclude by saying that I had fun watching this, but I don't see myself ever being motivated to watch this season again.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.