Stranger Things 3
Stranger Things is back after two long years, and it took me two short days to binge all eight episodes. Maybe it’s the action, the talent, or the relentless parade of ‘80s references, but the show is seductive in a way that has most viewers wanting more.
Luckily for us binge-watchers, Netflix has released more Stranger Things content via their official Stranger Things podcast, Behind the Scenes: Stranger Things 3.
Hawkins, Indiana, Summer 1985
It’s 1985, and the Russians are building a laboratory under the brand-new Starcourt Mall. That’s the situation we’re introduced to when the season begins. The setting of Stranger Things 3 is almost a character in and of itself, which podcast host Dan Taberski establishes in Behind the Scenes’ first episode, “The Starcourt Mall.”
In this episode, the Duffer Brothers make a guest appearance, one of many, to talk about the logistics of producing a show set in the ‘80s. Additional guests, like the set and costume designers, divulge the steps involved in making Starcourt Mall as period-authentic as possible.
Listeners who lived through the ‘80s will love strolling down memory lane as the hosts namedrop various defunct mall brands. Younger listeners who don’t remember the ‘80s might appreciate the extra context provided by the podcast.
Capturing The 80’s Essence
Time period plays a huge role in the show, and Dan is quick to point out every ‘80s homage and Easter egg in the Stranger Things podcast. The ‘80s classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High is referenced a lot on the show. Dan and his guests point out a few of them, like the scene at the pool and the video store.
Another common ‘80s movie trope is having a kid crawl through an air duct system, which happens in season 3. In Behind the Scenes, we learn that is another intentional decision by the writers.
While the discussion on time period happens mostly during the mall episode, the ‘80s references continue through the rest of the podcast. It’s hard not to talk about because it’s such a big part of the show’s identity. Steven Spielberg and Cold War movies are some of the influences named by the Duffer Brothers.
The stores in the mall were curated based on the creators’ memories of the ‘80s like Jazzercise, Sam Goody, Hot Dog on a Stick, and only props that were from 1985 or before were allowed on set. There were some details that surprised me, like the fact that every store in Starcourt Mall was set up like an actual store, even if they wouldn’t appear on camera.
As a fan, I was amazed to hear all the work that went into building the mall. The costume designer tells an interesting story about Converse sneakers that fans might love to hear. Hearing these behind-the-scenes stories definitely allows me to appreciate all the work that was involved in bringing 1985 Hawkins to life.
The Scoop Troop
Season 3 is unique because the kids are older, and things are changing for the residents of Hawkins. Steve’s job at the mall pulls him into the Russian plotline along with his buddy Dustin. For the first time, the “kids” are working separately.
Dustin and Steve investigate what’s under the mall, and Eleven and the gang pursue another sci-fi monster. When the writers talk during Behind The Scenes about why this was necessary, it is clear that they not only have an understanding of what it’s like to be a kid, but they remember what it was like to be a kid back then. That attention to detail makes itself known in the show. If you missed it, the podcast will make sure you know!
The best thing about the Behind the Scenes podcast is the access it gives us to the writers and actors of the show. If you have ever wondered what plot elements did not make it to the final script, you can find out by listening to the podcast.
Also, the writers reveal the reasoning behind certain character arcs, which helps to deepen the story for me. But it is the actor commentaries that make Behind the Scenes worth listening to. Did you know that the actor who plays the vapid and shallow Californian Billy is actually a very eloquent and serious Australian?
Dacre Montgomery’s insight into his character is one of many actor soundbites offered by the podcast. Some of the other actors who come on the podcast are Natalia Dyer (Nancy), David Harbour (Hopper), and the Mind Flayer. Yes, there was an actor inside the Mind Flayer, and you’ll want to hear his story.
My favorite season 3 character was definitely Erica, Lucas’s fast-talking little sister. While there were no plans to expand the original Erica character, the writers were so charmed by the actress’s attitude that they created a new role for her in season 3. This story is also shared on the podcast, and I appreciate Erica so much more now that I know she almost never happened.
There Be Spoilers
Overall, Behind the Scenes is a great, comprehensive podcast companion to the show. The reason I say “comprehensive” is because there are lots of spoilers. Do not worry, Dan gives you a reminder before each episode in case you have not finished the season.
Netflix gave us an end product that seems effortlessly nostalgic of the 1980s. However, the podcast acknowledges the actual work that went into it. Hearing about how certain things had to be built from scratch, the actors’ research into their characters and the challenge of scouting locations blew my mind as a listener.
Dan ends the last episode with a request for the listener to watch the end credits the next time they tune into the show. It is not such a bad idea, especially if you love Stranger Things. Try it the next time you log into Netflix. Then, subscribe to Behind the Scenes. But do it after you binge the show so you can avoid any of the spoilers.