“The Battle of Starcourt” proved to be a memorable, satisfying and emotional finale for Stranger Things Season 3 — and maybe the series as a whole.
This recap of Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 8, “The Battle of Starcourt”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
And that’s it, folks. The end. Certainly of Stranger Things Season 3, but potentially of the series as a whole. And if that’s the case, then I’m satisfied. “The Battle of Starcourt” was, in many ways, a perfect finale. It brought the storyline to a close, with no lingering cliffhangers. It gave the characters satisfying arcs. I laughed, got excited, and in the end, I cried like a baby. It felt like something that very few finales feel like these days: An ending.
Let’s recap. Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 8 picked up where the previous one left off, with Eleven’s leg wound betraying the Mind Flayer’s parasitic presence. Jonathan tried to cut the thing out with a knife, but only made a mess of the situation. Eleven had to do it herself — telekinetically. Once the worm was yanked loose, it was tossed aside and crushed under Hopper’s boot. Yep, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray arrived at the Starcourt Mall, bringing the entire band back together. Rejoice!
But don’t rejoice for long. After a brief recap of prior events, everyone goes over the plan. It goes thusly. The gang needs to break into the Russian base, steal the keys from the vault, use the keys to destroy the machine and thus close the rift, then kill the Mind Flayer. Should be easy!
Steven and Robin take Dustin and Erica to Dustin’s makeshift super-antenna so that they can beef up the radios and guide the infiltration team through the base. That team is comprised of Hopper, Joyce, and Murray. Eleven wants to fight, but she can’t; her powers have drained away, and to keep her safe, Hopper wants her away from the mall. Nancy and Jonathan will be chaperones for her and the other kids.
Except they won’t, because Billy has arrived and sabotaged their car, leaving them trapped in the mall with the Mind Flayer on the doorstep. Hopper, Murray, and Joyce are able to sneak into the base disguised as Russians, and even plan a date while they’re at it — that kind of forward planning is never rewarded in this genre, guys! You should know that!
Still, “The Battle of Starcourt” is underway. Without Eleven’s powers, the kids are stranded until Steve arrives in the nick of time to bail them out. But they still don’t have a long-term plan. In the base, Hopper needs the Planck constant to open the vault, but Dustin can’t remember it. Luckily, he knows someone who does: Suzie! She’s real! Unfortunately, because Dustin hasn’t contacted her for a week and immediately wants a favor, she won’t budge until he sings. He has put Suzie on the same frequency band as everyone else, so the entire cast has to listen to the pair of them belt out a duet. This is the only part of Stranger Things Season 3, Episode 8 that I’m not entirely sure works.
Still, I can forgive “The Battle of Starcourt” some small missteps, as there’s an awful lot of awesome stuff here. Billy is able to easily overpower the kids and present El to the Mind Flayer, but before it can gobble her up Lucas, Will, Nancy, Jonathan, Steve, and Robin arrive with Chekhov’s fireworks, kicking off a visually stunning sequence in which El is able to get through to Billy by referencing his childhood, his mother, and his happiness. Free of the Mind Flayer’s corruption, he holds it back to save Eleven, sacrificing himself in the process.
Meanwhile, Russian Terminator catches up with Hopper in the lab, and they fight — this time to the death. Hopper is able to throw the goon into the machine, which damages it but also prevents him from making his way back to the control room. This means two things. The first is that Joyce has to turn both keys on her own. The second is that the destruction of the machine will also kill Hopper. The knowing nod he gives to Joyce in his final seconds is heartbreaking. I hope there won’t be a fourth season, in part because I don’t know how Stranger Things would function without him.
Fashionably late, the Army arrives. We jump three months into the future for the epilogue.
With the Battle of Starcourt over, the kids are trying to settle into normal life. Steve and Robin get jobs at a video store. Dustin is being relentlessly mocked by Lucas and Max for singing a duet with Suzie. But the sad news is that Joyce, Will, Jonathan, and Eleven are moving away. And that means we have some tearful goodbyes. Eleven confesses to Mike that she heard him say he loved her back at the cabin — and she tells him she loves him too. Jonathan laments that 17 years of his life have been packed away in just one day, but his goodbye to Nancy is touching and heartfelt. The kids all hug. They all cry. But we end with the words of Hopper. As Eleven reads the script he wrote for the heart to heart that never happened, his voice brings the words to life. We see him sit at his table and write from the heart, in his own way. And everyone cries. It’s a beautiful, fitting send-off to a great character, a great season, and a great show. There’s a chance we might not visit Hawkins, Indiana again. But we’ll remember going there for quite some time.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.