What Happened in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3? A Complete Recap

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 17, 2022 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
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Stranger Things Season 3 recap
Stranger Things Season 3 (Credit - Netflix)


With such a hefty gap between seasons and a plot already shrouded in mystery anyway, there’s a good chance that even die-hard fans will have a hard time remembering what’s what. For the benefit of those who don’t have time to re-watch all three previous seasons, or even for those who haven’t watched them at all, here’s a recap and rundown for Stranger Things Season 3.  Needless to say, and as stated above, there are major spoilers to follow.

A year has passed between the second season of Stranger Things and the third, after a year had already passed between the first and the second. The kids are getting older, naturally, and that would be creating some problems even if it wasn’t for the lingering existential threat of the Mind Flayer.

Stranger Things Season 3 (Credit – Netflix)

Hopper is still playing parent to Eleven, who is in a relationship with Mike, while Lucas and Max are together, and Dustin has met a girl named Suzie at summer camp who he communicates secretly with via radio due to her strict Mormon parents forbidding their relationship.

It’s via this radio channel that the plot of season 3 gets started. Dustin overhears a Russian communication that suggests Russians are using the newly opened Starcourt Mall, where Steve is working at an ice cream shop called Scoops Ahoy alongside a classmate named Robin, as a base of operations to reopen the Upside Down after Eleven closed the interdimensional gate at the end of season 2.

Lucas’s sister Erica is also introduced and entangled in this plot, where Steve and Robin are taken captive, interrogated, and fed truth serum by the Russians while Erica and Dustin escape. This leads to some solid character moments, such as Robin coming out to Steve after the two of them are saved by the kids.

One of the larger ongoing plots in this season concerns Billy. After being a relatively minor antagonist in the second season, where he becomes the real deal when the Mind Flayer possesses him in a similar manner to how it possessed Will in the previous season.

As Billy becomes the Mind Flayer’s agent, he’s investigated by the others, including Nancy and Jonathan, who are now working as interns for the Hawkins Gazette, and Eleven, who Billy tries to kill after the gang traps him in the pool sauna and try to boil the Mind Flayer out of him (again, calling back to what happened to Will last season.)

Season 3 is really able to build on its connections to the prior two seasons, both in terms of worldbuilding detail and also thematically. Possession is one of those themes, and since we understand how the Mind Flayer operates, we particularly feel the danger of Eleven seemingly being infected by the creature when it attacks her at Hopper’s cabin.

In the process of removing the Mind Flayer from her body, she also loses her powers, which the show has used as a convenient get-out-of-jail-free card for the plot on multiple occasions.

The extent of the Russian plot – which along with the mall and the sexism Nancy faces at the newspaper is one of the big “this is the 80s!” details of the season – is exposed when Hopper discovers Hawkins’ mayor is allowing the Russkies to smuggle a liquid substance. Through a Russian scientist named Alexei, and with help from Murray, he’s able to learn about the Russians’ intention to reopen the Upside Down.

This sets the scene for the finale – the gate needs to be closed again, and the Mind Flayer, still operating through Billy, needs to be killed. This leads to a finale full of big moments and sacrifices taking place mostly at Starcourt Mall.

Stranger Things Season 3 Recap

Stranger Things Season 3 (Credit – Netflix)

As ever, the main cast split off into fun groups, with Hopper, Joyce, and Murray attempting to close the gate from within the Russians’ underground base with the help of Dustin’s girlfriend over the radio, while Eleven attempts to fight off Billy and the Mind Flayer.

There are two big self-sacrifices here. In one, Billy, spurred on by Eleven’s powers allowing him to recall a powerful childhood memory, sacrifices himself to the Mind Flayer to save Eleven. In the second, Hopper sacrifices himself so that Joyce can close the gate.

Stranger Things Season 3 ends with Joyce moving out of Hawkins, taking Eleven with the rest of her family, presumably for their own safety. This is where the fourth season will pick up from.

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