Stranger Things 4 is knocking at our door. The first half of the infamous Netflix show’s fourth season is dropping on May 27. And, with all the posters, teasers, and that frankly incredible trailer, there is so much to look forward to. It’s been almost three years (!!!) since the last season gave us a body horror nightmare showdown at the Starcourt Mall. So it is beyond time for a quick refresher on what happened in Stranger Things 3.
Last season featured many mini teams from the Scoop Troops to the El/Max duo doing their own thing before coming together for a glorious finale. Let’s break down what happened based on those groups and where their story will go next.
Joyce, Hopper, Murray, and Alexei
Let’s start with the grownups. Hopper is annoyed that Eleven and Mike are in love for a couple of reasons. There’s the obvious overprotective dad stance but perhaps he’s a hater because he’s in love with Joyce. Meanwhile, Joyce avoids his romantic advances as she’s still mourning Bob’s season two death. She’s also planning to move her family away because, well, they’ve been through a lot. Things get weird, however, when Joyce starts noticing magnets falling off her fridge. She thinks it’s related to the Upside Down, especially after Will’s science teacher Scott Clarke says a big magnetic field from a machine could be the cause.
She ropes Hopper into an investigation back at Hawkins Lab and it takes them down a rabbit hole where they meet (read: kidnap) Alexei, a Russian scientist who doesn’t speak English. They don’t speak Russian but you know who does? Murray, the quirky yet clutch investigative journalist we met in previous seasons. He translates Alexei’s words and helps them piece together the truth. Russians are using tech to open the portal to the Upside Down beneath Starcourt Mall.
In the end, Alexei is fatally shot at the county fair by a Russian assassin tracking the group. Joyce, Hopper, and Murray disguise themselves as Russian soldiers, successfully find the control room under Starcourt Mall (with the help of Dustin and Erica… more on that later), and destroy the machine. Hopper appears to die at the end and Joyce decides to move her family plus Eleven out of Hawkins. We now know that they are in the fictional desert city of Lenora Hills, California, because of the season four trailer.
Murray just walks off to go… somewhere. He will reunite with Joyce again in Stranger Things 4 to hopefully find Hopper. Because of course, the show couldn’t resist revealing that Hopper is alive and in Kamchatka, Russia, at a facility where he might meet Eleven’s real-life inspiration. We can’t wait for a sweet reunion.
Eleven’s Crushing Losses and Friendship with Max
Eleven came into her own during Stranger Things 3. She dumps Mike’s ass and becomes besties with Max, who helps her discover her style and speak up for herself. It seems that Eleven has it all… until things go dark. She “spies” on Billy, Max’s very-jerky brother, and her disturbing vision of him hurting his co-worker Heather leads to a mini investigation. Their mini investigation goes cold until the girls link up with Will, Mike, and Lucas. Will’s sense of the Mind Flayer confirms that the entity is using Billy to “recruit” people (and rats) into a Flayed army.
Even worse, this army melts into one large creature under the Mind Flayer’s control. Everyone depends on Eleven to do what she always does: use her powers to save them. But an injury from the grotesque creature leaves her in pain. She manages to fling a piece of the monster out of her body but it results in her losing her powers. The youth throw literal fireworks at their massive foe long enough for Joyce to destroy the machine and close the opening gate, thereby killing the monster.
Eleven is left in a really sad place with no Hopper, no powers, and really no choice except to move with the Byers. She leaves her boyfriend, bestie, and everything she knows behind to live a normal life. As we saw in the Stranger Things season four trailer, she’s not fitting in at her new high school. And she still doesn’t have her powers. A new threat looms over them, which can get extremely dangerous if El cannot fight back. Max is missing her brother and making some new disturbing discoveries. But could there be something going on with her? She’s floating in front of Billy’s grave for crying out loud.
The (former) D&D Crew Minus Dustin
Mike, Lucas, and Will are a mess. Poor Will isn’t ready for dating and just wants to play D&D with his buddies. Meanwhile, all Lucas and Mike care about are girls, particularly Eleven and Max. This rift causes them to fight for a bit but the return of Mind Flayer puts things to rest. After El’s life-changing injury, Dustin’s walkie-talkie message brings them to Starcourt Mall where Mike makes terse amends with Hopper.
The trio hug it out with Dustin for an “awww, we’re still pals” moment. Our season four glimpse shows that things might be different now. Lucas is a basketball player and presumably popular by default, so he may not have time for Mike and Dustin, who are in the Hellfire Club. But there’s nothing like shared trauma and things wanting you dead to bring the family back together again, right?
Steve, Robin, Dustin, and Erica a.k.a. the Scoops Troop
The Scoops Troop is truly the real MVP of this season. Poor Steve realizes that high school cool doesn’t translate into adulthood. He’s dressed like a corny sailor and working at the Scoops Ahoy ice cream shop with Robin, a former classmate he didn’t know existed. Robin berates his failed attempts at wooing the ladies, playfully pitying him for only having kids as friends. Meanwhile, like Will, Dustin feels out of the loop with his friends after a month at summer camp. He sets up a makeshift radio tower to contact his allegedly hot new girlfriend Suzie (whom no one believes is real, btw).
While trying to locate Suzie, Dustin stumbles upon a Russian message and decides to link up with Steve to decode it. They loop Robin in and the trio discover that the message is in code. And it is coming from under the mall. A blueprint map and investigation lead them to recruiting Lucas’ little sister Erica, who frequents Scoops Ahoy. Their plan to access a room with mysterious boxes leads to them being catapulted way beneath the mall and right into a Russian science lab.
Robin and Steve get caught, with the latter realizing he’s fallen for the former. But Steve read her signs all wrong because Robin is a lesbian. As everyone converges on the Starcourt Mall, Dustin and Erica (who is totally a NERD) head back to the former’s radio tower to direct Hopper, Joyce, and Murray on how to access the room. A snafu in nabbing necessary keys leads Dustin to radio Suzie, who makes him sing “The Neverending Story” in exchange for a Planck’s constant code. This is quite funny considering Hopper’s crew being under pressure while everyone else is in some kind of danger.
Dustin and Lucas give Erica the beloved D&D set they used to play with. Robin and Steve (with her help) get a job at Family Video. And you still cannot spell America without Erica.
Jonathan and Nancy
Jonathan and Nancy are very much still together in Stranger Things’ third season. They even work together at the Hawkins Post. But, because it’s 1985, Jonathan can do his photo developing in peace while the all-male journalist team treats Nancy like a servant. Sigh. She’s determined to make her mark and takes on a weird story about rats from Mrs. Driscoll, an older Hawkins citizen. Her colleagues ridicule her, calling her Nancy Drew, but she persists and drags Jonathan into the fold. They are fired and end up having an awful argument as a result before reconciling after discovering that a couple of Hawkins Post folks are flayed beings.
Nancy and Jonathan barely escape from them alive until Eleven shows up to save them. Of course, both of them are majorly important with Nancy shooting creatures, Jonathan fixing a car on the fly, and much more. Nancy also meets Robin, who secretly thinks Nancy is a “priss” until she witnesses her bravery. After the Starcourt Mall showdown, they part ways physically but are still presumably together. The trailer doesn’t make it clear if they are still in a relationship so we will have to wait and see. We do know there’s Nancy and Robin content coming up and that’s what really matters.
Billy, the Leader of the Flayed Army
Oh Billy. One bad decision literally cost him his life. He’s working at the pool as a lifeguard and agrees to meet Mrs. Wheeler for a hotel rendezvous. (Yes, this is gross considering he’s barely 18 according to his tombstone.) On the way there the Mind Flayer reels him into a warehouse, using him to recruit for his flayed army. The rest of the season is basically not-really-Billy nearly killing Eleven and crew while trying to bring her to the Mind Flayer.
Eleven gets into his mind to reveal his sad childhood, which includes his mother leaving his abusive father. She uses this in the final battle to pull Billy from whatever mind control he’s under and he sacrifices himself to save Eleven. Billy’s death devastates Max (and only Max tbh). He seems pretty good and dead at the end of season three and in the season four trailer, which shows his tombstone. But time traveling is a possibility in Stranger Things so perhaps he will return in some form… even if it is from the Upside Down. We do know that Vecna is the bigger bad in season four so perhaps Billy’s essence (consciousness?) is linked in somehow.
That’s Stranger Things 3 in a very large nutshell. All of the OG characters are still alive (for now) and we will still see very separate stories that converge together. Let’s get ready for the horror and new revelations in this upcoming season.