Stranger Things, the pinnacle of Netflix’s buzzy original programming and ’80s nostalgia, is back. The first footage of the third season dropped Wednesday morning, returning us to Hawkins, Indiana, where stranger things continue to happen in this otherwise placid town. And I’m not just talking about the seductive, potentially NSFW glances between mullet-sporting teenager Billy and Mike’s extremely thirsty mom—though I do feel like I need to take a shower after looking at this photo:
[Aggressively fans self.] Anyway, we’ve swapped autumn and Halloween decorations for summer and Fourth of July fireworks, though this changing of seasons appears to have zero effect on the Upside Down and its Lovecraftian monsters. There’s a lot of exciting stuff to glean from Stranger Things’ third-season trailer. Here are the four biggest takeaways:
Hawkins’ New Mall Is the Center of All Kinds of Chaos
We already knew Starcourt Mall—a glitzy new locale for Hawkins—was going to feature prominently this season, as Netflix teased a faux-commercial for the mall last year to elicit some early hype for Season 3. But the new trailer provides a clearer picture of just how central Starcourt Mall will be not just to all things Upside Down, but to the town itself.
We get a brief shot of locals protesting the mall at City Hall, with signs like “Recall the Mall” and “Support Downtown.” The implication is clear: the new mall’s opening is going to disrupt and potentially decimate local businesses, much as Walmart currently does across the country. The kids might be stoked about hanging at the mall, but a good majority of the townsfolk will be fighting for their livelihoods, and what makes Hawkins special.
In what’s probably not a coincidence, Starcourt Mall also appears to be a new hotbed for Upside Down–related activities. Netflix already released all the third-season episode titles, and the finale is called “The Battle of Starcourt.” So it’s not exactly a secret: The mall is to Season 3 what Eggo Waffles are to Eleven’s diet.
Rats Will, Unfortunately, Play a Role
Rats—you know, those lovely rodents responsible for spreading calamitous diseases across the course of human history—are disconcertingly abundant in Stranger Things’ new footage. Netflix dropped a trailer teaser on Tuesday, and it was just a ton of rats scurrying about along with the caption “it’s almost feeding time.” (I made the mistake of Googling this, and sorry, but I need to share this horrifying discovery: There are 2 million rats residing in New York City alone.)
it's almost feeding time pic.twitter.com/20gokeuKJs— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) March 19, 2019
Why does Stranger Things suddenly have a vested interest in town rodents? It’s probably not for the sake of a positive rat PR makeover—the “feeding” caption implies something sinister, and perhaps plays into the latest monstrocity coming from the Upside Down. The second episode of the season is also titled “The Mall Rats.” Just spitballing here: Maybe the new monster can bend rats to its will, serving as some kind of supernatural twist on rat kings—the extremely upsetting thing that happens when a bunch of rats get their tails stuck together and effectively become one really messed-up creature. (View at your own risk.)
Regardless of what rats have to do—if anything—with Upside Down creatures, it’s a hard pass from me on Stranger Things’ rat-centric promotional material, and whatever the hell this monster is supposed to be.
The Kids Are All Grown Up (Sort Of)
This season, our young protagonists are dealing with something far more arduous and terrifying than supernatural entities from a parallel universe: puberty. “We’re not kids anymore,” Mike says in a voice-over. “I mean, what did you think? We were just going to sit in my basement all day, play games for the rest of our lives?” If that wasn’t blunt enough for you, the majority of the trailer is scored to the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” a song that repeatedly includes the words “teenage wasteland.” (While the song appears to reference sending kids to war in Vietnam during the late ’60s and early ’70s, the trailer seems to be using the lyrics’ themes a bit more literally for Mike and his now-adolescent pals.)
The tug-of-war between what constitutes childish behavior and more, uh, “grown-up” pursuits—as in Mike and Eleven rekindling their little romance, as well as continued sparks between Lucas and Max—appears to be one of the big conflicts for the group. Dustin looks most reticent to give up those Dungeons & Dragons basement hangouts and things of that nature. And I doubt it helps matters that he doesn’t have someone of his own to fawn over—though at least he’s still got his best buddy and now local ice cream man Steve Harrington to pantomime lightsaber battles with.
While these growing pains might not directly play into saving the town from another monster, they will be one of the major themes of the season. It’s the kind of necessary character evolution Stranger Things requires—if only because its young cast continues to age with each new season.
Related: Don’t You Dare Hurt Steve
There is a very brief, but very upsetting frame from the trailer in which Steve is injected with a syringe that—just going out on a limb here—does him some harm.
Steve’s evolution from jerky high schooler to Hawkins’ resident babysitter and spiritual dad was one of the best things about the second season. Now, he’s just trying to make some money selling ice cream at the new mall (as we learned in Season 1, reading is not exactly his forte); he didn’t ask for any of this. Steve must be protected at all costs—if not because he is a paragon of newfound wholesomeness, then to preserve the time-space continuum between himself and his future son on Parks and Recreation, Jean-Ralphio, who must be brought into the world.
However, Steve’s not the only teen in town facing imminent danger. Something nasty infects the skin of resident fuccboi Billy while he’s taking a steamy shower.
This could be disastrous—for Mike’s mom, specifically.
This look has enough heat to warm my entire apartment through another winter.