Hawkins, Indiana, is a strange place, as one might expect out of the setting of a show called Stranger Things. And in the just-released third season of Netflix's '80s-era sci-fi smash, there are all sorts of weird happenings.
Some of the strangest moments in Season 3 have to do with creepy monsters from the Upside Down, while others are just strange in the Right Side Up. Here are the 10 Strangest Things from the new season, in the order that they appear.
**SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3.
ELEVEN AND MIKE HARDCORE MAKING OUT
Season 3 begins with a Cold War cold open, kicking off with an ominous scene set in the summer of 1984, deep within the bowels of a secret lab somewhere in the Soviet Union. It's a good tease for what's to come later in the season, but after the opening credits and a year time skip, the first thing viewers see is Eleven and Mike intensely making out.
On the one hand, good for these crazy kids, finding some summer love in this messed-up world. On the other hand, maybe Hopper has a point! Mike and Eleven are 14 years old! (Actors Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown are 16 and 15 years old in real life, respectively.) I would rather watch rats explode into gory piles of viscera than watch high school sophomores make out (more on that in a bit).
DAY OF THE DEAD BEING IN THEATERS
In the season premiere, Mike, Will, Lucas, and Max sneak into the Starcourt Mall's movie theater (with a little help from Steve), and they go to a screening of George A. Romero's zombie movie Day of the Dead.
But wait! That movie didn't premiere until July 3, 1985, and Episode 1 takes place more than a day before the big conclusion on the Fourth of July. However, this "strange thing" has an explanation — the Duffer brothers covered their tracks. When the kids enter the theater, a poster reveals that they're seeing a "Sneak Preview" of the film, meaning it's not a mistake that it's in theaters early. This actually happened in real life, as there was a Hicksville, Long Island, radio station held an advance premiere screening on June 30 of that year.
LOCAL JOURNALISM ... EXISTING?
The employees of The Hawkins Post are terrible, sexist people who aren't especially good journalists, and it doesn't help that one of them looks like an Upside Down version of Robert Redford in All the President's Men. And yet, seeing a busy, seemingly prosperous small-town newspaper at work in an era before Facebook, Google, SEO, and claims of "fake news" is perhaps the strangest (and most welcome) sight of all in 2019.
But, c'mon, guys. Don't be dicks to Nancy.
THE EXPLODING RATS
The monster in Stranger Things Season 3 likely won't become as iconic as Season 1's Demogorgon, in part because this monster ... doesn't really have a shape. Instead, it's a sort of blobby hive-mind of gore and semi-liquefied bones, and while it eventually coalesces into the towering shape of the Mind Flayer, it begins with rats.
Lots and lots of rats, all of which explode so that the monster can add their rodent goop to itself.
MIKE'S MOM ALMOST SLEEPING WITH BARELY LEGAL BILLY
Billy was 17 in the second season of Stranger Things, so he's probably legal by the time of Season 3. Even so, it is a weird dynamic to watch a bunch of moms in their 30s and 40s ogle Billy at the pool. Truly, it's a reverse-"Stacy's Mom."
Even stranger, though, is how Mike's mother, Karen Wheeler, almost has an affair with Billy, continuing the pair's sexual tension from Season 2. Mike's dad seems like a dud, and Karen should feel free to find happiness, but she probably made the right call when she decided not to bang the teenage lifeguard.
Honestly, though, the strangest part of this plot is how it's pretty much forgotten within a couple of episodes. Granted, there are bigger issues at hand, but you can't help but wonder if Karen's seeming recommitment to her husband is going to last.
ROBIN'S ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND RUSSIAN
Robin, Season 3's big new character, rocks. She's cooler than Steve, quick to accept all of Hawkins' supernatural weirdness once she's exposed to it, and she essentially teaches herself Russian in the span of a couple of afternoons.
It's explained that she already has a knack for languages, and speaks a few herself already, but I still find her incredible ability to do this more astounding than anything from the Upside Down.
HOPPER NEARLY CUTTING OFF THE MAYOR'S FINGER
Chief Hopper isn't afraid to steal some rando's convertible if that's what it takes to stop the Soviets, but credibly threatening to amputate Mayor Kline's finger in a cigar cutter is a new level of barely contained psychopathy.
Yes, the mayor is a slimeball who made shady deals with the Russians, endangering the world (not to mention business on Main Street) in the process. And yes, Hopper stopped short of actually removing the digit when he assaulted Kline, but still, good lord.
THE SIZE OF THE BASE BENEATH STARCOURT MALL
Whatever '80s-era technology is necessary to open a portal to the Upside Down is less impressive, to me, than the engineering technology that let the Russians build a sprawling, massive subterranean base that seems like it's a smooth mile underground. And they did it without anybody in town noticing.
THE ENTIRE "NEW COKE" BIT
We get it, Lucas. It's the '80s. What's next?
Is Mike gonna go off on a tangent during an especially tense moment to talk about Max Headroom, Rubik's Cubes, and how cell phones were really big and bulky back then?
THE NEVERENDING STORY MUSICAL NUMBER
I'm betting there are two types of people. There are folks who fondly remember The NeverEnding Story and who got a kick out of Dustin's (very real) girlfriend unwittingly embarrassing him in front of all his friends while the fate of the world is at stake. And then there are other people, who were utterly baffled by why this was happening. Especially because, much like the movie, the sequence felt like it would never end.