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‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Recap: The Refresher You Need Before Season 4

It’s been nearly three years since the last season of the Netflix series

“Stranger Things” Season 4 is here, and it’s been quite a long while since the last season came out.

Season 3 debuted in July 2019, and the summer vibes were powerful. In eight episodes, The Party plus Max and Eleven, The Scoops Troop, Nancy and Jonathan and Joyce and Hopper follow separate trails to the same gruesome truth: The Mind Flayer is still creeping around despite Eleven closing the gate at the end of Season 2.

Several threads were introduced in the third season that tie into Season 4, but before you meet the new cast and their characters in the super-sized fourth season, it’s a good time for a refresher.

Here’s our “Stranger Things” Season 3 recap.

Russian Experiments

Season 3, Episode 1 opens on a team of Russian scientists demonstrating a very powerful and frightening machine that spits out an electromagnetic ray of some sort, trying to re-open a Russian crack into the Upside Down. At first it seems the machine might succeed, but soon it lets up and the gate stays shut. The man in charge expresses his disappointment by having the head scientist choked to death, telling his assistant that he has a year to figure out how to make everything work.

The Kids These Days

The show cuts to Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) happily making out to a recognizable soundtrack. Eleven now lives with Chief of Police Hopper (David Harbour), who doesn’t quite know how to go about her new relationship. When Hop spies Eleven and Mike kissing through her open door, she shuts it with a wave of her hand, and when he gets let back in, they are sitting on her bed separately reading. One of Hopper’s many rules is that Eleven has to keep her door cracked at least three inches.

Mike soon leaves to meet Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) at the new Starcourt Mall. Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) — who has graduated from high school and landed a job slinging ice cream — lets the kids into the movie theater through the back door of Scoops Ahoy, where they settle in to see a film. Max and Lucas are now dating, so they sit together, while Mike sits with Will. A power outage soon plunges the theater, mall, and surrounding town of Hawkins into darkness for a moment, and Will has a sense that something isn’t right, but soon everything turns back on and they continue watching “Day of the Dead.” But somewhere in an abandoned rat-infested steelworks building, specs of dust gather together, swirling through the air in an ominous way. 

Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), who stumble out of bed after the power outage, now both have internships at The Hawkins Post, the town’s small newspaper. Jonathan takes photos while Nancy, in between delivering coffee and picking up lunch, tries to squeeze in more meaningful work, sometimes pitching stories to the boys club of editors, who keep shooting her down. As Jonathan leaves the house, his mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) notices a lipstick kiss on his cheek which she tries to rub off, and after a declaration of “gross” from Will, Joyce picks up magnets that fell off her fridge, re-hanging Will’s drawings, including one of Bob Newby (Sean Astin’s character from last season), who died by Demodog at the Hawkins lab in Season 2. 

Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) comes back from his month away at summer science camp, anxious to reunite with his friends, but they don’t answer his walkie talkie signal. When he gets home, his toys start moving around, gathering in his room and then walking out into the living room. Soon viewers realize Eleven is making the toys move, and The Party’s surprise prank on Dustin proves successful. 

Where We Left Off with the Adults

Summer is in full swing, which means another go-to day spot for humid Indiana is the pool. Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono) lounges in her brightly colored pink and blue one-piece suit, counting down to the lifeguard rotation so that she and her friends can lust over Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), Max’s stepbrother and quite the womanizer. Billy invites Karen to the Motel 6 pool to “teach her swimming lessons,” and she seems to accept.

Hopper visits Joyce at the store where she works and confides in her about Mike and Eleven. Joyce advises Hopper to write out a speech and communicate clearly instead of angrily interfering in the kids’ relationship. Hopper asks Joyce if she wants to get dinner later that night, but she says she can’t.

Suzy Doesn’t Copy

Dustin shows off all his projects he completed at camp to his friends, pulling out his prized invention, Cerebro, an intricate radio contraption that should let him communicate across the country, or at least to Utah, where his new girlfriend Suzy lives. The gang sets off to set up Cerebro and try to contact Suzy so that everyone can meet her.

Following shots of Steve working at Scoops Ahoy with coworker Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) — who tallies his failed attempts at picking up girls — and Hopper rehearsing his speech to Joyce, the kids head up some grassy hills to build Cerebro. Will stops when he gets those goosebumps on the back of his neck, again thinking something is wrong. He can’t see it, but rats that were present on the night when that creepy dust cloud rose are flocking back to that same site, where they all suddenly seize up and burst into bloody blobs on the ground. Mike and Eleven say they have to leave because of “curfew,” but Lucas, Max and Will know they’re lying. The foursome stays late into the night to set up the radio, but it proves anticlimactic because Suzy does not answer Dustin’s signal. Soon Lucas and Max leave, and it’s just Will and Dustin, but Will also heads off.

Another Weird Night

Right after Will leaves, Dustin’s radio does pick up a signal in a foreign language — Russian. While closing up the newsroom, Nancy answers a call from one Doris Driscoll, taking note of Mrs. Driscoll’s complaint. Hopper tries to sit down and talk with Mike and Eleven, but he just ends up making an excuse to drive Mike home and give him a stern lecture about dating Eleven. Karen Wheeler gets all dolled up to go “swimming” with Billy, but when she sees her husband Ted (Joe Chrest) and daughter Holly (Tinsley Price) asleep on the couch, she decides not to go. Billy is driving to the Motel 6 when something strikes his car, sending him spinning into the bushes by — you guessed it — that same abandoned steelworks building where the rats went, and some tentacle grabs him by the ankle, pulling him down into the basement of the building. This is where the first episode ends.

Episode 2 shows Billy running away from whatever tried to attack him, getting in his car and driving to a phone booth to call 911. Before he can answer the dispatcher, he is plunged into the Upside Down, the alternate dimension that somehow has doors into Hawkins, and a silhouette army approaches him, led by his likeness. Clone Billy tells human Billy they want to build.

Investigations Set in Motion

Eleven wonders where Mike is after expecting him to come over, and when she calls him, he lies to her and tells her his grandma really is sick. When he hangs up, he spends the day with Will and Lucas instead, eventually heading to the mall to pick out an apology present for Eleven. Eleven calls on Max to help her figure out why Mike is lying to her, and they too go to Starcourt.

Cary Elwes as Mayor Larry Kline (Netflix

Hopper, feeling victorious from his talk with Mike, reports to Joyce and offers to tell her more about it over dinner at Enzo’s, and she agrees this time. Hop then goes to see Mayor Larry Kline (Cary Elwes) about the protests outside Town Hall after the Starcourt Mall has hit small businesses. Before visiting Kline, Hopper notices a burly guy (Andrey Ivchenko) walking out of the mayor’s office, holding a motorcycle helmet. Mayor Kline asks Hopper to shut down the protests. 

Nancy is determined to follow the trail of the phone call, so she and Jonathan visit Mrs. Driscoll (Peggy Miley) on her lunch break after she tells Tom Holloway (Michael Park) the Editor in Chief that she’s having ‘girl problems’ and needs to go to the doctor. Mrs. Driscoll takes them down to her basement to show them how rats got into her fertilizer and ate it. She even caught one of them, and it sure looks crazed in its cage. Just as Jonathan scrambles up the stairs after watching the rat spasm, it explodes into a gory glob, which picks itself up, slides out of the cage and runs off.

Dustin calls on Steve at Scoops Ahoy, and a joyful reunion ensues. Dustin tells Steve about the Russian code he intercepted, and asks Steve to help out. Robin offers to translate, bragging that she can speak Spanish, French and Italian and that she’s been in marching band for 12 years — meaning her ears are magical. 

Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) in her Scoops Ahoy Uniform. (Netflix)

Soon enough, they have the code translated into English: “The week is long. A trip to China sounds nice. If you tread lightly. The silver cat feeds when blue and yellow meet in the West.” They aren’t sure they have it right, or if they do, it makes no sense. As they leave the mall, Steve discovers that the carnival music in the background of the recording came from one of the pony rides in the mall, meaning that the signal isn’t coming from Russia — but from somewhere in the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins.

Tough Day for Romance

Of course Eleven and Max eventually run into Will, Mike and Lucas at the mall, and Eleven asks why Mike lied. When he can’t give her a good enough answer, she dumps his ass. Hopper gets stood up at Enzo’s for his dinner date with Joyce when she gets caught up talking with Mr. Clarke (Randy Havens) about magnets and why they keep falling off her fridge. Billy kidnaps Heather and takes her to the abandoned building which is quickly becoming a lair of some sort. 

Something’s Wrong with Billy

Episode 3 begins with Max sleeping over at Eleven and Hopper’s. She encourages Eleven to user her powers to spy on different people in a game of spin the bottle, but when it lands on Billy, Eleven quickly realizes that something’s up because Billy can sense her when she finds him in the dark echoey void. She also notices he is leaning over someone (Heather the lifeguard) who is screaming. Previously when Mrs. Wheeler went to apologize to Billy about standing him up, he was all sweaty and dazed. Then he hallucinated Heather (Francesca Reale) saying “Take me to him” so he must be following up on that. 

Max and Eleven go look through Billy’s stuff and find some melted ice bags in the bathtub and Heather’s lifeguard fanny pack in his cupboard, making them more curious. They go to the pool in a big rainstorm, asking the staff on duty where Heather is, offering to return her pouch to her. Eleven uses the object to try to find Heather, and sees a mailbox and a red door. She walks through the door to a bathtub filled with ice, and Heather suddenly surfaces out of it, begging Eleven to help her. Eleven then watches Heather get dragged under water after the bathtub exlpodes, and she can’t save her.

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Back to the Old Days?

With Mike dumped by Eleven, Will declares a day of no girls, and he works hard on building a D&D campaign, even dressing up in his Will the Wise outfit. But Mike and Lucas are sidetracked by girls, and Will gets furious and leaves the Wheeler house. Joyce barges into Hop’s house to tell him about the magnets and what Mr. Clarke said, and Hopper listens but is more upset that he got stood up for Mr. Clarke. Joyce demands they go check out the Hawkins Lab, where all of this crazy stuff started, and Hopper at first tells her it’s fine, but then he relents and they go look. 

Chaos in the Rain

It turns out a very heavy-set Russian man awaited Hopper, and he gave him quite a throttling.

Will mourns the loss of his childhood in his fort outside, when he once again gets the familiar tingling sensation on the back of his neck and he can’t ignore it any longer: the Mind Flayer is back. Nancy and Jonathan go visit Mrs. Driscoll only to find her hovering over a bag of fertilizer and eating it.

Max and Eleven then go to Heather’s house and find Billy laughing and eating with her parents. Heather is there too. Billy weirdly asks what Eleven’s name is, and fixes a scary gaze on her. Max and Eleven leave, and as Billy watches them go, it is clear that he has been possessed in some way by the Mind Flayer as the show cuts to the vision of Eleven closing the gate back in Season 2, seemingly from the Mind Flayer’s perspective. Heather has fallen victim too, and together they smother her parents, who await the same fate of “getting flayed.”

The Mall Mystery

Steve and Dustin attempt a stakeout to look for “evil Russians” at Starcourt. Using binoculars, they scour the mall, and they think they might find one, dressed in dark clothes, sunglasses and carrying a suspicious duffle bag, until he turns out to be a jazzercise instructor. Meanwhile, Robin tries to make sense of their freshly translated Russian code (“The week is long. A trip to China sounds nice. If you tread lightly. The silver cat feeds when blue and yellow meet in the West.”), and when she gets a delivery from a guy with Lynx on his uniform, she starts to put the puzzle together. Lynx is obviously the silver cat. The trip to China references the Imperial Panda Chinese food restaurant, and treading lightly signals Kaufman shoes. The mall clock’s arrows are yellow and blue, meaning when they meet in the west it’s 9:45p.m. Robin, Dustin and Steve go wait outside the mall that night and sure enough, there are some scary looking men guarding the entrance with guns.  

Things Are Adding Up

Eleven still can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong with Billy, but Max tries to soothe her by reading her comics. Nancy and Jonathan watch as Mrs. Driscoll gets gurneyed into an ambulance and taken to the hospital, saying “I have to go back.” before driving off. Back at the abandoned Steelworks plant where the Mind Flayer first caught Billy, Heather’s parents join its ranks.

Code Red

Hopper wakes up from his knockout by the burly mysterious figure, Joyce coming to his aid. She tracked down some of his license plate, but Hopper thinks it’s worthless until she tells him he drove a motorcycle, not a car. Mike, Will and Lucas summon Max and Eleven, and try Dustin on the Walkie Talkies but to no avail, to tell them what Will figured out. Since Will knows first hand what it’s like to be possessed by the Mind Flayer, he has a pretty good idea of how to figure out who the new host is.

The Hawkins Post Still Won’t Listen to Nancy 

Tom the Editor-in-Chief, who does not look so good post-flaying, scolds Nancy and Jonathan for disobeying his orders to drop the Driscoll case. He mentions one fact that makes a powerful argument – Mrs. Driscoll is a paranoid schizophrenic. Nancy defaltes at the words. Tom then fires Nancy and Jonathan, and they get into a huge fight about it on the drive home. Nancy gets an inspiring pep talk from her mom, and decides to still chase after the story.

Hopper Visits Mayor Kline Again

Hopper pays slimy Mayor Kline (Cary Elwes) another visit to ask him if he knows the guy who beat Hopper up at the lab. When Larry hedges and avoids his question, Hopper gives Larry a whooping of his own, telling Larry he recognized the man in the town hall the other day. After breaking Larry’s nose and almost cutting off his finger, Hopper finally gets all the info he can out of the mayor – that the Russians wanted land in Hawkins, and that they own the Starcourt Mall. “You don’t wanna mess with these people, Jim,” he adds. Hopper and Joyce head to Kline’s house to get the records of the land purchases. 

Erica’s Obsession with Ice Cream Pays Off

When Dustin identifies a key card that the Russians use to get around the mall, Robin takes her and Steve’s cash tips and heads to the County Recorder’s office to get maps of the mall. She then shows Steve and Dustin how the air ducts connect all of the compartments of the mall. Dustin thinks he can fit through the vents, but after Steve really tries shoving him in there, Robin glances at Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson), Lucas’ younger sister, who right on schedule is ringing the bell to sample ice cream. The four of them sit down and try to persuade Erica into helping them out. She quips back that according to capitalist principles, her size is very valuable, so she demands free ice cream for life in return for navigating the ventilation system.

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The Sauna Test

Mike, Will, Lucas, Max and Eleven keep an eye on Billy during his lifeguard shift at the pool. Opposite of his usual barechested self, Billy sits under a shaded umbrella covered in towels and a white T-shirt, sunglasses and hat. He also holds an Icee. 

Max doesn’t think he seems very off, but the others do. He doesn’t look “activated” like a normal Flayed person, but Mike has a plan to test whether Billy is the new host, getting him from dormant to active. Mike’s plan to lure Billy into the sauna where they will trap him and turn up the temperature works. They use a lifeguard dummy strapped with a walkie talkie to fool Billy into entering the sauna. When he gets locked in the hot room, he confesses to doing bad things — and that “he” made him do it. He breaks out of the sauna with a sharp piece of tile and almost chokes Eleven, but Mike comes to her rescue. Billy’s back gets super veiny (like with black blood) when he gets overheated. Eleven uses her powers to throw him through a brick wall, and he runs away.

Nancy’s Visit to Mrs. Driscoll

Nancy pretends she is Mrs. Driscoll’s granddaughter in order to get into her room in the hospital. Mrs. Driscoll is asleep in her bed, but her heart rate starts to rise drastically, and the veins start appearing in her body too. Nancy visited her at the same time Mike and crew conducted the sauna test, which somehow connects Driscoll to Billy.

Erica Pulls Through

Erica successfully gets through the air ducts, with navigation help from Robin, and opens the door where Lynx delivers boxes for Imperial Panda and Kaufman shoes. Steve, Dustin, Robin and Erica examine the boxes, opening one to find large vials of glowing green bubbling liquid. Suddenly, the room moves, and despite the rush to press the open door button, the room — which is actually an elevator — plunges downwards, taking the Scoops Troop with it.

The Mind Flayer’s Army

Episode 4 ends with Billy confiding in Heather, telling her how he knows Eleven knows about him, and that she could have almost killed him. Heather counters with, “but not us” and the camera pans to show all the zombie-like people the Mind Flayer has gathered into its lair. 

The Search for the Russian Machine

Hopper and Joyce are on the search for all the properties the Russians bought, which they figured out were close to each other, because Joyce made the brilliant point that if the machine causing the magnets to fall of fher fridge isn’t in the lab, it might be somewhere else. At Hess Farm, Hopper and Joyce walk into a house with flickering lights, a sure sign that something is happening there. They walk into a bedroom, find a mattress, which Hopper lifts, and see and underground stairway into what looks to be some sort of experimental area where two Russian men are talking. Hopper traps them, and when Terminator Russian shows up, he and Joyce flee with the scientist named Alexei (Alec Utgoff). Hop’s car breaks down in the woods, so they walk to a gas station on foot. Eleven finds them and sees that they are going to Illinois, but the kids aren’t sure why. Hopper later steals the Todfather mobile at the gas station to drive himself, Joyce and Alexei to Illinois.

The Elevator Leads to Russian Operations Under Starcourt

The Scoops Troop waits it out in the elevator until Robin hears something coming, so they all hide on the roof in the shaft when two Russian delivery men enter the room to take all the boxes away with their big red cart. After they leave and the door starts to shut, Steve jumps down and jams the vial of gooey green slime in between the door and the floor to give them all time to get out of the elevator. The vial cracks and the liquid oozes out, burning a hole in the floor. 

Robin and Dustin think the green goo could be something like prometheum as the four of them walk down the very long hallway that the elevator opens on to see what is on the other side. When Robin asks why the Russians would even want to be in Hawkins, Steve and Dustin start to put things together. They eventually arrive at the heart of the operations and sneak into a room where Steve beats up one Russian man. Robin follows flickering blue light up some stairs, calling the rest of the crew, and once they look through the glass doors to the machine spitting out a laser ray into the telltale crack in the Upside Down, Steve and Dustin know what is happening.

Love Doctor Murray Bauman Returns

The only person Hopper knows who can speak Russian is private investigator Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman), who helped Nancy with Barbara’s whereabouts and death in Season 2 (and who was also responsible for getting her and Jonathan together in the first place). Bauman greets Hop, Joyce and Alexei through his front door security camera demanding their names, opening his front door to plant a long-barreled gun directly at Alexei as a way of greeting. First Bauman is hesitant to let Alexei, an enemy of the state, into his home, but Joyce gives him quite the lecture on what is at risk if he doesn’t, and Murray concedes.

Nancy and Jonathan Get a Glimpse of the Mind Flayer

After Mrs. Driscoll’s fit at the hospital, Nancy calls Jonathan even though they aren’t really speaking after their fight, asking him to put her on the phone with Will, but Will is at the Wheelers, so Nancy and Jonathan go get the kids and tell them what they know. They then set off for the hospital to check in on Mrs. Driscoll. Only two visitors can go up at a time, so Nancy and Jonathan take the lead, reconciling in the elevator. When they reach Mrs. Driscoll’s room, she is no longer in her bed, and Tom Holloway their Editor in Chief and Heather the lifeguard’s dad appears and says “She went home.” Bruce (Jake Busey), the other really rude and mean reporter who constantly mocks Nancy, has joined in on the flayed fun and the two chase after Nancy and Jonathan. Jonathan ends up dealing with Tom while Nancy takes on Bruce, and as both Nancy and Jonathan win out against the two men, their bodies melt down (like the rats did) and morph into a miniature version of the Mind Flayer at the end of the fifth episode.

At the start of Episode 6, flickering ceiling lights alert the kids downstairs that something is up, and Eleven arrives just in time to lift up the mini monster and throw it out the window. It lands on the street below and deconstructs to slide into the sewage system and join its mother creature. Billy witnesses this conjoining and says “It’s Time.”

Alexei Prefers Cherry Slurpees, But Strawberry’s Fine Too

Back at Murray Bauman’s house, Hopper has just arrived with Burger King and a slurpee from 7-Eleven, which Alexei the Russian scientist has taken a liking to after discovering it at the gas station where Hopper stole a car. Joyce and Hopper, with Bauman’s translation, are about to start interrogating Alexei when he realizes his slurpee is strawberry-flavored and not cherry, so he refuses to say anything. Hopper angrily throws him out of Bauman’s house with the keys to his handcuffs and the car, thinking Alexei won’t drive away because he is too scared to go back to his superiors without a scratch on him. It’s risky, but Hopper is right, and Alexei stops before driving away, willing to talk and drink his strawberry drink.

When asked about the laser machine, Alexei describes it as a key to open a doorway between worlds. He says the doorway in Hawkins was still healing since it had been opened before, so it was the best option since the other attempts weren’t opening the gates. Joyce and Hopper realize that their worst nightmare has come back to them. Hopper places a clandestine call to “The Philadelphia Library,” whose number was given to him by Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser’s Season 2 character) and with the codename Antique Chariot, he tells the guy who answers to relay the message to Owens that “The Ruskies are opening the gate.” Joyce calls back a minute later to give another one of her stern mom talks telling the guy to hurry it up.

Robin and Steve Almost Get Tortured

Dustin and Erica manage to escape from the Russian compound back through the air vents, leaving Steve and Robin behind. Steve gets really battered and bruised when the Commander demands he tell him who he works for and how he found them – and when Steve doesn’t provide satisfying answers they tie him and Robin together for a little while before their Doctor comes in, strapping them into chairs and drugging them with some kind of truth serum. After they wake up in their hazes, the interrogation begins all over again, and the Doctor threatens to pull out Steve’s fingernails until Robin blurts out more of the truth. 

Eleven Goes Into Billy’s Mind and Sees Billy’s Memories

Back at Hopper’s cabin, Eleven tries to find Billy again. He is sitting alone in his room on the 4th of July, which Max thinks is strange. Eleven approaches Billy and touches his arm. He senses her and grabs her wrist – and upon struggling out of his grip she falls into his memories, landing on the shore of a beach where young Billy is surfing while his mom is watching him, cheering. It takes Eleven a moment to get her bearings, but once she realizes what is happening, she looks down the beach and sees a swirling red storm and thinks that is “the source” where Billy probably got flayed, meaning attacked by the Mind Flayer. As she walks toward the eye of the swirling storm clouds, she sees a few more memories of Billy’s: his abusive dad yelling at him after a baseball game where he didn’t slide; his dad hitting his mom; him on the phone with his mom when she left him with his dad, asking when she will come back; young Billy beating someone up; and finally him meeting Max when they were younger and Billy’s dad married Max’s mom. When Eleven arrives at the source, she tells everyone it’s Brimborn Steelworks, and then they tell her to get out of there.

She gets back to Hopper’s cabin, but nobody is there, and Billy walks through a door telling her “Now I see you. We all see you. You let us in, and now you’re going to have to let us stay.” She escapes from this vision as well, but Nancy soon realizes that the Flayed probably know where they are if Billy got inside Eleven’s mind. Episode 6 ends with the Flayed Army turning away from their Fourth of July celebrations at home or the county fair to go to Brimborn and dissolve into flesh for the Mind Flayer.

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The Scoops Troop Escapes the Russians and Gets Back on the Grid

Episode 7 starts with some fun County Fair scenes, until Holly Wheeler sees the trees moving, which signals the Mind Flayer on the move. Back at the mall, Dustin and Erica bust Steve and Robin out of their torture chamber with the help of a giant electric tazer weapon. They escape down the long hallway and with the key card Dustin swiped, get into the elevator and back up into the mall. They sneak Steve and Robin into a movie theater where “Back to the Future” is screening, and Dustin tries to contact Mike on their walkie talkies but the low battery makes Dustin’s transmission glitch.

When he goes back into the theater to check on Erica, Steve and Robin are missing – they somehow got out of the theater to drink from the water fountains, but after staring up at the ceiling which spins, they get nauseous and head to the bathroom to throw up. After they calm down from the drugs, Steve confesses that he likes Robin, but Robin explains she doesn’t like him that way – going back to a memory of Tammy Thompson at school until Steve realizes she likes girls.

Eleven vs. The Mind Flayer

The Mind Flayer gets to Hopper’s cabin, swinging all sorts of arms through the walls to try and grab Eleven. Jonathan and Nancy hold it off with an ax, but only for so long. Eleven cuts off three of the arms that try to grab her, but another one snags her ankle, trying to pull her out of the cabin. Lucas chops the arm off, and El splits the Mind Flayer’s head down the middle, giving them time to escape. Nancy drives them to a Bradley’s Big Buy mart so they can help Eleven who was wounded by the Mind Flayer. While getting supplies to stop the bleeding, clean and then bandage the wound, Lucas gets sidetracked by fireworks, which he takes with him in case they might need them. Eleven finds Dustin and they leave to go rescue him in the mall. 

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The County Fair

The adults head to the fair because they think the kids will be there, but they only find angry Russians out to get them after Kline calls them. The buff Russian kills Alexei with a silenced gun after he wins a stuffed animal in one of the carnival games, looking so happy. Then the rest of the Russians chase Hopper through a fun house, and Hopper manages some shots at the leader, but he was wearing a bulletproof vest. Hop gets out of the fun house and finds Bauman and Joyce, and after learning of Alexei’s death they get out of there, but not before Joyce punches Mayor Kline in his already broken nose and kicks him in the crotch. Hopper snagged one of the Russian’s radios, and Murray hears “We found the children” from a mall signal.

The Party Reunites with the Scoops Troop

The Russians have indeed found Steve, Dustin, Erica and Robin hiding behind one of the food court counters. Just as they are about to discover them, a car alarm goes off — and Eleven uses her powers to lift the brand new mall car and smash it into the Russians, saving the Scoops Troop. They all haphazardly catch each other up on the situation, but Eleven gets light headed and almost passes out. Her leg is causing her intense pain.

The Battle of Starcourt

The final episode of Season 3 finds Eleven in excruciating pain from the piece of the Mind Flayer that is still crawling around in her leg. Jonathan sterilizes a knife from one of the food court restaurants and tries to cut it out but when he reaches his gloved hand inside El’s leg the pain gets worse. She decides to lift it out herself, flinging the small shred away from herself, for it to get stomped on by … Hopper’s boot. The whole group is finally together again.

The plan they put together goes like this: Steve will drive Robin, Dustin and Erica to Cerebro, where they will be able to guide Murray in his navigation of the vents. Nancy and Jonathan will take Will, Mike, Eleven, Lucas and Max to Murray’s house far away in Illinois where they will be safe. Joyce and Hopper will invade the Russian epicenter with Murray and get the keys to detonate the laser ray that is keeping the gate open.

The Scoops Troop sets off without a hitch, and they make it to Cerebro. But when Nancy tries to drive away, her car won’t start, and Jonathan figures out it’s because the ignition cable is missing. Billy revs his car in the mall parking lot, and it’s obvious that they’re going to have to think of a new plan.

“The Griswold Family” — call sign by Dustin — rush back into the mall to hide from Billy. Murray — whose call sign is Bald Eagle — gets through the tunnels to let Joyce and Hopper into the compound, where they just need to enter Planck’s constant as the code to get the keys to turn off the machine. Someone back at Starcourt remembers the car Eleven threw, and they just need the cable, so Eleven tries to lift the car, but can’t!

Right when they push the car over and get the ignition cable out, they notice the Mind Flayer has joined them on the roof of the mall, shattering the glass and plunging down into it. Steve sees the mall’s lights flickering from where Cerebro is, so he jumps in the car with Robin to go help. The Mind Flayer’s entrance split up “The Griswold Family” into Mike, Eleven and Max and then Will, Lucas, Jonathan and Nancy. It chases the trio into The Gap where it mistakes mannequins for Eleven. Lucas’ slingshot comes in handy to shoot and pop a balloon, distracting the Mind Flayer away from both groups.

Nancy, Jonathan, Will and Lucas get into Nancy’s car and hastily plug in the cable. Nancy tries to get the engine to turn over, but Billy starts speeding toward them in his own car. Right before Billy can strike Nancy’s car, Steve smashes into him with the Todd Father, saving Nancy, Jonathan, Will and Lucas. The Mind Flayer is back on the roof of the mall, so Steve and Robin jump into Nancy’s car and they start driving away from the Mind Flayer, but they leave Mike, Max and Eleven behind.

The Neverending Story

Meanwhile, Hopper and Joyce try to enter the code Murray gave them – 6.62608004, but it doesn’t work, and Murray admits he thought he knew Planck’s constant. Dustin overhears the exchange and immediately radios Suzy, who picks up this time!

Dustin asks her if she knows Planck’s constant, and she says she does, but since he hasn’t talked to her all week, she’s still a bit hurt by that. Dustin has to make it up to her by duetting the theme song from “The Neverending Story” like they did at camp. The song provides some comic relief as Nancy and Jonathan drive away from the Mind Flayer and Hopper and Joyce sit still in their Russian uniforms waiting to get the dang code. (While they were waiting, Joyce and Hopper have a good heart to heart chat and Joyce says if they make it out alive she would love to celebrate with Hopper on Friday at Enzo’s – a proper date). Suzy gives the correct Planck’s constant, which is 6.62607004. Hopper and Joyce get the keys and set off to complete the mission.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Billy sees the abandoned trio, and goes after them, knocking Max and Mike out, and picking up Eleven, who he also hits pretty hard to take her back into the mall to sacrifice to the Mind Flayer. Before the Mind Flayer can stick its arm into Eleven, the other half of the Griswold Family swoops in to bombard the monster with fireworks. Eleven uses the time to try and get the real Billy back, telling him about his memories of his mom. It’s a heartwrenching scene, and it works, the dark veins disappearing from Billy’s face and body. As everyone runs out of fireworks, Billy stands up to the Mind Flayer, and when it shoots out its limb again, he blocks it with his bare hands. Max and Mike have revived at this point watching as Billy holds off the creature. But the Mind Flayer sticks Billy with multiple tendrils, killing him. Max rushes to his fallen body and he apologizes to her before he dies.

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Close the Gate!

Hopper and Joyce move to enter the keys and close the gate, but of course Terminator Russian shows up and starts wailing on Hopper. They take their fight into the room and get really close to the machine, like deathly close. Hopper looks like he might get shredded, but then he gets the upper hand and throws the Russian into the machine, killing him. Dustin has been telling Joyce to close the gate, and Hopper looks up at her with sad eyes and simply nods, still right next to the ray. As she pulls on one key with her belt and the other with her hand, a tear falls down her cheek, and the machine explodes, disintegrating everyone nearby. The Mindflayer loses its power and life, the fleshy amalgamation falling to the ground.

The Bittersweet Ending

Dr. Owens and the CIA helicopters fly in after all of the damage has been done. Eleven runs out of the mall, but knows something is wrong when Joyce looks at her from hugging Will, because she doesn’t see Hopper. The screen goes black, and then it shows a newsreel that questions what has been going on in Hawkins since the chemical leak, and the mysterious deaths of Bob Newby and Barbara Holland. At the end of the clip, the newscasters ask if Satanism is to blame for everything.

The Byers move out of the house where everything started. Jonathan and Nancy and Eleven and Mike have to go long distance, because Eleven will be going with the Byers. As they are packing up, she tries to get a teddy bear down from a shelf with her powers, but still can’t. Mike sees and encourages her, saying they will come back. Eleven brings up an earlier discussion she overheard between Max and Mike that got heated and led Mike to say he loves Eleven and can’t lose her again. She says she loves Mike too. Then she walks up to Joyce, who find’s Hopper’s note to Mike and Eleven in his shirt pocket.

After Joyce realizes Hopper never really gave them a calm speech, Eleven reads the letter, and you should get some tissues if you plan to watch this scene. Hopper’s voiceover reads what he wrote as the kids all hug each other goodbye really hard.

Post-Credit Scene

The post-credits sequence opens on a bleak compound set in Kamchatka, Russia, quickly going underground to a dungeon where prisoners are housed. Two guards walk into the prison to select an inmate, and when one of them goes for one door, the other stops him, saying “No, not the American” in Russian. The guards then remove a different prisoner from his cell and take him to visit with a Demogorgon that they have on the premises. Many theorized that Hopper was the American mentioned. To find out if Hopper really died, you can head over to this article (above and linked) that has everything we know about “Stranger Things” season 4.

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