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In Stranger Things’ Third Season, the Nostalgia Well Runs Dry

Can you be nostalgic for the first season of Stranger Things? Slavish worship of the 1980s has been the raison d’être—as well as the raison d’everything else—for Matt and Ross Duffer’s Netflix series. But in its third season, the show has become less loving homage and more vampire squid, sucking increasingly hard at a corpse that has long since run dry.

The new season finds us back in the town of Hawkins, Indiana, where adolescent hormones are coursing through the bodies of the series’ now-teenage protagonists. Telekinetic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who mostly goes by “El” now, is doing her best to live the life of a normal teen, which means constantly making out with her new boyfriend, Mike (Finn Wolfhard). Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) has come back from a month at science camp with a long-distance girlfriend of his own—or so he says, anyway—and love is in the air elsewhere, from the ongoing flirtation between Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and police chief Hopper (David Harbour) to the simmering sexual tension at the community pool, where bored housewives put on their best one-pieces to make eyes at Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) in his lifeguard suit.

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