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    ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Recap: Catch Up Before Season 4

    Plug in the toaster for those Eggos, because Stranger Things Season 4 is nearly here. As Netflix teases in a synopsis for the upcoming chapter—its first part starts streaming May 27—the new episodes pick up six months after the Battle of Starcourt.

    “Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time—and navigating the complexities of high school hasn’t made things any easier,” the streaming service adds. “In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down.”

    It’s been three long years since the previous season launched, though, so you might need someone to tell you where we left off—and not with, you know, Christmas lights on an alphabet wall.

    Season 3 kicks off in 1984, when Soviet scientists are trying to force open a gate to the Upside Down. After the latest attempt fails, a Soviet general demands a gate be successfully operational in one year’s time.

    The action then shifts to 1985, when, thousands of miles away, the new Starcourt Mall is upending the economy of Hawkins, Indiana. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) are now a couple, much to the dismay of Hopper (David Harbour), who has become a father figure to Eleven. And they’re not the only ones with a newfound love connection: Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) has set up a radio tower to keep in touch with his summer-camp girlfriend. In so doing, however, Dustin picks up a Russian transmission, which he brings to Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke), who is Steve’s coworker at Scoops Ahoy, the Starcourt Mall ice cream parlor.

    Other weird occurrences keep our heroes on edge. Will (Noah Schnapp) suspects the Mind Flayer is still alive. Joyce (Winona Ryder) experiences a strange phenomenon affecting the magnetism at her home. And Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), in their new roles as Hawkins Post interns, investigate strange rat behavior!

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    Turns out those pesky rodents are swarming a steel mill on the edge of town. Inside the mill, their bodies explode and form a single creature, a new incarnation of the Mind Flayer. And as Billy (Dacre Montgomery) passes the mill on his way to an assignation with Nancy’s mother, Karen (Cara Buono), vines pull him into the structure. Later, voices in Billy’s head tell him to kidnap Heather, another lifeguard, and bring her to the mill. Those two teens become some of many townspeople possessed, or “flayed,” by the Mind Flayer as it grows stronger inside the mill. And when Nancy and Jonathan overpower two of those flayed individuals, the bodies morph into a creature resembling the Mind Flayer, confirming Will’s suspicion that the monster is still in Hawkins.

    The Mind Flayer repeatedly attacks the teens, and though Eleven is able to fend it off, she’s wounded in the fight, left with a Mind Flayer fragment embedded in her body. Eleven also learns that the Mind Flayer is targeting her and her friends as revenge for closing Hawkins’ previous gate to the Upside Down.

    Back at the mall, Robin has decoded the Russian message and discovered that a shipment is arriving, and as the Scoops Ahoy groups explore the Starcourt Mall’s subterranean labyrinth, they find a lab where Russian scientists are launching another attempt to open a gate to the Upside Down. Steve and Robin are caught spying, but Dustin and his pint-size pal Erica (Priah Ferguson)—sister of Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin)—rescue them. (Steve later confesses to Robin that he has a crush on her, but he’s not exactly her type.)

    And after Joyce convinces Hopper that the magnetic anomalies are stemming from the Hawkins Lab, the two head to the now-abandoned facility, where Hopper is ambushed by a Russian soldier named Grigori (Andrey Ivchenko). Hopper remembers seeing Grigori talking with Mayor Larry Kline (Cary Elwes), and Hopper and Joyce get Kline to admit that a Russian operation is headquartered at Starcourt Mall and that the Russians have been taking over properties all over Hawkins.

    Joyce eventually realizes that her son and his friends might be caught up in the Starcourt business, so she and Hopper hurry to the mall. Eleven uses her powers to see that her friends are at the mall, too, and soon our heroes are reunited in time for the season-ending “Battle of Starcourt.”

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    Eleven takes the Mind Flayer fragment out of her leg, but she finds herself powerless just as Flayed Billy and the Mind Flayer, which is now an enormous spider monster, arrive at the mall. While Lucas and the other members of the Dungeons and Dragons party use fireworks to distract the beast, Eleven frees Billy from the Mind Flayer’s possession, and Billy sacrifices himself to save the other teens.

    Hopper calls former Hawkins Lab director Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) about the Russian infiltration, and he and Joyce head to the lab below the mall to destroy the “key,” the machine creating the gate to the Upside Down. Hopper, however, gets trapped with the key after a fight with Grigori. He realizes there’s no time, so he orders Joyce to blow up the key and close the gate, knowing he’ll likely die. Joyce reluctantly does so, and as the gate closes and the Mind Flayer dies, Hopper seemingly disintegrates into oblivion.

    In the end, military helicopters swoop into Hawkins as Owens lead a military team into Starcourt while Joyce and the teens flee to safety. And three months later, Kline has been arrested, the flayed individuals’ deaths have been attributed to a fire at Starcourt Mall in a cover-up, and the Byers family (plus Eleven) are moving to California. And Hopper, very much alive, is a captive in Kamchatka, Russia, where soldiers are feeding prisoners to a Demogorgon.

    Stranger Things, Season 4, Volume 1, premiere, Friday, May 27, Netflix

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