Bleats

Stranger Things Is Done, May It Rest In Peace

It's always better to leave the party early.

I’m a huge fan of Stranger Things. I’ve even got the Steve Harrington t-shirt to prove it. 

How could you not want this face on your torso?

As someone who grew up watching Steven Spielberg movies, reading Stephen King books, and being constantly overcome by a sense of nostalgia and a fear of change even from an early age, Stranger Things is pretty much the perfect show for me. But I still want the most recent season to be its last. 

When Stranger Things first dropped on Netflix in 2016, it was an instant hit. It tapped into the nostalgia and yearning many were feeling not just for the aesthetics of the 1980s, but also the kind of storytelling of that era. Free from cynicism and irony, it was an old school adventure full of plot twists, mystery and a lot of heart.

ICONIQUE.

The eight-episode season was strongly plotted and well-paced, balancing the various stories of the ensemble cast well before bringing them together at the end. Naturally, a second season was announced soon after its release. 

The second season, like the sequels to so many of the movies Stranger Things takes inspiration from, did not live up to the promise of the first. It was a bumpy ride, failing to strike the right balance between the divergent plots and at one point dedicating a whole episode to Eleven finding her “sister” Eight/Kali, which disrupted the rhythm of the season and ultimately went nowhere.

There were, of course, moments of glory (the pairing of Steve and Dustin was a particular highlight), but overall it was a bit of a drag.

Here’s the trailer for Season 2, ICYMI

This is why I approached the third season with a lot of trepidation – and why I was so surprised and thrilled to discover that actually, Season 3 is wonderful. It manages to recapture a lot of the magic from Season 1, tapping into nostalgia and whimsy while combining real, genuine scares with the right amount of comedy and emotion. 

Characters that floundered in Season 2 are given clearer direction and depth – with the girls in particular coming out stronger than ever before (and not just in a kick-ass kind of way). New characters enhance the plot, for the most part, and the vague and shadowy threat of the Mind Flayer is firmed up – literally, as he’s transformed into a horrific flesh monster.

It isn’t a perfect season, sure; but it is a really, really good one. It’s also a great end point for the story.

The Mind Flayer. Horrific.

What is it about TV shows that makes people think it’s a good idea for them to last as long as humanly possible? When it comes to movies, sequels are often treated with suspicion or concern (not counting huge franchises like the MCU, of course, which these days feel more like TV series themselves – but that’s a whole other topic).

We look to movies to tell complete and satisfying stories in under 120 minutes, and yet when it comes to TV we just want more, more, more

There are many TV shows that are cancelled too soon – Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life, for instance. But I do wonder, if they had lasted longer, would they actually be as treasured as they are now? After all, the vast majority of series more than outstay their welcome, dragging on for year after year, long after the writers, cast and fans actually care anymore. 

Could watch this over, and over, and over again.

As someone who endured about five seasons too many of Pretty Little Liars and at least three more of One Tree Hill than I should have, I’m a firm believer in shows ending when they’re still good.

Who wants to watch something they once loved crawl to the finish line as a hollow, rotting husk of its former self? Not me, that’s for sure.

The thing about narrative is that it needs conflict and tension to move forward, and characters need to change and evolve along with their plot. When season after season gets lumped onto a show just because it’s popular, it can start to push the limits of believability around how much conflict and drama these characters can go through.

Far too often, the characters themselves stop moving forward and end up becoming two-dimensional caricatures. 

Yes, it is possible to get sick of Chad Michael Murray.

Stories should end when the main conflict is resolved, the tension is eased, and the characters have progressed in some way. That’s exactly where Stranger Things is at now.

Sure, there are some mysteries left dangling, but that’s a good thing – the most interesting kinds of stories are those that don’t wrap everything up in a neat little bow. They leave room for fans to speculate, and to imagine for themselves what comes next. 

Season 3 provides just the right amount of closure for Stranger Things to go out on top, leaving viewers with a warm feeling and a readiness to treasure the show as a whole – even with that uneven Season 2.

A taste of Season 3, if you’ve not yet been acquainted.

By the close of Season 3, the characters we know and love have grown and are moving on. They’re finally embracing change rather than clinging to the past. They’re letting go. And that’s exactly what Stranger Things, and we as fans, need to do as well.

The True Magic Of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Is In Smashing The Patriarchy

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, smash it til it's naught but rubble.

Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is full of ghosts, demons and the literal devil, but they are far from the scariest parts of the show – not by a long shot.

The most ~chilling~ aspect is actually the toxic masculinity of so many of the male characters. And the true villain?

Well, that’s the patriarchy.

Season 1 sets up this theme by following Sabrina’s struggle with her decision to join the Church of Night. If she does, she gets incredible powers, but she also signs away her freedom, forced to do the bidding of the Dark Lord whenever he demands it. When Sabrina questions why she can’t have both freedom and power, fellow witch Prudence explains that the Dark Lord would never allow it – because the thought terrifies him.

“He’s a man, isn’t he?” Prudence explains.

This idea of men feeling threatened by powerful women is built on in the character of Father Blackwood, the high priest of the Church of Night. In one of the most gut-churning scenes of Season 1, we see him gathering the men of his coven and presenting them with his newborn son, Judas, declaring that it’s their time to rise.

Yep, it turns out that, with a few exceptions, the warlocks of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are, in fact, men’s rights activists.

They perceive persecution where there is none, and see equality as oppression. And when they don’t get their own way in the show, as in life, they become violent.

The second season takes this theme and runs with it. Father Blackwood creates a manifesto to reform the Church of Night, which would see all witches subjugated and subservient to warlocks.

He marries Sabrina’s aunt Zelda, one of the show’s most powerful women, and casts a spell on her that that turns her into a Stepford wife. Meanwhile, as Sabrina resists the devil’s bidding at every turn and tries to reinstate her own agency, she’s punished for it time and again.

Then there’s Madame Satan, who fled the garden of Eden because she refused to be less than equal to Adam but was then essentially enslaved by Lucifer, willingly placing herself in chains on the promise of equality that never actually eventuates.

As for Lucifer himself, he’s a man alright, whose true evil is in the way he wants to possess, dominate and control the women in his life. In his grab for power, Father Blackwood is a truer disciple of the Dark Lord than either of them perhaps realise.

All of this occurs within the context of a world where the witches are, repeatedly, the ones with the strongest magic. But, of course, they have to navigate the patriarchal confines they find themselves in, which work to pit them against each other and minimise their power.

It’s only when they come together to cast off these confines that the full force of their power can be unleashed and – without giving too much away – they can overcome the men who would seek to bring them down.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is by no means a perfect feminist text. The first season in particular at times feels like nothing more than lip service to the modern intersectional movement. But Season 2 does a better job of exploring these themes in greater depth, while cleverly subverting the traditional hero’s journey Sabrina goes on.

Above all else, it shows that toxic masculinity is the true horror story of our generation – and that real magic happens when girls are able to fully embrace their own power.

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