Stranger Things 3 is in the books. It had monsters and smooching and mustaches, blood and ooze and squelching, ice cream and duets and fireworks. It also had… not too much in the way of character growth or plot beyond your standard “Ahhhh a monster, what do we do?!” This is not a complaint, necessarily. It might be one on another show. But Stranger Things makes no bones about what it’s doing. It’s sending a bunch of rascal kids out there to save the world and sometimes kiss each other and that’s just about it. It’s fine. It’s fun, even. Let the kids heave explosives at a monster. They’ve earned it.
Below, please find the postseason awards for this go-round. Some of these categories are real barn burners. Others, less so. Either way, it’s an honor just to be nominated.
MVP — El
There’s a temptation here to get cute, to say something like “Well, Hopper’s arc was pretty cool and he did make that quote-unquote sacrifice at the end” or possibly “But… Billy.” These are fair points and subjects we will address momentarily. As far the MVP goes, there’s no need to overthink it: We go with the lady who has the superpowers.
Put it this way: Think about a version of this season in which El does not exist. Yes, sure, all your various Scoops Troops and brute sheriffs are still there trying to get to the bottom of any number of mysteries, and maybe they still figure out that the Mind Flayer is on the hunt and the Russians are trying to open the gate again, but they would also all be very dead, very quickly. So dead. So quickly. Like, it would have been a three-episode story about demons murdering children.
El saved everyone from Billy in the sauna, and she saved everyone from the creature in the hospital, and in the cabin, and she held it off in the mall. Do not twist yourself into a pretzel trying to justify giving this award to one of the many tryhard mortals. There are other honors we can give them. But if the V in MVP really means “valuable,” I don’t see how you can top the person who uses superpowers to defeat the bloodthirsty hellbeast.
Best Newcomer — Robin
Robin is technically the only notable newcomer this season, which makes this pretty easy. Even if there were others, though, she’d probably still make a pretty good run at this. Robin was great. My favorite thing about her is that she was infinitely more skeptical about Steve’s friendships with children than she was about Russians opening up a portal to another dimension through a series of illicit mall-based activities. She really just rolled with that part pretty quickly. That was helpful. A more realistic version of events would require at least two full episodes of people explaining the history of Hawkins to her, complete with Demogorgons and goo and smoke monsters. We don’t have time for that. It’s July. Keep it moving.
Most Outstanding Look — Hopper
Hopper went full-on Magnum P.I. this season, from the Hawaiian shirt to the glorious mustache, and it was great. Especially the mustache. Did you see that thing? It was thick and dark like a chocolate milkshake. I bet it has food it in constantly. I bet it stinks like cigarette smoke and stale beer. I wish we had seen him trimming it before his big date, or possibly thinking about shaving it off. I wish the mustache had gotten possessed by the Mind Flayer. Not his body or even the rest of his face, just the mustache. A whole season about evil whiskers. You’d watch.
Honorable mention here goes to Mr. Clarke, the science teacher, who appeared on screen for maybe 90 seconds and also sported a dynamic mustache and also was introduced while the song “My Bologna” by Weird Al. That’s efficient, if nothing else.
Most Unfortunate Look — Mr. Wheeler
Extremely competitive category. You saw Mike’s hair. You saw Will’s hair. You saw those Scoops Ahoy uniforms. The season was wall-to-wall bad looks, mostly because the 1980s were an unkind time for fashion, generally. Mr. Wheeler takes the prize, though. Look at the pants. Look at the socks. Look at the… everything. Look at it. And those are his Going Out To The Carnival clothes, too. That’s him dressing up. It’s almost inspirational, this commitment to looking like that on purpose in public. I respect it.
Outstanding Achievement in the Field Of Oozing or Squelching — Squelching
If you watched Stranger Things 3 without the subtitles on, you’d probably give this award to the ooze. There was so much ooze. Green science ooze, bubbly red ooze, ooze that turned into monsters, ooze ooze ooze. Ooze used to be a big deal. People or animals used to crawl through it constantly and then they’d wake up with powers. The Ninja Turtles got all oozed up and look at them. I hope ooze makes a comeback. I am very much Team Ooze.
It doesn’t win this battle, though, because if you — like me — watched with the subtitles on, you probably noticed… the squelching. Dear God, the squelching. Here are just a few examples.
There were many more. So many. Why did they have to do all the squelching? Come on.
Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Doing the Most 1980s Thing Possible — The mall montage
This entire show is basically a collective exercise in Remembering the 1980s, so we have another very competitive category here. There was New Coke and Back to the Future and a whole bunch of other Very 1980s things, but nothing comes close to the actual “trying on clothes at the mall while ‘Material Girl’ plays” montage. It had everything:
– the mall
– a montage
I love a good montage. We could definitely use more montages.
Best Last-Minute Redemption — Billy
Wild ride for Billy over these two seasons. I have to admit, I did not see the local sex dirtbag making the ultimate sacrifice. I will miss him. Wait. Will I miss him? Hmm.
Yeah, I will. There was something hilarious about him, with his thin little mustache and flowing hair, with his bedroom that blasted heavy metal even when it was unoccupied, with his… whatever exactly it is that you call “shouting HEY LARD ASS at pudgy children who are disobeying the pool’s No Running rules.” Joie de vivre? Yeah, let’s go with that.
Anyway, it’s perhaps a little tidy to wrap up Billy’s arc with a pretty straightforward “because he was sad about his mom” flashback, but it did explain a lot, in a way, right down to his seeking out affection from other local moms. Different kind of affection.
The Will Byers Award for Missing Out on Lots of Cool Stuff — Will
Poor Will. He missed out on a slew of adventures and bonding while his friends were trying to save him in the first two seasons. He missed out on just, like, growing up, too. Mike and Eleven became a couple, Lucas and Max have a thing, hell, even Dustin went to camp and got a girlfriend. Will didn’t have to get dragged into another dimension to get left behind this season. It happened right in front of him. Moving away from Hawkins seems like one potential solution but I still think a week in Hawaii might do the trick. Worth a shot at least.
Outstanding Performance by an Unseen Character — Beth Wildfire
You can’t just do this, Stranger Things. You can’t introduce the existence of a character named Beth Wildfire without then telling me everything about her. Beth Wildfire.
I demand to meet her in season four. It’s only right.
Biggest Dipshit — Mayor Larry
Real two-way Thunderdome here between Mayor Larry and Jake Busey’s smartass reporter character, but the nod goes to Mayor Larry for a few reasons:
– Cary Elwes rules
– I loved how like three different scenes started out with him being a smug prick and ended with him getting the hell whomped out of him, like he simply refused to learn that or any lesson about his behavior
– I love a good corrupt sleazebag mayor in a story about unsupervised children on bicycles
These goddamn fat cats in City Hall.
Most Heroic Performance by an Inanimate Object — Satan’s Baby
I know the kids on this show had a good reason, and I certainly would not have enjoyed battling a squelching many-mouthed monster at any age, but this all did make me very jealous that I never had a good excuse to whip fireworks around the local mall when I was a teen. I think I would have liked that.
Most Effective Weapon — Joyce’s mom energy
El has her powers, as we’ve discussed. They’re good powers. They do occasionally fail her, though. And Satan’s Baby, while cool and a great name for a firework, never really amounted to more than a distraction. You know what never failed, though? Joyce Byers giving someone the full Mom Voice to get their attention. She did it to Murray when he was being difficult and she did it to the damn U.S. government when they gave Hopper the run-around, and it worked like a charm both times. It almost makes you wonder if she could have just berated the Mind Flayer into giving up. One stern “GO TO YOUR ROOM, MISTER” might have done it. Never underestimate the power of Mom energy.
Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Not Fooling Anyone — Hopper’s “death”
The rule is as follows: If you don’t see the dead body, assume the character is not dead. This has always been the rule. It will always be the rule. So this, in addition to other small factors like “They’re not going to kill off David Harbour” and “Come on,” led me to believe that Hopper was still alive, somewhere, long before the post-credits scene revealed the existence of “the American” in a secret Russian facility that also houses a Demogorgon. Good job by me, I figured it out, whee.
I am very much here for a group of mischievous teens becoming Cold Warriors going forward. To rescue Hopper, naturally, but also because it’s been a while since we had a good “fictional characters end the Cold War” story and I’d like to see if these kids can do what Rocky did all those years ago.