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.