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Now that most of the population has finished season three of Stranger Things, it’s time to reflect. Did season three live up to its predecessors? Did Winona Ryder come out swinging once again? Was the narrative juicy enough to hook us in and woven with enough foresight to deliver until the very last moment?

While Stranger Things has grown into a cultural phenomenon – boasting a loyal fanbase and drawing in various demographics – the series has been less impressive with each passing season, according to critics and fans alike. For proof, you just need to look at Rotten Tomatoes. 

'Stranger Things' Cast
‘Stranger Things’ Cast | Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

While the show has not seen a drastic drop, its reviews diminish slightly across time and – if this trend continues – the show might drop into the B– range come season four.  Season one of Stranger Things boasts a 96% – according to both critics and audiences. Season two pulled in a 94% according to critics, but only a 90% from the fans. And, as for season three, the show is at an 86% audience score and a 90% critics score. 

So, what’s happening to Stranger Things? Why are the reviews gradually declining? If you look at the reviews – season by season – a few general trends emerge. Season one of Stranger Things was a nostalgia-infused joyride packed with equal parts character development and sci-fi splendor. As for seasons two and three, some tiny issues emerged to smudge the premiere season’s near-perfect track record.

‘Stanger Things’ season 2: It was a bit slow and needed a “tighter focus”

Keep in mind that – as we analyze the downfalls inherent to seasons two and three of Stranger Things – we are still referencing “unpopular opinions.” Thus, the negative feedback is not overwhelming; rather, it’s present enough to induce a small shift in the overall ratings granted by Rotten Tomatoes.

Like any follow-up to a hit, season two of Stranger Things was merely deemed “Not as good as season 1,” according to a few fans. As for those who decided to explain their reasoning, skeptic viewers found certain moments “boring” or “completely unnecessary.” The idea that certain episodes – episode seven in particular – may have felt forced or out of place aligns with a critic who found the second season a bit messier than the first. The critic stated:

“But I also can’t help but feel unsatisfied by how it all plays out because of a pair of plot threads that, for now, never pay off and a third that seems to exist entirely to address a situation that doesn’t really matter. With a tighter focus “Stranger Things” season 2 could have been great — as it stands, we’ll have to settle for almost great, and hope the Duffers are planning to make those apparently divergent threads make sense in season 3.”

As for season two, it packed the same nostalgiac punch – reminiscent of Stephen King 80s flicks (with a dash of James Cameron) – but failed to rival its predecessor on the narrative front. 

‘Stranger Things’ season 3: Relies on familiarity and grows predictable as a result 

Nostalgia is inherent to the Stranger Things formula; the show is, in and of itself, an homage to films of yesteryear. However, some fans feel that Stranger Things, committed to its tribute-focused mission, has dismissed originality. Fans argue that season three fails to add its own “twist,” and resorts to “stereotypical situations” as a result. 

In line with the above statement, one critic argued that the season is “plodding and predictable,” while another noted its “disconnected” nature and apparent focus on creating meme-worthy moments. 

As for season three, the narrative may be strong – disconnected at times – but the series focuses too heavily on the show’s vibe; in season three, Stranger Things forgets to be a unique show – becomes no more than an ’80s sci-fi flick turned contemporary – and grows mimetic, according to certain fans and critics.