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Stranger Things Season Three Episode 1: “Suzie, Do You Copy?” Is a Surprisingly Strong Opening

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At first glance, it can be hard to see beyond the pastiche of masturbatory 80’s nostalgia and overwrought costuming of Stranger Things‘ third season premiere, “Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy?”. But under the surface of the show’s now-familiar blueprint for season premieres lies one of the show’s more thematically rich hours, exploring the duality of evolution through its main characters, and the very changing fabric of American suburbia itself. For better or worse,  “Suzie, Do You Copy?” is still very much an episode of Stranger Things – but there’s an unexpected undercurrent of mature storytelling to every scene, a strong foundation for the show to build on, as it tries to recapture momentum following its 15-month hiatus.

Dustin’s makeshift device is an apt metaphor for the structure of Stranger Things 3‘s opening salvo: it is comfortably ramshackle, but surprisingly durable – and like the aforementioned radio, might just stumble across something powerful and special along the way.

There are two major new elements introduced in “Suzie, Do You Copy?,” both pertaining to the continued evolution of Hawkins, Indiana, and its young constituents. For the town, the introduction of a new shopping mall marks the end of capitalism’s golden age for small business; every business in town is closing, while the mall thrives both as a place of commerce, and the social center of every young teenager’s life. You can almost feel the rhythms of the town around the mall changing, as this monolithic, neon-adorned structure has quickly become the center of everyone’s life in town.

Stranger Things Season 3

“Suzie, Do You Copy?” reflects that dichotomy in subtle, meaningful ways: but where “Suzie, Do You Copy?” really manages to capture this idea is in the evolving emotional tenor of our beloved Hawkins crew: as the town awkwardly fumbles its way to maturity, the same is happening to the team, whose relationships are growing more complicated as romantic relationships develop, marking the end of the group’s innocent early dynamic. The group’s gotten bigger, more diverse, and experienced an exponential increase in hormones: and this leads to any number of expected conflicts and compromises, none more entertaining than watching Jim Hopper try to figure out how to talk to his supernaturally-powered teenage daughter about her constant make-out sessions with Mike.

Though “Suzie, Do You Copy?” is ostensibly an hour of checking in and catching up (bookended by two ominous scenes, because – well, duh, it’s a Stranger Things premiere), there’s careful attention to the shifts forming in its characters and its town, and the two-sided coin each of them represent. And to its credit, Stranger Things is able to convey the wrinkles these complexities throw into the fabric of the town and its relationships: while the show’s 80’s references begin to feel pandering and self-serving by the time “Suzie, Do You Copy?” gets through the last of its 1,371 brand logos, where it keeps from feeling stale is in its smaller character moments, richly textured scenes pushing the crew forward to new and exciting places.

Suzie, Do You Copy?

Smartly, the much-hyped premiere does slow down long enough to linger on a few meaningful moments – particularly with its older leads, from Steve’s disappointment in his new dead-end service career, to Joyce’s reluctance to engage with Jim romantically. The sadness in both scenes is palpable, giving the episode a much needed emotional undercurrent beyond “awww, look at the kids growing up in front of our eyes!” – and furthering the idea of evolution as a double-edged sword, in different and interesting ways.

There is still some classically heavy-handed material, though: Stranger Things doesn’t use such a careful touch with the trite material offered Nancy and her mother. While giving Nancy a job at the paper certainly makes an easier, more natural avenue to build out the underlying government conspiracies, putting both Wheeler women at the mercy of the men in their stories is a bit of a bummer, unnecessary moments that don’t really enhance the underlying drama the scenes naturally introduce. Nancy being stuck working under the most mensiest of White Men’s Clubs is one-note, if effective: Karen’s pursuit of Billy is just plain one-note, a rather unflattering portrayal of a woman unsatisfied with her husband (who, in his only appearance in the episode, is asleep on the couch with their daughter in his lap, as she gets ready to fuck the local lifeguard at the Motel 6).

Suzie, Do You Copy?

With some time and care, these stories might have time to blossom: but between the Russians trying to get into the Upside Down and whatever the shadow monster is doing with all those rat guts (can we just admit the shadow monster is just another take on the Man in Black?), it appears Stranger Things has other, more dramatic ideas it wants to focus on – which Nancy looks to be a major factor in, at the very least. With only eight episodes to work with, there isn’t a whole lot of time for this season to wax nostalgic or waste time with dead-end subplots (like Barb’s parents, who felt shoehorned into the plot of season two at the most convenient of moments).

Taken as a whole, “Suzie, Do You Copy?” is a surprisingly strong opening for the show’s much-anticipated third season: though a larger story could drown out the show’s well-developed relationship dynamics, the whirlwind of changes brought to the town and its people offers an engaging foundation for the series to build on, something more than the nostalgia porn it constantly falls back on in its emptiest moments. Like the ham radio Dustin sets up to try and talk to his (maybe imaginary) girlfriend, the structure of Stranger Things 3‘s opening salvo is comfortably ramshackle, and surprisingly durable, constructed such that (again, like the long-range radio) it might just stumble across something powerful and special along the way.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

  • whoever does the wig work for Billy’s hair should win every fucking Emmy that’s available.
  • Maya Hawke is introduced as Steve’s co-worker at the mall’s ice cream parlor, a bit of casting I’m particularly interested to see develop this season.
  • Jim Hopper smoking while hugging a pillow and trying to figure out how to tell Mike and Eleven to stop making out all the time is everything.
  • Does anyone give a shit about what the Russians are doing? I feel like Stranger Things only works on a small scale, and introducing these larger elements (like a second shadowy government) may be a bridge too far for this series.
  • Welcome to Stranger Things 3 reviews! I’ll be covering each episode over the next few days here at TV Never Sleeps, so make sure to follow us for the latest updates.

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Galmo

    July 6, 2019 at 4:05 am

    Okay, so all I have to say is how is the costuming overwrought? Made perfect sense to me, isn’t complicated, I watched the previous seasons, plus the “masturbatory” 80’s nostalgia, you know that the nostalgia is part of the main (subtle) theme of growth and moving on right? It’s not just moving on for one thing it’s moving on in general. Nostalgia is an element but it has a purpose beyond style, it didn’t surprise me that the start did so well, I watched prior seasons.

    • Randy Dankievitch

      July 6, 2019 at 4:56 pm

      Hey, I’m just a writer, sitting here drinking my Stranger Things-themed New Coke in my Stranger Things H &M shirt, while I kick my feet up in my official Stranger Things Nikes.

      (In all seriousness, I feel Stranger Things sometimes falls into the trap of channeling nostalgia not for the sake of evocative storytelling, but to stare at logos to sell sponsorships … I mean, this season has more tie-ins than Ghostbusters II and Frozen did combined.)

  2. Marblers

    July 6, 2019 at 4:09 am

    Criticism by itself is fine Randy but valid criticism is also preferred. Other than what is said at the start however it’s a well reasoned article usually.

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The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

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The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
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The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

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Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
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