*Contains spoilers for Stranger Things seasons one & two*

Season one landed like the mothership in Close Encounters: to gasps of wonder, yelps of fear and maybe even a few bassoon solos. Stranger Things was an amazing blend of ’80s pop-culture references, eerie storytelling and startling performances from a young cast.

Season two may have lacked the element of surprise, but it kept the ball rolling despite vocal complaints from critics about certain plot decisions. (Specifically episode seven: the one with the “outcast” street gang who were about as threatening – and plausible – as a baddies from The A-Team.)

Co-creators the Duffer brothers have confirmed that a third season (and fourth) are in the pipeline, while producer Shawn Levy has even teased a possible fifth.

Speaking to EW, Levy said: “Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents.

“The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons [sic] and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

Ross Duffer confirmed: “If we’re able to, there will be at least four, there could be more. I think there’s going to come a point where why aren’t these people leaving Hawkins? Like we’re going to stretch credibility. It wasn’t intended to be a seven-season thing.”

First things first, though: what can we expect from season three?

Stranger Things 3 trailer: When is it coming?

Filming has only just begun on the new episodes, so it’ll be months – at least – till we see any actual footage from the new season.

But the show has dropped a new teaser in the form of a video advertising that a new Starcourt Mall is heading to Hawkins, Indiana. It may not tell us much about what to expect from season three, but it does feature a very fun cameo…

Yes, that is Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) in the Scoops Ahoy ice cream shop, along with new character Robin (played by Maya Hawke).

The video also dropped a tantalising piece of information at the end in that the Starcourt Mall is coming to Hawkins “next summer”, which leads us to…

Stranger Things 3 release date: When can we expect it?

Netflix officially renewed Stranger Things for season three on December 1, 2017, but didn’t confirm either the episode count or when exactly the show would return.

The first season dropped in July 2016, but Netflix had commissioned the second before it even landed. Season two was timed to coincide with Halloween, and came out in late October 2017. The third season didn’t start filming until spring 2018 and it was reported that we would be waiting until 2019 to see it.

And it was then seemingly confirmed in a teaser that we would be getting new episodes in summer 2019.

Cindy Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content, explained that the delay has been because it’s a “handcrafted show”. “They want to deliver something bigger and better than what they did last year. And so they really want to take the time to get it right,” Holland added.

But how many episodes are we getting to binge? Back in January 2018, Levy revealed that this would be an eight or nine episode season.

“The number of episodes will be dictated by the amount of story that excites us. We now know what is going to happen in season three to every character,” he confirmed.

Reports surfaced in February that the new season would indeed run to eight episodes (one less than the previous run), which was officially confirmed in April. As with the previous two seasons, the Duffer Brothers will direct the first two episodes, with Levy directing the third and the fourth.

Stranger Things 3 cast: Who’s in it?

The stars are becoming more and more popular with casting agents by the week – David Harbour is signed up to play Hellboy in the upcoming reboot, Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) will star in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Finn Wolfhard is likely to return to Derry (in flashback) for IT: Chapter 2.

But barring an inter-dimensional cross-rip, we’d expect all the main surviving cast to return for season 3. (Sorry, no Barb. She be dead and she was NEVER going to be brought back.)

That includes Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, despite an incident at LAX airport back in October which saw him stopped and sent back to the UK. (Heaton later apologised.)

One lesser character from season two will definitely be getting more screen time: Lucas’ sister Erica (Priah Ferguson).

Ferguson was promoted to main cast status in March 2018. Matt Duffer told Yahoo!: “I love Erica. [Priah] was just a local hire we made in Atlanta. Erica wasn’t even supposed to be in [season two] as much as she was. We fell in love with this girl. I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word.”

Another, less well-loved, character is strongly tipped to return: Eleven’s “lost” sister Kali, aka 008. “It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline,” Matt Duffer told The Hollywood Reporter. “I would say chances are very high she comes back.” So… Yay?

We know that Dr Brenner (Matthew Modine) is apparently still alive, so it would seem likely that we’ll see more of him in seasons to come, provided Modine is up for it.

Little Women actress (and daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke) Maya Hawke will join the cast for season three as an “alternative girl” whose boring day job gets much more interesting when she discovers the town’s dark secret.

There will also be at least three more new major characters joining in on the fun: first up is middle-aged Mayor of Hawkins, Larry Kline, who is described as “a classic, 80s-style slick politician”.

He’ll be played by Cary Elwes, of The Princess Bride and Saw fame.

Then there’s a “sexist” and “morally compromised news reporter in his 50s” called Bruce (played by Jake Busey) and a “sweet, neighbourhood elder” called Patricia Brown who spends her time gardening and offering advice to the children in the neighbourhood.

One character unlikely to return is Chester the dog. Noah Schnapp accidentally revealed at Chicago’s Stranger Con that “I think he died, didn’t he? He did. You can tell, I guess. Like, in this season, there’s a grave for him that you see.” WHOOPS. “Oh, I don’t think I was supposed to say that.”

Oh, and despite rumours of some changes behind the camera, we can confirm that the Duffer brothers have no plans to quit Stranger Things.

Stranger Things 3 theories: Any ideas?

The Duffers have confirmed that, as with season two, there will be a time jump of one year between seasons two and three. Matt Duffer told The Hollywood Reporter: “Even if we wanted to hop into the action faster, we couldn’t. Our kids are ageing.

“We can only write and produce the show so fast. They’re going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can’t start right after season two ended.

“It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show.”

“It’s always about a year later,” said Natalia Dyer (Nancy). “So [just thinking] about what’s gone on this year, like ‘Where are we?’. Just seeing how the characters have grown in the meantime…. I get really excited about that story and where everyone’s been.”

“Season 3 is set in the summer, so right out of the gate that’s a big difference,” Levy confirmed.

“The first two seasons were very much school-based. This is that time of year where it’s not about school, it’s about the swimming pool and campfires and parades and Fourth of July and fireworks, so there’s kind of a poppy fun to season 3 that’s really enjoyable before things inevitably turn super dark.”

After that final shot of season two, we’ll definitely see the Mind Flayer / Shadow Monster again, though he’s done with the demo-dogs and will be exploring “some new strategies.”

Season three will further explore the mythology of the Upside Down, but don’t expect clear answers.

Ross Duffer says: “There’s no way [the kids] can ever truly fully understand this place. We have our Upside Down document which describes its rules and its mythology in quite a bit of detail, but I think we’re just going to slowly parse that out, and maybe not even fully use all of it.

“Our favourite thing to do on this show is that these characters, especially the kids, are able to make these leaps about the Mind Flayer and how it operates and what it wants, but they’re just basing this off of games that they’ve played. They don’t really know for sure.”

Talking to IndieWire, creators Ross and Matt Duffer gave some teasers for the season, although admitted that at the moment they’re currently “just working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go”.

They were able to say that the plan for season three is to be “something almost weirdly more intimate” and “a lot of fun”.

Ross said: “I love the early days of seasons, because you are filled with all of these possibilities. We are having a lot of fun just bouncing around cool ideas.”

Matt hinted that the next season will focus more on character development than scale: “It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale. What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

David Harbour has also hinted at exploring some more of Hopper’s backstory: “We’ve also seen a lot of things, when Eleven goes down to his cellar and sees the boxes, we see a box that says Dad, a box that says New York, a box that says Vietnam. These are little Easter Eggs for Jim, further layers of the onion that can be peeled back. “More will be revealed on that front.”

Harbour also revealed a nugget or two that suggest his daughter Sara’s history will be further explored in later seasons. Like the stuffed tiger toy that appears in Eleven’s room, Will’s castle and Sara’s hospital room. Did Sara come into contact with the Upside-Down?

And speaking of father figures, we’ll get to see a lot more of Steve (Joe Keery) acting as a mentor to Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and the other kids. “I’ll just say we won’t be abandoning the Dad Steve magic,” hinted Shawn Levy.

Among the plot threads still dangling: the burgeoning relationship between Mike and Eleven (which we’ll definitely see more of); the no less burgeoning friendship (and more?) between Hopper and Joyce; Dustin’s jealousy of Lucas; Max’s subdued but not beaten douchebag brother Billy…

And some gubbins or other about trans-dimensional beasts.

Talking of Billy though, Dacre Montgomery has spoken to The Wrap about whether he could be the ‘monster’ of the next season. “That’s really interesting — you mean using my body as a host?” he responded.

“I don’t know, I don’t want to speculate too much. I feel like the Duffers [co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer] are so great, that they’re going to have all kind of things up their sleeves. I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Fortunately for Schnapp, Will is going to be given a break in the new season. “We’re not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He’ll be dealing with stuff, but he won’t be at rock bottom the way we forced the amazing Noah Schnapp to play,” Levy outlined.

But it won’t be plain sailing for the children as Levy also noted that there will be “forces of evil that are new” in season three.

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