All ‘Stranger Things’ seasons ranked

Sage Dunlap, Life & Arts Reporter

After six years on Netflix, “Stranger Things” remains a worldwide phenomenon, proving its longevity among other original shows on the platform. Loaded with colorful 1980s nostalgia and an eclectic bunch of lovable characters, the beloved series continues to rack up viewers and accolades with every season. With the fourth season coming to a close with the release of volume two on July 1, The Daily Texan ranked each season of “Stranger Things.”

Season Three

The series’ third season, released in 2019, thrills with the show’s most nostalgia-packed season to date. The first episode’s unveiling of Hawkins’ flashy new Starcourt Mall birthed the show’s most nostalgic shooting locations, showcasing an ‘80s summer full of neon-plastered food courts, Jazzercise classes and even glamour shoot studios; the season’s colorful visual design stands out among other installments. 

Ultimately, the strongest aspect of season three lies in its development of character relationships. Many side characters were introduced or revamped this season, making for great new additions to an already lovable ensemble. Maya Hawke’s Robin, the sassy, socially awkward Scoops Ahoy employee who befriends Steve and Dustin, instantly became a fan favorite. Billy (Dacre Montgomery) also took on a more central role this season, allowing the plot to explore his complicated relationship with his sister Max. 

Season One

The season kicks off with the disappearance of Will (Noah Schnapp), who the audience watches mysteriously disappear in the opening scene. Despite the series’ heavy moments, the show maintains a fun tone suited for all ages. The show’s leading quartet — Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven — investigates their friend’s disappearance with youthful curiosity, offsetting the more serious tone from performances by adult actors like Winona Ryder. 

Season one also does a fantastic job establishing the show’s relationship with the supernatural. The nerdy, eager-for-adventure group of kids never questions their strange encounters with Hawkins Lab or the occasional battle with demogorgons. This season taps into the over-the-top fantasy of a comic-inspired action show while still navigating more mature storylines, setting the tone for the rest of the series.

Season Four: Volume One

The most recent season took on a much darker tone, with a grizzly murder rocking the Hawkins community and introducing the Hawkins group, now including Robin and new character Eddie (Joseph Quinn), to the horrors of Vecna, the show’s most daunting villain yet. The introduction of Vecna and his backstory made for a refreshing change of pace.

Season four’s primary issue lies in an overall disconnect between characters. With characters in three separate locations — Hawkins, California and Russia — this season lacked the cohesive plot and sense of unity the show established in the first season. While the ensemble has grown since season one, some characters, notably Jonathan and Will, felt lost in the large mix.

Season Two

After a hit debut season, the second season of “Stranger Things” continued to develop the show’s characters but introduced several side plots that felt out of place. The Duffer Brothers’ second installment moved the series forward by continuing to establish a heartfelt connection between characters while maintaining a sense of heartfelt nostalgia that reminded fans why they loved the show in the first place. Additionally, it was refreshing to watch new combinations of characters, including Nancy and Jonathan as well as Hopper and Eleven, grow closer.

However, Eleven’s character development was lacking. In the season’s seventh episode, “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister,” Eleven runs away and connects with fellow Hawkins lab rat Eight, who possesses psychic powers and is found assembling a group of misfits to wreak havoc on Hawkins Lab. This side plot, though interesting, ultimately feels disconnected and does nothing to forward Eleven’s character development.