Spoilers ahead for the entire third season of Stranger Things.
By now you’ve most likely finished your binge of Stranger Things 3, for what is fresh air when you’ve got eight hours of fun, friendship, and flesh monsters to consume? But watching Stranger Things that quickly may have anesthetized you to the full level of strangeness you just witnessed. Can you even tell the difference between regular rats and melted rats anymore? I don’t blame you! I mean, the Russians have built a machine to reopen the Gate in Hawkins, which has allowed the Mind Flayer to possess several citizens of the small town and wreak havoc on our favorite group of underdogs in the summer of 1985 — and that’s just the beginning of the strange stuff!
And we’re not just talking weird sci-fi stuff here. Sure, most of the time the thing that puts the “strange” in Stranger Things is stuff like, say, humans melting and then joining together to form one giant flesh monster sent to kill a teenager with superpowers and controlled by an even more evil monster living in a different dimension. But sometimes the even stranger thing is two people who are just so perfect for each other but they just won’t get it together already.
Point is, it’s a whole lot of strangeness, ranging from the profoundly emotional to the profoundly visceral, to take in over the course of eight hours. Which is why below, you’ll find only the strangest of the strange things that happen in each episode of Stranger Things 3, as well as a very scientific and precise ranking of just how strange each episode is, rated on a scale of zero to five melted rats. Those things are strange!
Strange Thing: Leave it to Stranger Things to lure us in with neon ’80s nostalgia and budding teen romances only to shove our faces in exploding, melting rats. Thousands of them. Possessed by the Mind Flayer in order to begin building his monster. Did I mention the rats were melting? Melting.
Stranger Thing: Where in hell does Mike Wheeler get off disrespecting Police Chief Jim Hopper like that? If you want to rag on your girlfriend’s dad to your friends, I get it, but making fun of him as he is sitting in front of you trying to have a very difficult and emotional conversation because he’s scared of his daughter growing up? And also he’s the freaking chief of police? And also he’s saved your skinny ass how many times? How dare you, Mike Wheeler. HOW DARE YOU.
How Strange Is This Episode? This scale is made out of melted rats and this episode introduces melted rats, so it gets two out of five melted rats.
Strange Thing: Am I going to be talking about the melting rats a lot in this post and also in my everyday life? Uh, yeah. They are melting rats. Honestly, I don’t know what’s worse: The thousands of melting rats in episode one or the one rat in episode two that melts in a cage in Mrs. Driscoll’s basement and then slithers away to get back to the abandoned steelworks building and join the rest of its melted friends. Anyway, I’m barfing now.
Stranger Thing: Wow, Joyce Byers. Way to stand up Hopper after he puts his feelings out there and invites you to a nice Italian dinner at Enzo’s and even buys a special Magnum P.I. shirt for the occasion. And for what? Because some magnets are falling off refrigerators and you think it has something to do with the Upside Down? I mean, you’re probably right, because nothing weird in Hawkins is a coincidence and good for you for following your instincts, but also in episode one Hopper gives you a look so intensely swoony that I legit said out loud, “Am I pregnant now?” and I just don’t understand how you don’t follow up on something like that.
How Strange Is This Episode? Thousands of melted rats and Hopper has to drink a bottle of Chee-an-ti all by himself? Three out of five melted rats.
Strange Thing: Okay, the stuff at the end of the episode with Possessed Billy and Possessed Heather kidnapping Heather’s parents is freaky as hell, but truly freakier is the visual of kind, old Mrs. Driscoll hammering back fertilizer in her basement just like her rat because — surprise! — now she’s possessed, too.
Stranger Thing: I know teenagers have short attention spans and several members of the party are now navigating romantic relationships for the first time, but can’t they be a little more empathetic toward Will, who basically lost two years of his childhood to being tormented by interdimensional monsters? All Will wants to do is get deep into a few solid campaigns of D&D and not have to listen to Lucas give Mike terrible girl advice. Watching Will dismantle Castle Byers in the rain, realizing that everyone is growing up around him, is one of the most tragic moments in the entire series. He deserves to leave Hawkins and start fresh. May he find people who appreciate the detailing on his Will the Wise costume.
How Strange Is This Episode? Three out of five melted rats, mainly because it’s weird that Eleven would be into Ralph Macchio. She seems more like a Michael J. Fox kind of girl.
Strange Thing: Once the kids decided to lock Billy in the sauna at the local pool to see if he is one of the flayed, you knew something big was going to go down. That big thing is an epic showdown between Billy and Eleven that turns out to be our little superhero’s most intense matchup yet. It’s amazing how the scary factor goes up when Eleven isn’t facing some sci-fi monster, but someone we know. Plus, we get to watch Eleven throw that dude through a brick wall, which is a mood I’m carrying with me forever and always.
Stranger Thing: I maybe started to feel bad for Billy? Yes, Billy Hargrove, the biggest dick from season two, and I’m including the Mind Flayer on that list. When the kids lock him in the sauna, you see him trying to battle the monster that’s taken over his mind and body. “Please believe me. I tried to stop him,” he tearfully pleads with his stepsister, Max. I believe Billy! It’s very strange to have sympathy for such an asshole, but as awful as Billy was, he was never “help an interdimensional monster possess and kill people in order to destroy the world” bad. Weird that it took having an actual monster inside him for us to see that he has a human heart deep down inside after all.
How Strange Is This Episode? So, sure, there’s all of that Billy-in-the-sauna stuff, but there’s also Hopper demonstrating that he very much knows how to work a “post-beatdown, I just barfed, and now I’m wearing a sheet around my waist” look and yet, still, Joyce does not make out with him. THIS IS VERY STRANGE. Four out of five melted rats!
Strange Thing: Melting rats are the grossest thing to ever be on this show, they said! Nothing could ever be worse than melting rats, they said! Oh, friend, feast your eyes on melting people. When Nancy and Jonathan find Misogynists of the Year Tom and Bruce causing chaos outside of Mrs. Driscoll’s hospital room, it’s very conflicting. On the one hand, no one deserves to be flayed. On the other, these two are jackasses. That’s not the strange part, though! Nancy and Jonathan (well, mostly Nancy, because she is a warrior queen) fight these guys off, but just when you think they’re gone, they both melt just like the rats and then their melted bodies come together to form a flesh monster. Imagine the smell!
Stranger Thing: Steve! Harrington! Wins! A! Fight!
How Strange Is This Episode? You read that thing about the human flesh monster, right? Four out of five melted rats!
Strange Thing: Yes, Possessed Billy standing in as the Mind Flayer and messing with Eleven’s powers to trap her in her mind dimension and tell her he’s building a monster to kill her, then he’ll murder her friends, and then he’ll destroy the world, is extremely terrifying. But that’s nothing in the face of the possessed citizens of Hawkins arriving at the steelworks building, melting down, and coming together to form one giant, hideous flesh monster. I’ll never stop yelling about the melting of living things, people. Never!
Stranger Thing: You know that episode of Friends when Phoebe and Rachel play sexual chicken with Chandler and Monica to force them to admit they’re hooking up and at the end Chandler admits he’s in love with Monica and Phoebe says, “I thought you guys were doing it; I didn’t know you were in love!”? That’s exactly how I felt when little Mike Wheeler, in a fit of rage and fear, admits he is in love with Eleven to his friends and sister.
How Strange Is This Episode? A gosh-dang flesh monster! Steve and Robin being interrogated by Russians who have mistaken them for spy masterminds! People thinking strawberry Slurpees and cherry Slurpees are the same thing! A GOSH-DANG FLESH MONSTER, I SAID. Five out of five melted rats!
Strange Thing: No. No. No. Eleven gets bitten by the flesh monster and later discovers that there is a piece of it still inside her leg AND IT IS MOVING. You can’t just unsee something like that.
Stranger Thing: How has it taken three seasons to get this winning combo of Steve and Robin? Listen, I love me some Steve and Dustin, but come on! Everything Steve and Robin do is great, but their heart-to-heart in the bathroom stall post–Russian interrogation drugs is SO GOOD. Steve opening up about his feelings for Robin, Robin coming out to Steve, Steve showing her that her being gay won’t change their friendship — I’m obsessed with them and would like for all three of us to get a time-share in Florida together. And Steve gets to pick the movies we watch every Friday night!
How Strange Is This Episode? Things are getting incredibly real on both the “Russians are going to kill all of our favorite Hawkins citizens” front AND the “flesh monster hunting down Eleven” front, AND also Joyce and Hopper still have not kissed even though they hold hands while on the Gravitron at the Hawkins Fun Fair, so five out of five melted rats!
Strange Thing: I hardly care that the Russians have a Demogorgon in a remote prison, because earlier I watched a teenager use all of her strength — both natural and supernatural — to pull a piece of a flesh monster out of her leg while her dad watched. That leaves a mark, both physically and emotionally.
Stranger Thing: Imagine a Stranger Things world without Hopper. Obviously our chief is alive and in that Russian prison, but still, the show simply asking us to imagine such a thing has nearly broken me. Hopper and Joyce haven’t even kissed yet, and Stranger Things wants me to act like there’s a possibility that will never happen? Forget strange, this show is just rude.
How Strange Is This Episode? Billy sacrificing himself to save Eleven would be strange enough on its own to give this episode all the melted rats, but there’s also: that NeverEnding Story scene! Again, with the leg thing! Again, with the Hopper-and-Joyce-not-kissing thing! Hopper “dying”! Eleven losing her powers! The return of the Demogorgon! The Byers family and Eleven leaving Hawkins! This is so strange it gets five out of five melted rats, plus three out of five of those Demogorgon slug things Will was barfing up for a while.