Stranger Things 3: The tiny, beautiful references to season 1 and 2

As we enter season 3 territory, it's time to dissect the well-placed references to Stranger Things 1 and 2.

Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
4 min read

They're called the Scoop Troop and they ruled season 3.


With its Stephen King story templates and Steven Spielberg influences, Stranger Things is an unapologetic time capsule of '80s pop culture. Now, three seasons in, Netflix's classic has gone all in on another reference point: itself.

Take Murray Bauman. Russian translator? Please. He's a love expert, first to Nancy and Jonathan in season 2, now Hopper and Joyce in season 3. It's just one of the clever and in many cases beautifully poignant callbacks to seasons 1 and 2. We've rounded up a bunch of those references for your impressed-nodding pleasure.

Oh, and here's every '80s reference in the latest season, an explainer of that ominous post-credits scene, and what we thought of the season as a whole.

[Puts on Steve Harrington sunnies] Time to dive in to the little details you may have missed in Stranger Things 3.

Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things 3 lie ahead.


Steve Harrington rules.


The drawing of Bob

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Will's drawing of Bob as the superhero he is.


In season 3, we see that Will, putting his drawing skills to something less Demogorgon-influenced, has lovingly pencilled a picture of Bob as the superhero he is. It's stuck to the Byers' fridge door, in case you missed it. This harkens back to when Bob first learns of the Upside Down in Hawkins Lab in season 2, episode 6, just after Will starts burning up from the Mind Flayer infecting his body. Bob can't believe monsters exist in Hawkins, out of the realm of comic books. "Bob Newby, superhero," he jokes. Bob Newby, superhero, indeed.

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The picture of Will's "Will the Wise" D&D outfit from season 2.


Will's D&D outfit

Blink and you'll miss it, but in season 2, episode 4, you'll see a drawing of Will as "Will the Wise" in his blue-and-purple wizard's outfit. In season 3, Will wears that exact wizard garb while playing Dungeons and Dragons. This amazingness should have happened much sooner.

Dr. Owens and the Russians

In season 2, episode 4, Dr. Owens of the Department of Energy chaperones the decidedly too nosy Nancy and Jonathan around Hawkins Lab. He decides to go all in and show them what really killed Barb: their "mistake," the spreading wound between dimensions.

"Imagine for a moment, " he says, "a foreign state, say the Soviets, they heard about our mistake, do you think they would even consider that a mistake? What if they tried to replicate that? The more attention we draw to ourselves, the more people like the Hollands who know the truth, the more likely that scenario becomes." Dr. Owens called season 3, people!


Murray Bauman is the middleman -- of relationships.


Murray Bauman and the Russians

In case we all forgot what happened in season 2, the ex-investigative journalist turned conspiracy theorist believed Russians had infiltrated Hawkins before Russians infiltrated Hawkins. Early on in season 2, Bauman tries to convince Hopper of said spy presence, but all Hopper heard was that Bauman could inadvertently lead him to a missing El. Bauman is a genius, as season 3 proves.

Murray Bauman and the sexual tension

You can't put Russians past him, so resolving the really quite obvious sexual tension between people is no sweat. Bauman's usefulness in forwarding plots, which surprisingly extends to facilitating love, sees the hook up of Nancy and Jonathan in season 2, and the addressing of Joyce and Hopper's sexual tension in season 3. Bauman, the truth bomb master.

Dustin leaves the party

Dustin has a way of going out on his own when the rest of the party don't respond to his walkie-talkie calls. In season 2, he adopts Dart, the at-first cute baby Demogorgon, who the rest of the party end up wanting to squash. In season 3, an again-alone Dustin tackles interpreting cryptic Russian messages with the only ally available: Babysitter Steve.


El discovers love isn't so simple in season 3, despite the value of truth she learned in seasons 1 and 2.


Friends do lie

El may have superpowers, but no one's immune to lying boyfriends. Mike, who to be fair had just been threatened by an aggressively overprotective Hopper, spins a tale about his grandma being ill to avoid a date. He betrays the one rule he cemented in El's mind in season 1: friends don't lie.

Hopper's diet

At the beginning of season 2, Hopper attempts a healthier lifestyle mainly by eating at least one green apple. At the beginning of season 3, that's over. It's immediately established that he's taken to stress-eating to deal with parenting a Mike-crazy El. Hopper's armchair food of choice is a bag of Tostito chips and salsa, with a slurp of Schlitz -- Schlitz being that now-defunct American beer out of Milwaukee.

See all the Stranger Things season 3 photos

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Dart and the Russians

Welcome to a theory about the season 3 post-credits scene -- read more on that here. But basically, if the Russians have a secret Demogorgon, one who's survived the closing of the gate between dimensions, and therefore the broken connection between it and its king, the Mind Flayer, does that mean the Russians have figured out how to train Demogorgons, like Dustin befriended Dart in season 2? So many questions, so much time until the next season.

Crazy Joyce

Just like in seasons 1 and 2, Joyce picks up a new hobby that increasingly establishes Crazy Joyce. In season 1, it was hoarding Christmas lights to connect with the missing Will. In season 2, it was deciphering Will's scary drawings. In season 3, it's magnets! Joyce skips a date with Hopper to tackle the mystery of why the magnets in Hawkins have stopped being magnetized. Priorities.

More Erica

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Priah Ferguson plays Lucas' little sister Erica.


Basically, the Duffer Brothers love Erica. They love Priah Ferguson, the very young actress who plays Lucas' little sister. After everyone fell in love with her brutal sisterly takedowns of her brother in season 2, the Duffer Brothers answered the call of all that is good and gave her much more to do in season 3, like crawling through an air vent and telling Dustin to stop gushing over his girlfriend. Absolutely crucial.