Just finished episode four, so I'm at the halfway point. The third and fourth episodes definitely upped the pacing and upped the stakes. One thing that this show does better than just about any other is introducing new main characters midstream and having them work as well as the OGs. Last season, Max was integrated pretty seamlessly, and this season Robin is introduced pretty seamlessly. I love Maya Hawke in this role. Until this point, all of the kids had either been Mike and Eleven's age or Steve and Nancy's age. Robin is somewhere in between, a year or two younger than Steven but a couple years older than Dustin. Lucas's little sister Erica, who was such a sassy little shit in her couple of appearances last season, is even more of a sassy little shit in her expanded role this season. But very entertainingly so. One thing I love about the science mysteries in this show is that it takes everybody out of their bullshit and brings out their better natures. It's like being a little kid again, when learning was fun. The egos and self-consciousness take a back seat. Even though the threats look like something out of The Thing or some other science horror movie every scene, it actually leads to more innocent storytelling. With regard to the threat this season: Spoiler: 3x01 through 3x04 As suspected, the wisp of the Mind Flayer that was inside Will got trapped in our dimension when Eleven closed the gate. It is recruiting an army, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style. Separately, but perhaps not completely unconnected, the Soviets are mounting some sort of operation in Hawkins. They were behind the development of the new Starcourt Mall, and have an massive underground facility underneath the mall. In parallels with current real world events, the corrupt mayor of Hawkins is in league with the Russians, doing their bidding in exchange for secret payoffs. Somewhat ironically, given that one of the smaller story threads this season is how all of the chain stores in the mall have killed off most of the mom and pop businesses in Hawkins's downtown, the Internet has killed off most of the malls. When it came time to shoot this season, there were a few different vacant or nearly vacant malls in the vincinty of Stranger Things's sound stages in the Atlanta metro area. The production chose the Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, Georgia, because it opened in 1984 -- only a year before the Starcourt Mall opened in the chronology of the show. Most of the anchor stores had closed, and there were only a few stores still in business, so the show was able to rent half the mall. The production design team redressed the storefronts on that wing of the mall to reflect popular chains from the time, with the authentic signage from the period. All of the food court locations were sets.