By Ashley Hoffman
Updated: July 2, 2019 2:46 PM ET | Originally published: October 30, 2017

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things.

Stranger Things fans are in for a real summer treat when season 3 premieres tomorrow.

And there’s news. Like many of the Stranger Things kids, it sounds like everyone’s favorite power player Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) may be growing up. “No longer trapped in the cabin, Eleven ventures out into the world and becomes good friends with Max,” says Ross Duffer. “But their summer fun is short-lived when they make a horrifying discovery…” Ross Duffer told Entertainment Weekly in a story published the Friday before the premiere.

Yes, much anticipated Stranger Things season 3 drop on Fourth of July is almost upon us, which makes this drop perfect for a long summer weekend of binging.

The weekend before the big drop day, the cast celebrated at a good old fashioned Hollywood premiere party. But to get us excited about Mayor Kline’s fun fair, this one was carnival-style at the Santa Monica Pier. What a riot!

Eleven and Hopper got down on the dancefloor.

Below, we dive into all the latest details about the show’s third coming, from the Stranger Things season 3 release date to the actual story.

“The Mind Flayer wasn’t invited to the afterparty. Please don’t show him these pics,” Netflix captioned a photo.

When will Stranger Things season 3 be released?

Netflix announced the highly binge-worthy sci-fi series will premiere on July 4, 2019 along with a cryptic teaser and a new poster.

The Stranger Things season 3 poster also kicked off the bang, featuring the kids beneath a sky filled with fireworks. The season three summertime plot is a change of pace for the show that some fans who hoped could become an annual Halloween event after the second season, which dropped in autumn. From the looks of the poster, Mike and Eleven are still an item, although Eleven is facing away from the awesome display of pyrotechnics.

What did we learn from the new Stranger Things season 3 trailer?

Despite Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) gate-closing feat in the season 2 finale, Netflix’s new Stranger Things season 3 trailer pretty much confirms the monster will still be lurking around when the much-anticipated premiere drops. “What if he never left? What if he locked him out here with us?” Mike (Finn Wolfhard) wonders with bracing fear. Sure, the state of adolescence can be rough stuff for any kid, but *now it’s* confirmed: The sticky otherworldly threats will be making things even rougher in *the* summer of 1985. Not only do we learn that the monster still with us, it’s “building something,” as Eleven warns. (Spooky!) And the ominous storm closing in on the town has never been more creepy. Rest assured, Hawkins’ finest will be putting up a fight. Perhaps Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) says it best. “Holy mother of god.”

What did we learn from the other Stranger Things season 3 trailers?

In “Summer in Hawkins,” the latest trailer released in May, it looks like we can expect a generous helping of summer vibes when season 3 comes back on the Fourth of July. Fittingly, we see a public pool filled with young revelers, but the show teases one big attraction. It’s Billy Hargrove the lifeguard (Dacre Montgomery), who’s never been more arrogant than when he’s on pool patrol.

And the moms — Mike’s mom Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono) included — are all in on checking him out as he takes his throne. Here’s to you, Mrs. Wheeler! There’s not much to glean from this glimpse in the plot department other than that Billy doesn’t seem to be so responsible with this position of power.

As for the two-minute preview that arrived on March 20, the story is as much about the kids trying to grow up as it is about the good guys and girls fighting that evil, sticky monster.

It began with Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) who just returned from camp to get freaked out by his own creepily superpowered toys, which appear to be answering to a higher power.

We also get fun glimpses of Max (Sadie Sink) and the gang at the Starcourt Mall, Billy (Dacre Montgomery) the pool lifeguard, and Scoop’s Ahoy, where we know Steve (Joe Keery) has a shiny new gig. Two of the sweetest developments of all might be that Eleven and Max are pals and that Steve and Dustin have a handshake all their own.

But it’s not all crushes at the Independence Day party. It looks like Eleven will be taking at least one interdimensional trip, the Upside Down is back for more, and people are stressing. It’s noteworthy that the song that plays is The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” a.k.a. Teenage Wasteland widely considered to be a protest song criticizing the Vietnam War for laying waste to teen life.

But whatever the kids are up against, they’ll get by with a little help from their friends.

And the Stranger Things season 3 teaser did supply some strange and stranger messages that snap up onscreen. The blink-and-you-miss-it phrases like “when blue and yellow meet in the west,” theorized to be a reference to the shopping mall’s clock and a program called “SilverCat feeds” flashing on an old fashioned black and green computer seem to suggest governmental corruption.

In the teaser clip that dropped just minutes into the new year, Netflix built out the show’s throwback essence with footage of the late Dick Clark holding court for the New Year’s Eve ball drop in 1985, when the story takes place. (Our view is eventually flipped upside down, a visual echo of the Upside Down naturally.)

Which original Stranger Things cast members are returning for season 3?

The Stranger Things cast got back to work last year, and Netflix gave fans of the cult hit with a look behind the curtain. On April 27, the streaming platform tweeted a short teaser showing that the “band” had reunited in Atlanta, Georgia, for what appears to be a table read on April 20.

We do know who’s returning: Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), and Joyce (Winona Ryder), Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Schnapp), Steve (Joe Keery), Billy (Dacre Montgomery), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Max (Sadie Sink) are all back for round three. While the teaser doesn’t offer any big hints to obsess over, fans can be temporarily satisfied with a collective cast member fist pound and Priah Ferguson (Erica Sinclair) revisiting her hilarious nerd-shaming shtick.

Who are the new cast members?

In April, Netflix announced pair of guest stars will be joining the Stranger Things season 3 cast. Cary Elwes will play Mayor Kleine, a “handsome, slick, and sleazy” politician who’s putting his public image ahead of the good people of Hawkins, Ind. And Jake Busey will play Bruce, a darkly funny journalist at The Hawkins Post. But don’t get too excited about Bruce getting to the bottom of things. He has a shaky ethical code, according to Netflix. Elwes is best known for The Princess Bride, and if you saw Starship Troopers, you’re familiar with Busey.

What do we know about the Stranger Things season 3 plot?

What villainous entity will the heroes of Hawkins face off against? The finale’s closing moments — in which we see the monster encroaching on Hawkins Middle School in the Upside Down while everyone’s having a blast at the Snow Ball — confirmed that the Shadow Monster a.k.a. mind flayer was eager to get into that school.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide the finale sets up the story for season 3.

While Eleven may have closed the gate, Ross Duffer also confirmed that the monster’s still a threat, and even worse, it knows about her. He told The Hollywood Reporter:

The story will jump almost a full year ahead pick back up in summer 1985. According to executive producer Shawn Levy that’s nearly a full year after Season 2 ended in 1984, nearly two full years since the crazy events of season 1, which took place in November 1983. That means it’s safe to bet that co-creators Ross and Matt Duffer will load the Neftlix sci-fi smash up with plenty of nostalgic toys, movies and snacks from ’85.

This means that the core group of kids will be in ninth grade when the third season kicks off. What’s more? Eleven and Mike and Lucas and Max will still be coupled up, according to The Hollywood Reporter‘s recap of a recent Paleyfest panel. Last time we saw them, they were having their first kisses at the Snow Ball dance. So much can happen in a year.

How many episodes will there be in Stranger Things season 3?

The show is returning to their Season 1 formula with eight episodes, TVLine reports, which is one less than Season 2.

The Stranger Things season 3 teaser that dropped in December revealed the eight episode titles for the upcoming season in the hit show’s trademark red glowing font.

All of the episode titles from the Stranger Things season 3 teaser are below.

Episode 1: “Suzie, Do You Copy?”

Episode 2: “The Mall Rats”

Episode 3: “The Case of the Missing Life Guard”

Episode 4: “The Sauna Test”

Episode 5: “The Source”

Episode 6: “The Birthday”

Episode 7: “The Bite”

Episode 8: “The Battle of Starcourt”

Netflix releases Stranger Things season 3 photos
Netflix

Here’s hoping “The Bite” is just a mosquito bite from a pool party where the lifeguard is totally safe and sound. But if seasons one and two are any indication, it’s going to be dark.

How will Stranger Things season 3 compare to seasons 2 and 1?

The reason for the wait is that the creators were determined to top themselves with this installment, Netflix programming executive Cindy Holland recently told critics. “The Duffer Brothers and Shawn Levy, they understand the stakes are high,” she said at the Television Critics Association press tour in July. “They want to deliver something bigger and better than last year. I think it’s going to be a fantastic season. It will be worth the wait.”

Stranger Things
Netflix—Netflix

What’s up with the shopping mall in Stranger Things season 3?

Only the most dedicated superfans can cough up educated guesses about what’s in store for us when Stranger Things returns. But one thing’s for sure. It looks like the Starcourt mall setting will be looming large. Episode 2 and Episode 8 appear to refer to “one of the finest shopping facilities in America and beyond” that Netflix teased the in the summer.

Fans figured we’d get season 3 in 2019 after the teaser trailer, a fake commercial for the brand new Starcourt mall advertised the hangout was opening “next summer.” We also learned that internet favorite Steve (Joe Keery) will still be in Hawkins with a brand new gig the cool new ice cream shop in the food court, Scoops Ahoy. He makes his appearance alongside a new character, Robin, an “alternative girl” played by Maya Hawke, (Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter).

What are the big fan theories about Stranger Things season 3?

Is Will going to help the monster return to our dimension?

In season 2, the Shadow Monster hijacked Will’s (Noah Schnapp) body, spying on people and trapping the Hawkins lab workers. That was until Nancy was able to expel the dark force out of him with a quick fire poker move. Is Will completely rid of this evil demon? It’s hard to know. And if the monster’s going to pivot to the next lucky kid, who else could it exploit?

Will the shadow monster spread?

Will was infected by a vine through the mouth in season 1. In season 2, Hopper was down there forever and got spit in the face by a disgusting abscess. Dustin suffered the same gross fate in episode eight. Does this mean that Dustin and Hopper are both marked somehow now?

It’s worth noting that Dustin forged a strong bond with Dart, a Shadow Monster soldier. So the 3 Musketeers lifer might end up acting as a medium between dimensions.

Finally, we know that Eleven, Kali and Dr. Brenner — if he’s still around — could all potentially open up the gate back up and start some chaos in season 3. It’s (almost) anyone’s game.

Stranger Things
Courtesy Netflix

Or will it turn into an antihero?

Yes, the smoke monster will not let go of Hawkins, but it’s not much better down in regular land either. Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) really worked that charm in season 2, but Joyce didn’t trust the new and improved lab staff. So why should we? Another wild card is Hopper. The Chief earned all the points not only as hero in a crisis, but as a repentant father figure for Eleven. But the antihero has hidden depths, even from himself.

And then there’s Kali who will stop at nothing to get revenge on all of Dr. Brenner’s “bad men.” Will she — and quite possibly the other gifted children — be a strong ally for her old labmate Eleven? Or will she manipulate her instead? It seems likely that all the Hawkins Lab kids will join up to combine superpowers to ultimately turn the tables on their Hawkins Lab oppressors, but that might be the final endgame of the whole show.

How will Eleven adjust to her life as a regular person?

Dr. Owens promises Hopper that Eleven can start her new, more independent life in a year. If we return to the show when she’s allowed to be herself in broad daylight, how will she evolve? Will she really adjust to Hawkins High? Will the monster or Dr. Brenner let her be a normal kid? Wherever she is, no mouth breather is safe.

Stranger Things
Courtesy Netflix

Will Joyce and Hopper get together in season 3?

Even while Bob was alive and kicking, these two shared suggestive glances, and they’ve been through a lot together. In the aftermath of season 2’s mayhem, Hopper comforts Joyce (Winona Ryder) as the pair share a cigarette for old time’s sake outside the Snow Ball. It looks like Hopper’s gearing up to make his move. After all, it will only have been a year after Bob dropped dead, so why wait? These people are ready.

Write to Ashley Hoffman at Ashley.Hoffman@time.com.

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