'Stranger Things' creators The Duffer Brothers use a covert plan to show the Russians weren't always the enemy in season 3
In Alexei 'Smirnoff', a Russian scientist who loves cherry-flavored Slurpees, Burger King's burgers and Woody Woodpecker cartoons, our Hawkins heroes find an unlikely ally.
This article contains spoilers for 'Stranger Things' Season 3
The relationship between Russia and the United States has always been frosty and driven by some complex interchange of political, ideological and economic factors. It is no secret that the bitter rivalry and stark differences between the two have often prevented them from reaching a mutual consensus on key issues.
Pop culture too has cashed in on the Moscow-Washington rivalry by making movies where the United States emerges as the clear winner while battling with Russia on various topics. A few episodes of Star Trek portrayed a futuristic version of the Cold War, in terms of the United Federation of Planets vs The Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire, analogs for the U.S.A, the U.S.S.R., and the P.R.C, respectively. "A Taste of Armageddon" also showed the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction) in a war between opposing sides. The references went on to other forms including TV series, brand commercials, and dark humor.
Now, the Duffer Brothers have taken a leaf out of all these references and have bought in the Russians as the antagonists along with the Mindflayers and the Demogorgons. Season 3 saw the heroes of Hawkins fend off the Russians after they built a secret lab under Starcourt Mall, the town's latest attraction. And in Alexei 'Smirnoff' (Alec Utgoff), they have an ally who helps them find the laboratory and lets them know about its purpose.
The lab was built so as to set up a cannon that would open the portal to the Upside Down and Utgoff was the scientist tasked with perfecting the machine so that they could expose the country to a new enemy. Alexei, however, was a good man and it was a pity that he was on the wrong side of the battle.
And, this is where the Duffer Brothers introduce a twist in the tale by showcasing that it's not always that every Russian is an enemy of the US. By showing Alexei, a man who loves cherry-flavored Slurpees, Burger King's burgers and Woody Woodpecker cartoons (all of which are American products) the show tries to evoke a sense of multiculturalism, albeit rather subtly.
In hindsight, although it looked like Alexei was bribed, the effort by the makers made sense.
But again, the show, while maintaining its key plot point on beating the Mind Flayer also showed that not all Russians were bad, even if they wholly planned to open the portal. The results of those experiments ending catastrophically.
The show tries to put across the point that though the scientists who died in attempting to open the portal were Russians, we have to remember that they were merely common people chosen for the job primarily due to their expertise. And that includes good ol' Alexei.
Let's also note that this was the first time there was a traitor in Hawkins and it had to be Mayor Kline (Carl Elwes). So in a way, it would be totally unfair to blame the Russians for what happened.
'Stranger Things' 3 is available for streaming on Netflix.