[Spoilers for Stranger Things 3.]
Look, we’re huge fans of Stranger Things 3. A quick glance at our reviews, essays, and obsessive lists of Easter eggs and burning questions make that abundantly clear. Still, there was one scene that nobody here at The A.V. Club seemed to enjoy as the rest of the viewing public, and it involves The NeverEnding Story. Yeah, you know the one.
In the finale, the only person who knows the mathematical number needed to open a safe containing some Very Important Keys is Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo), the long-distance girlfriend of Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo). When Dustin reaches her and asks for the number, she forces him to sing the song that binds them, Giorgio Moroder’s theme from the 1984 fantasy. Together, the pair trade the verses originally sung by Christopher “Limahl” Hamill and Beth Anderson...for a very long time.
There’s charm to it, sure, and it gives Suzie—who will probably play a major role next season—a memorable moment, but it also brings the white-knuckle tension of the climax to a grinding, frustrating halt. Sing a verse, maybe, sure, but the duet feels like it goes on forever, especially considering the fate of our heroes hinges on the code. One could even argue that Hopper might not have blown up with the Russian laser had the two sped things up a skosh. Stranger Things works best when it weaves its pop cultural touchstones into the fabric of the action, not when it blasts them across the screen like a rat’s wet, exploding guts.
Our own Emily L. Stephens agreed, writing in her review of the finale: “Structurally, I understand why the NeverEnding Story scene couldn’t be a post-credits scene, but it broke the tension with merciless speed. Maybe that’s a feature, not a bug, for the series’ most sensitive viewers?”
Anyways, it turns out we were nearly spared of the song, though not of the moment. “We went through all the various songs they could sing,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “At one point they were going to sing the Ent song from Lord Of The Rings. Then we were like, ‘Oh, well, Amazon is making Lord Of The Rings, that’s probably not going to go over well with Netflix.’ Then we came up, I think it was Curtis, our writer, who came up with I think a better idea, which was The NeverEnding Story theme song.”
Ross Duffer added that filming the sequence was “some of the most fun we had on this season. It was just so great.” We’re sure it was.
The revelation does, however, have us wondering what the moment might’ve looked like had it been scored with J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Ent And The Entwife,” which is recited by the towering Treebeard in The Two Towers. Probably, we’d wager, just as annoying.