By Amaya Lewis
Web Content Contributor
***Major Spoilers Ahead!!!***
On May 27th and July 1st, 2022, after having been delayed for nearly three years due to COVID-19, Stranger Things season 4 dropped, eliciting an explosion of excitement from worldwide viewers – myself included. Brimming with wonderful sci-fi twists, new characters, and emotional gut punches, the popular show had many successful moments that left viewers rapidly bingeing episodes while rushing to social media for discussion with others, simultaneously creating theories and edits over their favorite characters.
The AMAZING music, acting, dialogue, characters, and deeper submersion into the horror genre was excellent, and nothing was overtly dragging the series down to an intolerable level. However, there are very few shows that are completely free from error, and Stranger Things, despite doing many things right, is no exception. Thus, to end this review on a high, let’s start off with the negatives.
Hopper’s Storyline and the California Segment
Throughout the season, Stranger Things 4 was ambitious in its scope containing four separate storylines inter lapping with one another as danger begins brewing in Hawkins. For the most part, the different story arcs were fun and interesting, but the overstuffed plot that comes from balancing many threads left some stories hurtling along while others, such as the California segment, dragged. In fact, Mike, Jonathan and Will were almost completely neglected.
Moreover, Hopper’s storyline involving the Russian prison felt disconnected from battling Vecna and Eleven getting her powers back, two stories heavily intertwined with one another. It felt as though Hopper’s escape was wrapping up a leftover plot from season three, almost ending the immersion happening in other scenes each time it cut back to the remote Russian prison.
Plus, Stranger Things is known to not kill off its main characters, and eliminating Hopper would make the story arc wasted, meaning there was no fear of what would happen to Murray, Hopper, and Joyce. Simply put, the storyline held no congruent connectivity to the main plot, and the mention of killing recycled villains (demogorgons and demodogs) from previous seasons to help the kids in their fight against Vecna felt like a cheap method to connect with the other scenes.
Joyce and Hopper’s reunion was very cute, though, and Murray was hilarious. I enjoyed the scenes for what they were, and the actors did amazing, but just wanted more from it.
Nancy and Steve – The pair no one wanted
Originally, the writers never intended for Steve to have a redemption arc but changed their mind after they fell in love with Steve’s actor, Joe Keery. However, in this season, it feels like they wanted to give more to his character than being the babysitter by providing him with a love interest, though avoided introducing a new character and went back to the familiar choice, Nancy; it truly felt out of nowhere.
Nancy initially displayed misplaced anger towards Robin for her closeness to Steve, when Nancy has made it clear in past seasons her lack of feelings for Steve and desire to be with Jonathan – her current boyfriend!
The writers used Jonathan’s distance to create unnecessary tension, even having the other characters persuade Steve and Nancy who, again, have no business being together, to get back together. They almost completely erased Nancy and Jonathan’s relationship to have her care for the one who was there at the time, which happened to be Steve.
It’s okay to write a healthy couple without injecting unnecessary drama from a love triangle.
Eddie – The good and the bad
Eddie was, without a doubt, a fan favorite this season, fitting the classic rebel stereotype from the 80s. He played in a band, did DnD, was charismatic, and an unpredictable character who, while initially appearing as a potential bully or villain, turned out to be an amazing addition to the team. He was versatile going from rebellious outcast to accused satanic murderer that was, in actuality, a scared teen seeking redemption with a desire to be a hero and do good by people.
Eddie’s passing felt like a mistake. The other characters from past seasons, such as Alexi, Barb, and Bob, all were great and their death was tragic, but their passing felt more necessary than Eddie’s, who still had a place in the storyline going forward. In fact, he felt more fleshed out than Mike, Will, and Jonathan were this season, meaning that, with more development, he could’ve potentially established himself as a core member of the gang.
His death felt like a way to avoid killing a main character and because the writers didn’t know what to do now that the entire town viewed him as a satanic murderer. Sacrificing himself to the bats to fit the “don’t run away, be a hero” motif when running away would’ve been the more helpful option, felt like a cliché, heat-of-the-moment decision that no other character besides Dustin mentioned afterward. If he had to die, there were better ways to do it. Why bother introducing new characters if they’re all gonna die while main characters get plot armor?
Max, Lucas, and Erica – Brilliant Development
SHEER BRILLIANCE! Max Mayfield had a huge role this season as she struggled with the loss of her brother, which we later find out was not due to missing him, but because she felt guilty that she debated whether Billy was worth saving.
The guilt from Max felt very honest because he made her life miserable, so, realistically, there would be moral conflictions. Not to mention the iconic scene that still reduces me to tears watching it when she runs to escape Vecna as Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” plays – genius!
It was tension-filled, action-packed, wonderfully acted, emotional and cinematically beautiful. Max fighting her absolute hardest while fueled by the memories of her friends after having struggled with loss, making the conscious decision to stay and live for the people who love her, was powerful for those who’ve ever felt like giving up. The desperation the kids felt over Max’s predicament ramped up the tension, leaving the gang and viewers on edge.
Lucas’s storyline was also fantastic! Jason, after all the hysteria and violence he caused, was easily a very disliked character. However, watching Lucas and his battle as Max loses to Vecna, before Lucas knocks him out and cradles Max’s broken body – one of the most emotional and brilliant scenes in this entire series. Erica, as always, was wonderful in this season. She is funny, smart and strong, and I was very happy to see her incorporated more.
Vecna, Eleven, and Papa
As a lifelong horror fan, it was delightful to see more elements of the genre incorporated into this season! There were references to a multitude of horror classics, even containing Nightmare on Elm Street legend Robert England! Moreover, the villain, Vecna/001/Henry/Peter, was seen throughout the season, yet it all comes together perfectly in that final reveal that he is the mastermind behind the upside-down and all its creatures.
While in the facility with Eleven, Peter seemed nice albeit a little strange, though once she removed the device suppressing his powers, the reveal of serial killer Henry Creel was an amazing plot twist that showcased great acting from Jaime Campbell Bower!
The layers of his story provided wonderful characterization and depth to Vecna as a villain, piecing together tons of big and small details sprinkled throughout the series, while simultaneously creating a creepy atmosphere in each different storyline. Personally, would’ve liked a more fleshed-out battle between Eleven and Vecna, but it was still nice to understand the motivations behind the events happening in Hawkins through an enemy that can communicate.
Eleven gaining her powers back was a bit of a slow-burn psychological thriller, yet interesting nonetheless for giving both her and viewers insight into her backstory. She, along with myself, believed she had massacred all the orderlies and children, only for it to be revealed that her only friend, the kind 001 attempting to help her escape, was the one who had done it.
These dark scenes were counterbalanced with the stoner comedy group containing Mike, Jonathan, Argyle, and Will which, as previously mentioned, was a bit of a stagnant storyline, though still added lighthearted elements to a heavily darkened plot.
In terms of Papa, it was incredibly relieving to see Eleven not give him the benefit of forgiveness or redemption, instead, choosing to leave him on the ground in silent defiance against all the experimentation, trauma, and torture he’s inflicted on others. True justice and perfection!
While there are several things to be frustrated about, and volume 2 didn’t feel as impactful as volume 1, season 4 of Stranger Things was still an incredible comeback! Newcomers Jaime Campbell Bower (Vecna), Eduardo Franco (Argyle), and Joseph Quinn (Eddie) were all amazing in their roles.
Argyle brought much-needed friendship for Jonathan and lighthearted humor to the show, balancing out the dark atmosphere a bit. Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) gave a brilliant performance when relaying to Eddie’s uncle what had happened to his nephew.
Steve watching on as a proud best friend while Robin and Vickie were flirting was a cute moment, with Vickie and Robin being a relationship I’m excited to see explored next season. Nancy getting time to shine through shooting down Vecna was awesome, and I enjoyed Robin and Nancy’s scenes when they learned about Victor Creel. Though, I’d love to see more of the iconic duo, Robin and Steve, in the final season.
Every single actor in this show, mentioned or not, performed SO incredibly well while all having a moment directly special to their character, and all of them should be extremely proud of the work they did. The effects, music (music department deserves a raise) and the plot held so much emotional weight and intensity that has left me excited for the 5th and final season.
Featured Image by Kyle Lambert
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