A Review of Stranger Things 4

Since the summer of 2019, many Stranger Things fans had been eagerly awaiting the release of season four. That was before the filming and release of the season had been postponed multiple times. Excitement soon turned into anger and frustration, which was quelled when the Stranger Things Netflix Instagram account (@strangerthingstv) so generously and kindly decided to grace fans with the knowledge that the new season would be premiering on Friday, May 27. 

For starters, this is not a show one watches at midnight, alone in his or her room with the lights off, especially not season four. That is, of course, unless one would like to frantically and quickly search for the TV remote to skip the intro so that her hand is not unprotected from the shelter of her covers for too long (100% not speaking from personal experience). 

In a mere seven episodes, there was complete, utter, and thorough fear–and not the Michael Myers or Freddie Kreuger kind of fear. This fear was the type of fear that was unsettling, the type of fear that makes one also look up for monsters in addition to looking behind them. Just seven episodes caused me to have a fear of lightbulbs and clocks, and I loved it. I loved every second of this fear, of this chill coursing through my spine every time my little Philips TV would have the screen turn black and the speakers become silent for more than two seconds. It was thrilling and enticing and quite possibly one of the factors that motivated me to face the scariest aspect of it all: the length of the episodes. 

When I watched season one, little old me thought that episodes between lengths of 42 and 56 minutes would be unbearable to get through. Fifty-six minutes became one hour and two minutes in season two, turning into one hour and 18 minutes in season three. I wish I could have documented the look on my face when I was ready to watch the seventh episode of season four, only to see the time stamp that read “1h 40m.” Season four could have easily been broken up into more than seven episodes, each with shorter run times, which would likely have been more manageable for viewers. 

This season, viewers were introduced to a plethora of new characters, including villains, each with important roles in the Stranger Things story. Jonathan makes a new friend in Lenora, California: Argyle, a pizza delivery driver who engages in behavior that is inappropriate to describe in detail in a school newspaper. He saves the day when the Byers’ home is invaded, driving Jonathan, Mike, and Will away in his truck. Additionally, in Lenora lies El’s newest enemy, Angela. Viewers also learn more about Dustin’s girlfriend, Suzie, who has quite a lot of siblings, including Eden–Argyle’s short-lived love interest. 

A more pivotal character is Chrissy Cunningham, who was the kind cheerleader with the basketball boyfriend–what more could she want? Her unresolved past trauma, unfortunately, causes her to fall victim to Vecna, a demonic creature who kills teenagers to open more gates between the Upside Down and the “normal world.” Vecna’s murders are initially blamed on an alleged murderer from 1959, Victor Creel, who supposedly gauged out the eyes of his wife and daughter (who resembled all the people who had died at the hands of Vecna thus far). 

The final new character introduced in season four is Eddie Munson, who has grown to become my favorite character. He begins as the ringleader of the Hellfire Club (think nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons) who makes poor decisions regarding substances and forms into a runaway that must learn to team up with the editor-in-chief of the school paper, the gay trumpet player in marching band, Steve “the hair” Harrington, and four freshmen. Freshman Jessica Strohofer shares a similar affection for Eddie: “In the beginning, I kind of hated him because of his actions. Now, finishing volume one, he has changed so much, as he is finally accepted as ‘not a weirdo.’” 

Although to some, Munson may no longer be seen as a freak, there is more to learn about his past. Sophomore Alexis Raynor hoped to hear more of his story in volume two. “There was a prediction that he was one of the original children in the lab,” she said. The theory is plausible, as long as he was 010, considering the age difference between him and El, his excessive tattoos, and the fact that he generally believed everything the rest of the crew was saying about the Upside Down. 

A major focus of volume one was the fact that after the finale of season three, El lost her powers; so, to fight Vecna, she must gain them back. After Dr. Martin Brenner makes his return, El must revisit the trauma of her own past at Hawkins Laboratory to gain them back, eventually leading to this plot twist at the end of episode seven, which I honestly did expect. This revisiting of her childhood trauma causes El to almost lose touch with herself and the people she loves, and as mentioned above, even causing her to return to “Papa.” Freshman Jillian Weston noted that she felt like El was losing control of herself: “Not just her powers, but also her mental ability. She feels lost without her powers and is willing to go back to Papa just to get them back.” El’s loss of self plays into the idea that El may be more sinister than viewers are led to believe. If and when she fully gains her powers back, she may not even know the full capabilities of what she can do. “It was cool to see a darker side of her personality throughout this season,” Raynor said. 

Nonetheless, El’s dependence on other people leads to hopes that in volume two, she will learn to grow into herself more. “I want to see Eleven become more like an adult. I want to see her make more of her own decisions without having to consult somebody,” Weston said. 

Oh, and did I mention that Hopper is alive? He is being held captive by the Russians, of course, but he is alive, and he has made alliances with disgruntled comrades. 

I joined the Stranger Things train later than most. I feared the first episode of season one, so it took me until 2020 to revisit the show, but I am so glad that I did. Volume one of season four has exceeded my expectations thus far, and there is so much to say just about these first seven episodes that I cannot fit into one review. I truly cannot wait for Thursday, July 1 to happily spend another nine hours of my weekend watching one of the best stories that Netflix has ever created unfold.