Arts & Entertainment

Things Can’t Get Stranger: ‘Stranger Things’ Season Four Is Bigger, But Not Better.

Courtesy of NetflixNetflix original series "Stranger Things" released the second part of its fourth season at the beginning of July.

This article contains spoilers from season four of “Stranger Things.” 

Cue the demogorgons and mom jeans: after a suspenseful end to volume one, Netflix closed out “Stranger Things” season four with its longest, most action-packed episodes yet. But for the impatient viewer, a finale with a combined runtime close to four hours over delivers in plot. 

Though many unresolved conflicts were addressed in the second volume, it’s up for debate whether episodes eight and nine of season four were actually necessary — one can only endure so many death scares and battle scenes before beginning to wonder when things will end.

With most of the gang still separated throughout the episode, viewers are once again tortured with the Russian prison-escape plot line — so much so it’s unclear whether the Duffer Brothers intended for fans to walk away with a proficient understanding of the Russian language or deepened knowledge of the KGB. Nonetheless, the season prolonged Hopper’s gulag-entrapment eight episodes too long. 

In addition to its repetitiveness, volume two sacrificed many of the beloved character dynamics for more action and plot. Many characters fell flat in the closing episodes, losing the opportunity for growth and development as they confronted conflict. 

One of the best examples of this throughout season four was the mediocrity of Finn Wolfhard’s character Mike, who was once the group’s self-assured leader. In season four, Mike’s character development halts. In fact, it would be hard for viewers to pinpoint a scene where his dialogue didn’t surround missing Eleven. 

Additionally, many fans on Twitter were quick to condemn the show for queerbaiting by teasing a potential connection between Mike and Will, only for it to be decimated in episode eight. In one of the episode’s only emotional scenes, Will assured Mike of his uniqueness, while projecting the internal struggle of his sexuality. 

One of the only consistencies prevalent throughout volume two was the series’ mastery of music montage scenes. The final two episodes feature an intense return to Vecna’s house set to Journey’s “Separate Ways (World’s Apart).” Both episodes repeatedly feature Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God,)” after the show catapulted the song to number one on the Billboard ‘Hot Rock & Alternative’ charts with the release of volume one.

The final episode of the season brought a hefty run time — totalling 2:22:43 — but not much more. At the episode’s onset, the group begins initiating the plan to defeat Vecna.“Max” (Sadie Sink) and “Lucas” (Caleb McLaughlin)” kicked-off the charge, luring Vecna back into his home in hopes the rest of the group will be able to burn his monstrous body alive.  

With 1:43:00 remaining, the episode teases a bleak end. Max and Eleven appear to be losing the fight against Vecna. After the struggle, viewers see Max’s body hit the floor of the Upside Down, leaving many to believe the series’ first major death had occurred.

While many fans were bracing for a “Game Of Thrones-esque” bloodbath, with particular concern centering around Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington, only one character from the main crew doesn’t survive the season’s end: Eddie Munson.

Eddie had become a fan-favorite this season, drawing support for his charm, general goofiness and voluptuous mullet. However, his death was anything but unpredictable. The show has seemingly developed a long-running pattern of introducing side characters to be killed off later on in the season, with characters like Barbara (season one), Bob (season two), and Alexei, (season three) all meeting similar ends to Eddie.

Apart from Eddie, season four features the deaths of Jason and Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), who is shot down by the U.S military after an attempted betrayal of his daughter

With many red-herrings and misdirections, episode nine is a movie-length rollercoaster. After building up a confrontation with Vecna for multiple hours, the group is able to defeat him with Molotov Cocktails all too easily.

After Eleven’s miraculous resuscitation of Max, the show seems to draw a “that’s it?” moment for viewers wanting the conflict to reach a new level of dire. While volume two offered highly sophisticated graphics, beautifully shot scenes and a talented class of actors, it under-delivered in epicness, leaving fans to digest an easily-defeated villain and a single, predictable death after multiple hours of binge watching. 

After a recent report revealed the series had seen a budget increase of $30 million per episode, it became clear that Netflix went bigger, but not bolder, with season four. 

But for many die-hard fans, the integrity of the show started to slip this season. A once lighthearted mystery series depicting struggles of adolescence has been replaced with a grandiose, terminator-style action adventure likely to leave many left unsatisfied with volumes one and two.

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