It has been a long three years since we last saw our favorite Hawkins residents fighting off supernatural beasts in the wildly popular Netflix original, Stranger Things. When we left our heroes, the Battle of Starcourt left us with Billy dead and Hopper’s fate in limbo. The Byers clan packed up and took Eleven to California and the rest were left behind in Hawkins. When we pick things up in 1986, Hopper is being held prisoner in a Russian prison. Eleven has lost her powers and is struggling with bullies, the loss of Hopper, and being away from Mike. Max is having difficulty coping with the loss of Billy. Lucas is struggling to find his balance and where he belongs as he struggles to find time for the basketball team and the Hellfire Club, which consists of Mike, Dustin, and newcomer Eddie.
This season of Stranger Things almost feels like a big Marvel movie. Not one of the standalone moves, but an Avengers level movie. The pacing of each episode, each storyline being woven together with others, each character or set of characters having their own personal mission which all ties into the big picture is something we see attempted before, but the pacing in this season really stands out.
This season’s big bad is Vecna. I won’t dive too deep into spoilers surrounding Vecna, but the general premise is he preys on people with insecurities, doubts, and built. He doesn’t appear in their world, he pulls his victims into his. While their physical body remains, their mind is being tormented by this new villain. Once he’s had his fun, he snaps and contorts their bodies into grotesque figures. When we first see this happen Chrissy, a cheerleader and girlfriend of the star basketball player, it is horrifying. We’ve seen death and destruction on Stranger Things before, but not quite like this. The kids are getting older and the killings are becoming more gruesome.
Vecna isn’t the only new character this season. We’re introduced to leader of the Hellfire Club and the main suspect in Chrissy’s murder, Eddie Munson. Enzo, a guard at the Russian prison that attempts to help Hopper escape. Yuri, a pilot and smuggler who is hired to help rescue Hopper but has other plans. Stranger Things has always excelled at creating lovable characters. Part of the charm has always been hits main heroes but they always find a way to mix in new characters and have them gel and mesh with the team.
The writing and directing this season was sharp as well. Perhaps the extended break allowed them more time to flesh things out but this is the first season, and don’t hate on me, that didn’t feel like a gimmick. Each episode seemed perfectly crafted and had its place within the season as whole which seemed very thought out. The episodes directed by the Duffer Brother stood out even more so.
Season 4 was broken up into two parts but the “finale” of part one doesn’t feel like a midseason finale. It felt like a season finale. Episode 8 and 9 premiere on July 1 and have a run time of 1 hour and 25 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes respectively. They are definitely setting us up for something huge before the final season airs, hopefully next year.
This adventure that is part one of Season 4 is the best Stranger Things has ever been. As someone who was once burnt out on the show, I am now fully invested once again and cannot wait to see how they finish this epic piece of television.