Stranger Things Season 4 saves the best for last

A satisfying conclusion for the best season since its debut and bodes well for the final one.

by Justin Choo

Netflix drops the final two episodes of Stranger Things Season 4 and all hell breaks loose; literally and figuratively.

The release sent servers crashing as viewers surged to get to the end of the best season since its debut back in 2016. The first gripping seven episodes served to contribute to the ridiculous level of hype surrounding the final two episodes, it’s easy to fall short. Fortunately, Season 4 ends with an explosive encounter with the series’ most dangerous antagonist by far and here are some of the talking points. (Mild spoiler warning)

Long run time

This drop would easily have been three episodes worth of content, as the final episode runs about 147 minutes long. It functions pretty much like a movie in itself, complete with a ‘calm before the storm moment’ before all hell breaks loose and it all ends with an epilogue as though it was The Return of the King.

But nope. By the end, this is more like The Two Towers, because our heroes only have a brief moment to celebrate before Season 5 (said to be the final season) is teased: Hawkins, and possibly the world, is now facing a world-ending threat.

Screen deaths

Prior to the release of the last episodes, members of the cast had dropped hints in interviews that deaths are forthcoming.

This was something I’ve been not-so-secretly hoping for. While the writers have done a fair job of juggling every character’s screentime and storyline, some characters have become somewhat irrelevant as they wait for their moment to return to the spotlight.

To prevent spoiling the game let’s just say that we do lose some characters as hinted. Not quite enough in my book but there’s no doubt that the stakes are higher here than at any point in the series, and there are potential repercussions that we aren’t aware of yet.

Again, I don’t think that this is much of a spoiler, given how lethal the threats are this season – they’re up against the US military, a bunch of vigilantes, the Soviet military and a Freddie Kruger-esque psychopath with otherworldly powers to boot. If this were an Until Dawn or The Quarry playthrough, I’d say it was a pretty good outcome for a first try.

Tension then action

It might be a bit of a stretch to say that the Hellfire Club’s attempt in taking on Vecna in the Dungeons & Dragons game early in the season marked a bit of foreshadowing, but it does hint at the difficulty of the task. There’s a tacit understanding amongst those involved that this might be one adventure too many and shows in their conversations, which sets the tone for the episode.

At the same time the lead up to the showdown is a testament to how much the gang has grown in stature – they are bonafide heroes now, unwavering in their commitment to stopping the Upside Down. From the high tension buildup to the fiery conclusion, we experience a rollercoaster of emotions in the knowledge that our heroes’ lives are truly at risk.

The writers do a fantastic job of dropping red herrings and ominous portents for those who keep looking out for them, which only adds to the anxiety as we watch the gang attempt the impossible.

Will’s moment

It’s hard to not think that Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is anything but in love with Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard). Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the show’s depiction of gay characters, Will’s non-confession is one of the most poignant moments in the show and is very tastefully done. Noah nails the scene with aplomb, almost as if he was truly speaking from the heart.

At that moment I felt like I understood why all these characters were grouped together; for the purpose of their respective journeys, no matter how insignificant or mundane, they were in their own individual ways, the perfect support for each other.

And then you realise how much more emotional impact these scenes would have been if they’ve had the time to flesh out the characters a little more beforehand.

Papa do you love me

Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) complicated relationship with Dr Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) becomes clearer and Eleven finally understands what kind of man her ‘papa’ is. While she has struggled with social norms in school, she now realises the complicated nuances of love and family. She exorcises some personal demons of her own, so we’ll be seeing a far different Eleven next season for sure.

Maxed out

If there’s one character that has been made to suffer more than their fair share it has got to be Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) and can I just say it’s time to give her a break – the girl’s been through so much, it’s almost painful to watch. She’s pretty much the spiritual heart of this season’s adventure, as she represents the struggle to overcome the past and not let it define the future.

Best couple award

Steve and Dustin have incredible chemistry and have been killing it ever since Season 3 but Eddie Munson pulls a fast one and pips Steve at the post by the season’s end. It’s amazing how they manage to come up with such compelling new characters season after season.

Obey your master

Running up the Hill will be Season 4’s ethereal highlight, but Master of Puppets gives Eddie his superhero moment as a master of savage beasts. Forget post-Black album Metallica; this is the true face of thrash metal. I could have sworn that Eddie played it downstrokes-only.