I’m a bit late watching Stranger Things Season 4 Part 1 because I decided to rewatch the first three seasons from the beginning. I wanted to relish every moment of the new season and appreciate every nuance and connection it will definitely deliver and I was right. By the end of the seven episodes, my mind was completely blown and I’m still reeling right now.
Synopsis: After squaring off with the Demogorgon and the Mind Flayer from the first three seasons, a new gate to the Upside Down opens, and this time, its choice of victims are troubled teens with traumatic pasts. The gang get together to help Eddie Munson, the president of the Hellfire Club (High School D&D club) who is wrongfully accused of the murders while Mike travels to Leonora to see Will and El, who are finding it hard to fit in with bullies, mean kids and El’s missing powers. Joyce receives news that Hopper is alive and tries her best to save him with the help of Murray.
I love how the Duffer brothers stuck to the formula of divvying up the Hawkins gang to go on their separate adventures that are actually interconnected. Its even cooler how the subgroups were divided into even smaller subgroups and it still worked. Everyone just developed chemistry with their group, no matter how unlikely their characters were to work together. Its amazing.
As the Hawkins gang dealt with Vecna, a monster who feeds on the trauma of the teens, El was also forced to deal with her own demons in order to recover her powers and put an end once and for all to the horrors of the Upside Down. It was interesting to see how deeply her origins connected to the Upside Down and the new villain.
I must admit that at first, I was really annoyed at Dustin for always putting Steve down. I felt that even though Eddie was cool, Steve, for the past three seasons did nothing but be a great guy to everyone. And even though they always referred to him as a former douche, I find it hard to reconcile with that because he was serious about Nancy, he destroyed Jonathan’s camera, sure, but because he thought he was a creep spying on Nancy. Other than that, he took care of the kids and always stepped up whenever he was needed. Anyways, I forgave Dustin by the final episode because he was just plain brilliant and because of what Eddie said.
Stranger Things truly paid homage to the 80s classics and it was amazing. It was like a mashup of the best hits of Nightmare on Elm Street, the Wishmaster, the Poltergeist, the Exorcist, and even the Evil Dead. It was dark. It was gory. It was suspenseful and you can tell that the storytelling was growing with its audience. The first season had an ET and Stand by Me vibe to it but this season was so brutal. It amped up the horror a thousandfold and banked on everything that was good about the series all along.
There were new characters who are bound to steal your hearts like Eddie, Argyle, and of course Enzo. For some reason, I love that dude’s deadpan expressions but there was something about him that really seemed sincere. His bromance with Hop was cool. There were also annoying characters like whathisface, captain of the basketball team who was obsessed with giving cheesy pep talks and fancied himself as an avenger. I wish Vecna gets him next.
Meanwhile, Joyce and Murray was the buddy comedy we didn’t know we needed. Their antics, even stuck in the heart of the Motherland, was so awesome. It will be interesting to see how they react to learn about the chaos happening back home.
There were also great cameos to watch out for (and I mean great) and the reveal of Vecna’s origins was really one of the best that the brothers have come up with. I’m not liking the implied rekindling of the Steve Nancy romance because I really don’t think that they’re a match. But other than that, I was totally impressed with how the Hawkins kids have levelled up their sleuthing and evasion skills both in and outside the supernatural realm.
Apart from these new additions to keep the story fresh, what remained at the core of the series was the unique bond that the original five characters have developed and embraced with the rest of the growing Hawkins gang. As they adopted more members to their kooky group, they were able to hit the baddies from multiple corners at the same time. As their adventures were mingled with real life issues of friendship, bullying, dating, popularity (or lack thereof) and anxiety, audiences were able to relate with them and root for them like friends watching on the sidelines.
There are still some questions left unanswered but really, this series just keeps expanding its universe in such a natural and sensible way. While some other series would be stumbling for ways to extend the franchise at this point, Stranger Things remains steady with an unending store of surprises from the Duffer Brothers (and their collaborators’) bag of tricks. While I am always wary of missteps for a series I have invested in so much (I’m looking at you GoT), my faith remains strong that the back end of this season and the fifth season (the final one) is as well thought out as the previous installments.
Bring it on, Vecna.