“Friends may not lie, but they do grow up — and grow apart.” This poignant observation sets the tone for the highly anticipated fourth season of Stranger Things. In this season, the beloved characters from Hawkins, Indiana, confront not only supernatural horrors but also the challenges of adolescence, evolving relationships, and the specter of the unknown. As we delve into this season’s depths, we’ll explore the character dynamics, the show’s evolving tone, and what the future holds for this iconic series.
The Scattered Heroes
After the cataclysmic events of the Season 3 finale, our heroes find themselves more scattered than ever before. In California, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) grapples with school bullies and the loss of her telekinetic powers. Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) forms an unexpected friendship with Argyle (Eduardo Franco), while Joyce (Winona Ryder) embarks on a career in telesales. Meanwhile, in Hawkins, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) join the Hellfire Club, led by the enigmatic Eddie (Joseph Quinn). Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) feels Lucas drifting away as he joins the basketball team, and Max (Sadie Sink) continues to mourn her brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Nancy (Natalia Dyer) takes on the role of editor for the school newspaper, and Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) navigate the complexities of dating while working at the local video store. And, surprisingly, Hopper (David Harbour) resurfaces, alive but trapped in a snowy Russian prison.
Embracing Darkness and Horror
While previous seasons of Stranger Things delivered their fair share of supernatural thrills, Season 4 takes darkness and horror to a whole new level. The central mystery revolves around a series of violent and disturbing deaths, pointing to a formidable new villain, Vecna. Vecna, a chilling and Freddy Krueger-esque presence, wields nightmares as his terrifying weapons. The show fearlessly explores complex themes such as alcoholism, bulimia, suicide, and depression. In “Chapter Four,” the standout episode of the season, the characters must escape a nightmarish void, leaving a lasting emotional impact on viewers. Despite the darkness, the show’s signature wit and nostalgic charm remain ever-present.
The Challenge of an Expansive Ensemble
One of the show’s challenges in Season 4 is managing its expansive ensemble cast, which now includes nearly 20 key characters. With various storylines unfolding simultaneously, the narrative occasionally feels overloaded, rushing from one plot point to another. Hopper’s storyline, in particular, feels disconnected from the show’s lore, and fans have noted David Harbour’s underutilization. However, despite the crowded narrative, the show retains its captivating charm and charisma, reminiscent of the world introduced six years ago.
Themes of Coming of Age
Stranger Things has always been more than a supernatural thriller; it’s a reflection of the coming-of-age experience. The series emphasizes the importance of embracing one’s uniqueness and facing personal demons. Characters like Will (Noah Schnapp) grapple with their identities and the challenges of growing up. The show’s emotional framework sets the stage for a climactic showdown, where characters confront their inner monsters and make choices that define their futures.
A Perfectly Executed Finale
As the fireworks finally erupt in the climax, the show doesn’t disappoint. While there are no major surprises, the execution of character interventions and decisions is impeccable. The action seamlessly transitions between Indiana, Nevada, and Kamchatka. Iconic ’80s music from Metallica and Journey adds to the excitement. When the dust settles and the survivors stand together, it’s a powerful moment of realization and unity.
What Lies Ahead?
Despite a seemingly ideal finale, there’s a surprise waiting after the credits roll—Netflix has commissioned a fifth and final season. The creators hint at a global-scale disaster, marking a departure from the smaller-scale conspiracies of previous seasons. With the core cast no longer minors, adjustments are inevitable. However, Stranger Things shines brightest when it remains local, intimate, and nostalgic. As we reflect on the journey so far, we wonder what lies ahead for our beloved characters and the town of Hawkins.
Stranger Things Season 4 delivers an emotionally charged and thrilling experience, pushing the boundaries of horror while remaining true to its nostalgic roots. As we prepare for the show’s grand finale, we can’t help but appreciate the enduring message that it’s okay to be different and that small towns hold extraordinary stories. The journey is far from over, and we eagerly await the next chapter in the Stranger Things saga