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Stranger Things - Season 4 Review

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I love this show. Definitely one of my all-time favorites and this might just be its best season for me. Nothing is perfect. I've never seen a TV show or a movie, or read a book that didn't have any flaws. The entertainment is always subjective. Something can be loved or hated by a majority or minority, but never everyone. For Stranger Things and this season in particular I happen to be in the group that enjoyed it immensely. Whether that's the case for you or not, that's perfectly fine as well. Here's my thoughts on the season four journey.

This year I really wanted to pay extra attention to the individual stories of each of our main characters, instead of constantly waiting for everyone to join forces in the end (as I very much did in the past). Turned out to be the best approach for sure. The main story of the season is split between 4 groups: the kids in Hawkins, the California group, the Nevada lab team and the Russian prison rescue squad.

The least interesting part for me was definitely the California group - first with the bullying at school and later on the drive across the US. Not to say that this plotline didn't have its highlights. The extended one-shot of the attack on the Byers' house was both genuinely surprising and wonderfully done. Also, Will had a couple of memorable, emotional moments. I especially enjoyed the one shared with Jonathan in the finale. I missed this duo actually talking to each other. I do wish Will had a bigger involvement in the main storyline. Same goes for Mike and Jonathan but Will's plot is especially noticeable for me as he was one of my favorite characters back in season two and he doesn't really get to shine these days. I did want him to have a break from all the terrible things that happened to him, but still miss him being an important part of the action.

I didn't necessarily feel the need for any kind of disconnect or a conflict between El and Mike. It seemed more like a setup for the finale where Mike tells El exactly how he feels about her and motivates her to keep fighting. I did really love that moment but if there's anything that I would skip in this season it would probably be all the scenes leading up to this highlight - the lying, the argument, the aftermath. Then again that would erase most of the plotline involving Mike, Will, Jonathan and Argyle, and it would be a shame not to have them around at all. Hopefully there's more exciting story awaiting them in season five. Surprisingly enough, when following this group, I think I enjoyed Argyle's addition the most. He was a true comic relief, and considering all the insanity of the season, I was glad to have him lift everyone's spirits on a couple of occasions.

Then there's El. She's a part of the California group at the beginning and at the end of the season. The start of her story in S4 was honestly not an easy thing to watch. The bullying, especially when her dad's death is actually used as an attack against her (what's wrong with these kids?!) - that was hard for me to get through. I'd rather deal with the monsters in the Upside Down than the very real villains of everyday life. El's journey really picks up when she gets separated from the others and ends up confronted with dr. Brenner being very much alive and more than happy to resume his experiments on her. Sure, he does have an important goal in mind, but the way he treats El most of the time is nothing short of abuse. Dr. Owens, despite making some bad decisions, at least actually cares for her, and very much wants her to make her own choices, instead of simply locking her up against her will.

I think I would have preferred to have El's past revealed over the course of a single episode (instead of multiple ones), especially since I very quickly identified One in the story and was simply waiting for the truth to come to light. But I do appreciate taking a bit more time for the viewers to get to know him better before all hell breaks loose. Also, while I guessed that the Friendly Orderly is none other than One, I did not expect him to be revealed as Vecna AND Henry Creel as well. That was actually SO WELL DONE. Kudos on this twist and the way it was hinted at throughout the season. Jamie Campbell Bower did a marvelous job on the series so far. So glad to have such a complex and wonderfully portrayed character as our main antagonist of the show. Millie Bobby Brown and Bower were especially great when acting opposite each other. Whether it's the lab or Vecna's mind space, the past or the present, some of the best interactions and scenes of the season are between these two.

Meanwhile in Russia... Hopper's storyline was truly heartbreaking to watch. The only scene that I simply could not look at during the entire season is the one which shows just how badly he hurt his feet. I think it's the very real idea of being stuck in the Russian prison camp that hit me the most. The very possible injuries and the tortures that follow. I'd rather watch the D&D monster than the true aspects of such reality. That being said, Hopper really does have quite a few moments to shine during the season and I absolutely loved that. I was heartbroken when I believed he was gone at the end of S3 so having him back is automatically one of my favorite things about this one. First there's the prison escape, the brief relief during his short-lived freedom, then his emotional speech to Dmitri about being the curse that hurts everyone around him, the first fight against the Demogorgon and finally his reunion with Joyce and the battle in the finale. Not to mention the reunion between Hopper and El, which I've been waiting for since the end of S3 and is easily one of my favorite moments on the show. I really needed this one.

The thing that I also very much enjoyed about the Russian plotline is the fantastic duo of Murray and Joyce, on the rescue mission to bring back Hopper. Joyce is always great, her scenes with Hopper were especially touching and I'm so glad these two are finally together. But I gotta give the MVP title to Murray. He was a wonder. His karate fight against Yuri was both hilarious and impressive. In fact, all of his interactions with Yuri were golden, to be perfectly honest. But the way he stepped up, took charge in infiltrating the prison camp, then took down some of the guards and finally torched all the demodogs - wow, just wow. Absolutely brilliant and there's no way we could have saved Hopper without him. Love the evolution of his character and his relationships with the rest of group. Just thinking about Murray's first meeting with Hopper and comparing it to now, when Murray is risking his life time and time again to help him - it's hard to believe it's only been a couple of years for them.

And now let's talk about easily the best part of season four - the Hawkins kids. The people of Hawkins in general? Not so much. I wish I could say their actions were unbelievable... sadly I know better after the last two years. But our main group - Max, Lucas, Dustin, Erica, Steve, Nancy, Robin and Eddie - simply the best. Sadie Sink was my MVP of this season's cast, but to be honest so many of the actors gave their best performances this year. And I'd be happy to give them all the awards if I could. Max's storyline throughout S4 was also the biggest emotional journey for me. Her struggle with depression and the way Vecna uses it against her hit me more than I expected. Max's goodbye tour in episode four, especially her letter to Billy, was painful to watch but her fighting for her life against Vecna, screaming for her friends and choosing life meant everything. "Running up that Hill" is now forever one of the themes of the show for me. I've never actually heard the original version (by Kate Bush) before Stranger Things, but I loved one of the covers already, so hearing the song here made Max's fight for survival even more impactful to see. That remix with the ST main theme in the finale is also one of my favorite things that the show has done so far.

I also loved how Max's friends cared and fought for her, including El on the other side of the country. Her story's conclusion at the end of the season is so deeply tragic. Watching her having her limbs broken, her sight lost and finally her heart stopping - I knew this time our heroes didn't win. And yes, El managed to restart Max's heart and she's technically alive at the moment, but it doesn't make it any easier to see or process. Despite all of her will and strength, she still died and lost the battle against Vecna. I do wish there's still somehow a way to have a happy ending for Max, but that remains to be seen. Poor Lucas. I loved seeing more of his interactions with Erica and them growing together and supporting each other as a family. Lucas also had some great and memorable scenes when reconnecting with Max throughout the season. He's the one who kept reaching out to her when she really needed it the most. Sadly that only made her dying in his arms feel especially cruel. And the fact that it happened right after we lost Eddie... If Eddie's death pained me then Max's was a crushing blow.

Speaking of Eddie - brilliant addition to the season and another highlight for sure. Sometimes it takes a while for me to connect to a new character. But I liked Eddie in his very first scene on the show and I knew he's going to be one of the best characters during his meeting with Chrissy in the season premiere. So many different sides of him introduced so quickly, and all working perfectly well together. No wonder he became a fan favorite with a lightning speed. I really wish there was a happier ending for Eddie, but to be honest I don't think I've ever expected one. Watching the way majority of people in Hawkins turned against him made me wonder how he could ever escape this terrible situation alive. At least I can find comfort in the fact that he died as a hero. He played the most metal concert ever and then fought against an army of bats, to buy his friends more time to save the day and keep the bats away from Dustin and Hawkins. Despite everything. Dustin and Eddie were a wonderful duo. Their goodbye and then Dustin telling Eddie's uncle about his death were heart-rending. Probably my favorite performance by Gaten Matarazzo yet.

Let's finish with Steve, Nancy and Robin. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the possible return of Steve and Nancy as a couple. I love both characters (especially Steve) so I wouldn't mind seeing them together, but I really dislike love triangles, so this one will depend on how the writers decide to handle the whole Nancy, Jonathan and Steve situation. Outside of any romantic connection, I did love the continuous development of both Nancy and Steve as characters. They've grown so much since season one. Steve, Nancy and Robin vs. Vecna was both one of the craziest plans and one of my favorite moments in the season. Excellent sequence, combined with Hopper vs. the Demogorgon and the remix of "Running Up That Hill" and Stranger Things main theme - could I ask for anything more?

All of our main characters are so much braver than they realize. Eleven may be the superhero with incredible powers, but they're all heroes of this story, fighting to protect each other and the world. I'm actually glad to have a break from the insanity of the season, let's take a breath and process. Still, already very excited for season five. Can't believe we're almost at the end of the Stranger Things journey. What a journey it has been! And for the record, unlike many, I don't need any major character deaths in the final season to feel the high stakes. I already care and worry about this group, staying on the edge of my seat whenever they're in danger. For me stakes on TV shows come from more than just death. There's so many more interesting and creative ways to build the suspense and portray struggle. Sometimes death makes sense and is the logical conclusion of the story, but only if executed well, instead of focusing on the shock value. Anyway, that's just my perspective. Really loved this season and can't wait to see the last one. Time for a rewatch, anyone? Thanks for reading!

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