Stranger Things 4 Part 1 (2022) Review

SPOILERS AHEAD

So Stranger Things 4 is finally out now, at least the first part is. It’s been a while since we’ve seen our favourite group of troublemakers and the adventures they go on. I’m happy that they’re finally back and I can’t wait to see where we go in the future, as this is basically the beginning of the end. This first 3/4s of the season establish and reveal so much about the world and about the history of of what has happened. The season isn’t over yet so when Part 2 is released I will do a full season review with everything about the characters and arcs and all that stuff. We’re getting close to the end but we’re not there yet so the arcs aren’t finished and still have a ways to go. I will still talk about the stuff that I liked or disliked about the season so far. There will be spoilers here so if you don’t want anything spoiled than go watch it and come back. But first, here are my thoughts and impressions after watching each episode.

Chapter 1: The Hellfire Club

HOLY SHIT WHAT AN EPISODE INTRO ! Give a different view of what happened in the past between Dr. Brenner and Eleven. Just wow. It really gives a re-contextualized look at what eleven has done in the past in the lab. Interesting opening and introduction to the characters. Interesting to see where the characters are now in their lives in high school. A lot more cinematic and more creative in the editing between locations and characters. A good example of this is the editing between the hellfire club scene and the basketball championship scene. Also the parallels between the sinclair shots is great. Doing a lot this season to separate the characters again (with Lucas trying to be popular and Dustin, Mike, and Erica missing the game). Does a good job of creating tension with figuring out if certain things are real or not. The tension mostly comes from the Chrissy scenes. And Holy Shit that ending ! Over-all for a first episode its good, not the best of the series but to me my favourite parts are the beginning and the ending. The most interesting stuff happened in those parts. So far I find that my interest in the series usually gets more as the season goes on as that’s when everything hits the fan. It’s going to be interesting to see how this psychic creature will affect the series in the coming episodes. I already can’t wait until the part of the season where the characters all come together to figure out and stop what is going on. So far good use of cliff hanger endings

Chapter 2: Vecna’s Curse

Interesting intro, showing what happened to hopper and how he survived. We continue to see this throughout the episode, getting to see where Hopper has been and where one group of characters are going to be. This episode was better, we get to see Mike and Eleven back together, with third wheel will. We get the group of Dustin, Max, Robin, and Steve together doing what they’re doing. Getting the first view of the monster for this season, and a little of the story surrounding it. The dungeons and dragons monster inspiration. Something that we have kinda seen before and more from last episode with showing more of this emotional murder mode that Eleven gets into. We get more of the main two storylines going forward and the likely eventual clash between Dustin’s group with Eddie, and Lucas’ basketball group. As well as another victim of Vecna’s curse. Overall an episode I like more than the first, less teen drama and more of the stuff that I like from this show. Mike is a lot less of a prick so far and it’ll be interesting to see where that storyline goes in the future. Also our first view of the upside down this season. 

Chapter 3: The Monster and the superhero

WHAT AN EPISODE. Things are starting to come together for the characters. MAX IS THE NEXT TARGET AAAAHHH. The possibility of the return of Eleven’s powers, the coming of the clash between the jocks with lucas and the “freaks” with eddie and dustin. Lucas having to reconcile his two lives along with all the other stuff going on. This episode is great and gives us more to look forward too in the future. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Chapter 4: Dear Billy

WHAT AN EPISODE……..AGAIN! This episode was intense, crazy, and the OH SHIT episode. The episode where things go downhill in the first half of the season. THINGS ARE GETTING REAL. My god this was Max’s episode. So incredible. One of the most pulse pounding episodes so far. I was internally screaming at the end here just my god. We got things going wrong with the California crew with probably a military attack, we got things going wrong with the Russia/Alaska crew, and then of course we got the full view of the upside down with Max and her struggle against Vecna. Incredible episode with a relatively feel good ending. 

Chapter 5: The Nina Project

Another great episode. We’re seeing more interaction of the stories such as Jason’s storyline with Eddie intersecting with Vecna. Eleven seeing DOCTOR BRENNER ALIVE AGAIN and helping her to restore her powers. It’s interesting how they’re making her go through her mind and memories to gain her powers back, which should be useful with Vecna due to going after grief and guilt.  Again going to be interesting going forward.

Chapter 6: The Dive

HOLY SHIT! Another pretty good episode. More of Eleven’s training arc, the noose around Hawkins tightens ever more so now with the kids being hunted by the public due to Jason galvanizing the populace to go after Eddie. It’s getting bigger and bigger. 

Chapter 7: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab

HOLY CRAP ! What a way to end this part of the season! An incredible episode where the separate storylines have officially merged together. Along with the biggest reveal of the season and bringing the flashbacks back to the origins of the series itself. As well as THE BIGGEST REVEAL thus far. Insane episode showing just who Vecna is and just how powerful he and Eleven are and will be again. We also find out what Vecna is doing and why he is doing it. We also get some cool scenes showing what the different physics are like for the Upside Down. But I can’t wait to see where this goes forward, and what Vecna’s plans are for Nancy and why he revealed everything to her. It’s a good place to do a season break as it answers questions that we have had since the very beginning, but also leave more for the end of the season, and even the end of the series. This is an episode full of Holy Shit moments. We got that flashback reveal, we got Hopper and the Russians fighting a Demogorgon (it’s been  a while since we’ve seen you), we got a full CG Demogorgon slaughtering a bunch of people. Like it was crazy seeing just what a Demogorgon can do. Just an over-all incredible episode.

As you can see, I’ve been enjoying this season. It really brings it up to another level and makes everything much bigger now. It’s a much more cinematic season, a lot more stuff is going on and happens than has happened in the past. More of the town is involved, the military, cross-country and even in Russia. The world of this story continues to get bigger and bigger and it’ll be interesting to see just how big it’s going to get in the future. It’s bigger even in what we see of the upside down. We see a lot more of that dimension than we’ve seen in past seasons. With multiple characters going there for extended periods of time in the wide open reaches of the dimension, as well as people in their mind going there. We also get a lot more action this time around. We get a bit more stuff outside of power scenes and being chased by vans, or the action of last season. Like we got the scene at the byers California home, and the plane scene that really shows how they’re experimenting with the show and with what they can do. Which is going to be good for the final season as it feels like that’s going to be something big and epic. This season feels more psychological horror based than in the past. So much of the horror this season has been in the minds of the characters that are hunted by Vecna. A lot less of the more overt body horror of the last season. It also ups the ante of the dread felt by the characters as this isn’t just another example of having to close a gate or stop a monster. This is a monster they have no chance of fighting at the moment, especially since there are a lot more gates and a much more dangerous monster. The music so far this season is incredible as always, and the soundtrack is great again as well. 

I have really been enjoying the characters this season. Mike is a lot less of a prick than he’s been in the past, especially last season. He still has his moments but he still cares about eleven even after knowing that she’s been lying to him this whole time. He can still be an asshole but he almost always immediately regrets it and apologizes to people. Johnathan and Nancy have an interesting arc showing how important communication is in a relationship. And how Nancy and Steve are kind of rekindling their relationship together a bit.  Max and Lucas have an interesting arc about communication and the truth that almost costs Max her life. Lucas is really interesting as for the first half he’s caught between two halves, he wants to be popular and to not be bullied anymore, but he also wants his friends. At the moment he has chosen his friends that he has basically gone to war with, but these two sides are going to clash sooner rather than later. The alaska crew is on an interesting arc, it’s not finished yet so I can’t say more about it. Same with Will as his arc is tied to Mike and Eleven’s and we definitely aren’t at the end of that yet either. Eleven’s arc is really interesting as it’s forcing her to confront her past to get her powers back and maybe be even stronger. She thinks of herself as a monster, but its about her learning about her past truths and that she is both right and wrong. I won’t elaborate more as it’s not completely over yet. I can say they learned from the second season about having Eleven go on an arc about becoming more powerful and accepting of herself. 

I like the new characters introduced, Especially Argyle and Eddie. Both are fun characters and bring a lot of the comedic relief in the show, which is needed due to how intense it can be at times. The friendly orderly from Eleven’s flashbacks is an interesting character, showing how hard it is to truly find someone to trust in this system. He is interesting in the first few times we see him, but gives us some of the biggest Oh Shit moments in chapter 7. The returning side characters are really good this season, especially a surprising return of someone we haven’t seen in a while, and a different side to him than we were used to seeing the last time we saw him. 

Some issues I have with the season so far are that Will right now feels like a bit of an afterthought. He’s around for the ride but his arc is so tied to the Mike and Eleven arc that he doesn’t get to do much this season. Although his Arc does tie into some of the over-all themes of this season. I guess it means he’s getting a bit of a break from being so tied to the upside down in the past. Although I’m surprised given how popular he’s been the past couple seasons. Another issue is how at this point the formula of the show is kind of now in the open and we’re more aware of it now than we have in the past. Like now we gotta separate someone of everyone else to go off somewhere else to do something, and its Eleven again like in season 2. Although it’s handled better here than it was in season 2 and it felt like she was missing from the show for so much of that season. Whereas here her arc and what she is going through is a lot more integral to what is happening in Hawkins and is a part of the major storyline over-all, as well as the over-all themes of this season. I’m not sure how I feel about the Russia and Alaska stuff yet and what it does for the characters, as it’s not just over yet. Also the affects are mostly pretty good, like the upside down and Vecna look great, but some of the CG over-all is kind of iffy. Especially the de-aging this season as that can be a little uncanny valley sometimes. 

I would say the themes of this season so far are that you have to face and confront the truth, even if you don’t like it and could affect a lot. So many of the arcs this season are about characters confronting and admitting the truth about themselves and their feelings. Pretty much all the character arc are about them not being truthful to themselves, to others, or even to their own psyche. If we go even further, the truth of what is happening, and event he truth of what has happened all these years to the town. The next few episodes are going to be interesting seeing these truths come to light. 

Over-all this is a great season so far. It’s intense, funny, scary at times, and over-all an enjoyable ride. I can’t wait for the next episodes to finish out the season. 

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