So I finished Stranger Things 4 Vol 2 and it was incredible. The show finishes this season of strong and sets a good tone for where the show will be going in the next and final season. Vol 2 finishes off the season in a way I wasn’t expecting, but really appreciate. This review will include my thoughts on the season as a whole. If you haven’t watched it yet than skip this as there will be spoilers and I don’t hold anything back. Without further ado lets get into my thoughts on the episodes and move into the in depth review.
Chapter 8: Papa
Incredible episode as always. We get even more of the stories coming together, the reuniting of the California crew and eleven, the end of the Dr Brenner storyline, the continuation of the russia stuff and the beginning of the endgame for the Hawkins crew. Incredible performances here and an actual sad ending to me for Dr Brenner. We get the confirmation that Eleven’s powers are back and showing just how bad the jock storyline could end. Jason is so obsessed now with what is happening. They do a great job of tension building in this episode, you really get the feeling that a lot of people are in danger this time, and they may not make it out unscathed if at all. An example, they are really building up for a possible death of Steve, Eddie, and Max. We also get a great scene of Will almost admitting his feelings to Mike and an emotional reuniting of the crew. Great stuff and great episode. One more episode to go, and it is going to be a dozy. Also that trailer music drop was a crazy but great way to end the episode on an epic but also kind of somber note.
Chapter 9: The Piggyback
HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK WHAT AN EPISODE !!! Was the message I sent a friend of mine after finishing this episode. It’s an insane conclusion to this season that is equal parts awesome, badass, epic, sad, and somber. Incredible performances as always and mostly satisfying conclusions to everyone’s arcs and the season as a whole. Some incredible moments and seeing the gang back together was great. And holy crap the reveals of what has been going on this whole time and Vecna’s plan were insane. It was crazy and I’m glad that the consequences stuck. Like this is the first time they’ve truly lost in a way. They’re alive, hurt but alive, but the plan worked and it’s going to be interesting to see how the series ends. Incredible stuff.
The story this season told was really interesting to me as the show hasn’t had to deal with stuff like this in the past. What happens in it is equal parts awesome and tragic, and does a great job at building tension and getting it’s point across. This season is the biggest season in the history of the show, being that the gang has been separated by literal continents. This separation is both a strength of the season but also a downfall. It is a strength as it shows how big this world has become and ups the stakes of the story showing the world and people this is affecting. It is also a downfall as it creates a situation where some of the characters feel like they are left behind in the dust of the rest of the show. It also exposes one of the issues with the show as a whole having to create situations for the characters to separate themselves handling their own stuff before they and the story comes together in the end. This also continues how trend has been going in the show with the characters not being together again until the epilogue of the season. It removes the character interactions that brought the magic to the show and I do wish we got to see everyone interact more. The separation this season creates what I’ll call an Infinity War situation, where the groups end up having the same goal but because of their separation it doesn’t really work out. I kind of like that, it shows how strong a villain Vecna is that this time they don’t win. The scooby doo, 80s movie plan didn’t work in the end. They fail at all fronts and the stakes for next season have never been higher. While they may have shown him down, eventually Vecna will follow through with his plan. The major aspect has come to pass with the giant gate now open in Hawkins and the characters finally back together. It’s a bold decision to end the season this way, but does set up for an epic conclusion to the show. They really expanded on the world this show, giving us the past of the past of the upside down, showing us how the light stuff works, but also how The Mind Flayer came to be.
One of the things that is repeated this season is the importance of memories. Good and bad, so much of this season is about how experiences shape people. From Eleven’s loss and regaining of memories to Henry’s ability to see the memories of others. Another important thing in the show is guilt and mental health. Venca is going after those with mental health issues who are keeping things inside, and he in a way is taking those away. He uses people’s bad memories and trauma against them and paints himself as coming to end their suffering. Once chosen they can only keep away for so long, and how good memories and music are ways of keeping away from him are an interesting factor in the show. He paints it as exposing the truth to the person, with showing Max that deep inside she wanted Billy to die, and I think it’s interesting how much this show and season over-all plays with this idea of the importance of the truth. Everyone in the show is lying to themselves and the truth will eventually come out, whether it did this season or it well next season.
I’m going to separate characters into crews as for the majority of the show they’ve been separated this way.
Let’s start with the Hawkins crew of Dustin, Erica, Lucas, Nancy, Robin, Steve, Max, and Eddie. These are the characters with the most meat this season in terms of acting, character arcs, and moments. They’re the closest to the action for the longest amount of time and because of so are probably the most interesting characters this season.
Gaten Matarazzo is great as always as Dustin Henderson. This season Dustin’s confidence has shot through the roof and is a lot more expressive and over-the-top with his mannerisms. His stuff is related to Eddie and their friendship together. They have a great chemistry together and still has great chemistry with the other characters. Other than facilitating theories and explanations he doesn’t have that much else to do this season in terms of arcs or anything. Maybe about him continuing to be himself after his relationship with Eddie.
Caleb McLaughlin is also great as always as Lucas Sinclair. His arcs this season are really interesting and are tied to a lot of stuff that still hasn’t been fully completed yet. He wants to be popular and not seen as a nerd anymore but still wants to keep his relationships with the part and Max. This leads to a crossroads for him where he ultimately makes the decision to stay with his friends and give up on being a Jock, especially with what happens between him and Jason in the last episode. His wanting for everything ends up exploding in his face in a way when Jason pretty much costs Max her life after accidentally breaking her tape deck.
Joseph Quinn was a great addition this season as Eddie Munson, the eccentric leader of the hellfire club DnD group. He’s a fun character this season, a metalhead free spirit who has been kept behind in high school a few times who the world thinks is a murderous cult leader. His interactions with the Hawkins crew are great and fun and his relationship with Dustin this season is great. His arc this season is him becoming brave and not running away anymore, which he has been doing for most of the season. This ends up with him giving his life to help distract the demobats from going after the rest of the crew in what would be a fruitless manner given how the season ends. It was sad to see him go but it was probably needed to show just how big of a failure the party has this season. He also had the most metal moment in the show playing Master of Puppets in the Upside Down to distract the demobats.
Continuing this trend was probably the stand-out character this season in Sadie Sink’s Max Mayfield. Probably her best season yet in terms of performance and character. Her arc was interesting and tragic and incredible all the same. Her arc throughout this season is about Vecna going after her for the trauma and depression she feels after the death of her step-brother Billy last season. It’s also about her opening up about her feelings to everyone as her guilt in relation to Billy’s death fuels Vecna’s desire to go after her. So much about this season is about her memories in terms of good and bad and how there is power in both. Her good memories can save and protect her while the bad are actively harming her. This results in her eventual death and Coma after everyone fails. She’s there now as a living reminder of their failure which is interesting to me, plus with her mind being elsewhere creates a mystery for the next season to handle if they want to as there were a few times I thought she was going to die for good.
Everyone else here is great as always but don’t go on as much of a journey in terms of changing as characters to talk to much about. Joe Keery is great as always as Steve Harrington who shows how much he’s matured over the seasons. He’s finally open to Nancy about his dreams and his feelings towards everyone. He’s a badass this season as always and I really felt he was going to die in the last episode with how much time they spend on Steve talking about his dreams and the way his romance or feelings with Nancy have started rekindling. Speaking of Nancy, Natalia Dyer is great as always as Nancy Wheeler. She gets some great emotional moments and her skills as a reporter get her to find things out like a detective. She’s also badass this season and the defecto leader of the group and is really great at it. Her chemistry with Robin is great and is a fun pairing together. Maya Hawk as Robin Buckley is great again. This time around its about her becoming more confident in herself and to stop second guessing everything about herself. Priah Ferguson is again amazing as Erica Sinclair. Still as badass and blunt as ever. The other side characters are ok, they all do a good job with the material given and for what their characters are supposed to be. Jason is an ok character, supposed to be that movie jock who gets the town into a frenzy following what is happening. Although a lot of people don’t like his storyline or character, he is there for a reason. He facilitates the town’s probably learning of the truth in the next season as I don’t see how the situation could be solved without them knowing the full truth.
Next we have the Alaska/Russia Crew of Yuri, Dimitri, Joyce, Murray, and Hopper.
Everyone does a great job this season with their characters. They all get their good moments and some badass moments, especially Murray and Hopper. The only real arc that they had this season was Hopper refunding his will to live and escape his situation, and facing his past mistakes and decisions. As well as seeing how soviet people aren’t that different from them as they’re all in this situation and learn just how dangerous everything is. Especially when Dimitri and Yuri learn about what has been happening after finding all the monsters and smokey boy in the russian lab. This is definitely one of the storylines that show how big the show has gotten featuring a full demogorgon fight, prison escapes, a fight in a plan and a plane crash. I know a lot of people didn’t like this storyline, but I feel its necessary to show what they’ve been through, how determined they are, how far the problem can reach, and makes the reuniting that much sweeter.
Next is the California Crew of Eleven, Mike, Will, Johnathan, and Argyle. I also put the Nevada Nina stuff here as well so I’ll add Dr. Brenner and Dr. Owens due to how important they are to Eleven’s arc.
Their storyline is where I feel the show slows down as a lot of their arcs are related to other people. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven is amazing as always. She no longer has that speech pattern and so gets to do more as a character. Her arc is about learning that she might have always been a monster since so much of this season and the show as a whole is related to her past and actions as a younger child. Considering that, in a way, she is the cause of everything once she sent One/Vecna/Henry Creel to the Upside Down in the first place all those years ago. An idea that she’s been debating with for the entirety of the show, if she is a monster or a superhero so it’s interesting to see it continue here. Right now it can be argued that she could be the monster. She created the true monster behind it all, even if it was accidental. It’ll be interesting to see how her story ends in the next season but it will be interesting.
Matthew Modine was amazing again as a returning Dr. Martin Brenner. We really get this sense that he is more complicated this season than we’ve seen in the past. We see the manipulative and controlling side in the present and in the past, but we also see how deep down in his own way he actually does care about the kids in his care at Hawkins Lab, as well as in the present with Eleven. In a way he’s right this season, Eleven is not ready for what is truly coming and she was not. I do think that he is a monster in a way as while Eleven was the one who sent Henry to the Upside Down, he is the one that created Eleven in a way. It was cool to see him return and give Eleven closure to their past together. It was also kind of sad to see him go, especially with how much we learn about him this season.
The next few people I’ll gloss over as they don’t have too much to do this season other than travel to get to Eleven. Finn Wolfhard was good this season, not as good as past seasons but that’s because he doesn’t get too many emotional moments this season to work with. His arc continues the seeming theme of this season about how important it is to tell the truth about how you feel to the people you care about. Something that some other characters don’t accept yet. His other role is to lead them to Eleven and to do Eleven’s CW Flash “Run Barry Run” speech in the last episode to motivate her to fight.
Next is Noah Schnapp as Will Byers. He is great as always and gets some stuff to work with this season being that he wants to be truthful with Mike but just can’t for a number of reasons. He gets some great emotional moments and does well with the little that is given. Hopefully his importance comes back next season which it very well could given where the show is going in season 5.
Next is probably the character with the least to do this season in Charlie Heaton’s Johnathan Byers. He doesn’t have much to do this season since so much of his arc is not wanting to tell Nancy the truth about his college choice. It sucks to see a character that had so much importance in past seasons. He has some good character interactions this season and has good instincts in the face of danger but also his brother and notices how he feels. Honestly while writing this I can see where they were going with Johnathan this season and possibly next season as his arc doesn’t feel finished yet, but he also feels like he’s torn between telling Nancy the truth of how he feels vs possibly just letting her go as he doesn’t want her to give up her dreams for him. This was probably reinforced when he talks to Will in the pizzeria in the last episode. He has a great chemistry with his stoner friend Argyle, played amazingly by Eduardo Franco. He was a fun character this season bringing in a lot of the comedic relief during the frankly boring sections of them traveling to find Eleven, as well as during the intense moments involving the military. He’s a lot of fun.
The Last character I’m going to cover is the amazing Vecna/One/Henry Creel, played greatly by Jamie Campbell Bower. He’s an amazing villain and I’m happy that he didn’t die this season. He’s really intimidating and creepy and his MO is interesting. I do think that him being this “I want too destroy and remake the world” person when he was a child is a little meh, but I get it. The OG special child who can see the true horrors behind people’s lives. I kinda wish it was more that he wants to change the world for the better, now his better is removing the structures that humanity has made for itself which isn’t a bad idea. He actually won, his plan worked and he survived. I like how he’s able to give Eleven a run for her money even before he became Vecna. The only thing about his character that I’m iffy about is how he’s the one that created the mind flayer. I mean I like it but also don’t like it. I like it in that it gives the show a villain with humanity that could be reasoned with in some way, as well as one that has a connection to the characters. I don’t like it as I feel like it removes the mystery from the past seasons, and how this eldritch being that has motives beyond our control is now the creation of an angry psychopath. I do have an idea about that though that I will cover later. Over-all he’s a great villain with a lot to do, and I like how he straight up Michael Myers at the end.
Moving on now to the technical aspects of the show. The computer effects are mostly great this season, especially in terms of the environments in the Upside Down. They really show how big the show has gotten with the environments and just how much we see of the Upside Down which was great. The demogorgon looked great and it was cool to see what it could really do in the prison sequences. A stand-out is the combination of practice suit and CG over-top that made up Vecna. He looked great and was a good decision to have it be a suit with CG on top. I also think the sequence of the gate opening throughout Hawkins was great and looked amazing, and how destructive it was. Where it falls a part a bit is on people. Most of the time when its a CG person it can look pretty bad, like when One is falling into the Upside Down it looks so weird. I’m ok with it on the victims as it can be explained that when he does his killing he unnaturally affects them and takes everything about them so it is ok if it looks uncanny. Other than that the plane stuff looks weird externally, probably could have used more time to look its best. The cinematography was great this season and really helps show the level of budget this season had. A lot of creative moments and some great stuff. A Stand out being the way the show shoots the action this season. It all looks clear and well-thought out, you can see it all and it looks great. The stand-out being the firefight from episode 4 was incredible and a ballsy move to have it be done in one cut. I felt like the editing was also great this season, loving the music montages jumping around the groups and what they’re doing. The use of music this season was amazing as well and very well-done. The Detroit rock city scene from episode one and the Master of Puppets from Episode 9 were both great moments and very well done.
Over-all this season was amazing and I can’t wait to the next. It was emotional, funny, epic, and tragic. It is well worth the watch if you haven’t yet. Two Thumbs up.
Now the main review is done, I’m going to talk about some theories that I have for next season.
- Hawkins will learn the full truth about everything that has happened in the show
- Eleven will likely die, probably killing Vecna
- Eleven could show that Vecna that he doesn’t have to do this, maybe she apologizes to him for what she did to him
- Will will be brought back to importance and not just being the radar he was in Season 4, even though we see that he still can when back in Hawkins
- Likely going to be some major character deaths this season
- Steve and Dustin will be fun together
- The gang with be in hiding due to the town still believing that Hellfire is a cult, and the military being after Eleven and the California crew
- I think that the gang hopefully won’t be separated as they spent a whole season apart and it would be nice to have them back together for the final season
- There will be epic battles
- Some crazy stuff is going to happen
- Will could be the villain with how his story went this season, being unable to open up about his feelings and being the perpetual third wheel in everyone’s relationships.
- A general theory I have is that The Mind Flayer was an already existing entity with the abilities it already has, and that Vecna just gave it form and a purpose. And it gives Vecna the power to do what he wants.
- That there will be a character introduced with a name that starts with B and ends with a E sound that people will like and will die. Every season has had it happen. Benny and Barb from season 1, Bob Newby from season 2, Billy from season 3, and now Fred Bunson, Dr. Martin Brenner and Eddie Munson from this season.
- I think that there could be some kind of time shenanigans
- That Max could be the key in all of this given her situation at the end of the season
At the end here I’m going to include these incredible posters by Billy the Butcher for the episodes of the season.