‘Stranger Things 4’ Season Review: Heroes and Heartbreak

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The hit show Stranger Things returned this summer on Netflix with its largest and most ambitious installment yet, Stranger Things 4. The season has been described, multiple times, by the Duffer Brothers as their “Game of Thrones” season due to the enormous scale and extensive runtime. Not only that, it sees multiple plot lines occurring simultaneously that eventually connect in the end. 

This all culminated in an Avengers: Infinity War-esque finale where the heroes of Hawkins actually end up failing, as Vecna’s plan succeeds. This leaves the story on a massive cliffhanger, which will likely take another two years or so to be answered. After sitting with my thoughts for a while, I came to some conclusions about this season. But first, let’s take a look at the good and bad of Stranger Things 4.

[Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things 4 below!]

Impressive villains from Stranger Things 4

Jamie Campbell Bower, Sadie Sink, and Joseph Quinn gave incredible Emmy-worthy performances this season. The characters they portray were far and away the most intriguing this season, due to the tremendous performances given. Along with Millie Bobby Brown who has been remarkable as Eleven since the very beginning. 

Jamie Campbell Bower as One
Jamie Campbell Bower as Henry Creel/One

Henry Creel/Vecna/One’s monologue in episode seven is extremely bone-chilling, due to the cunning delivery from Jamie Campbell Bower. Not only did Bower play grown-up Henry Creel/001 at Hawkin’s Lab, but he also brought Vecna to life in a fully practical suit that took over seven hours to put on every single day.

Along with the practical suit, Bower provided the voice of Vecna, completely changing his voice to match the horrifying nature of Vecna’s physical form. All of this shows Jamie Campbell Bower’s complete dedication to the character that helped to transcend Stranger Things 4 to a whole new level.

Exceptional Heroes

Sadie Sink gave a number of highlight performances as Max, especially in the episode “Dear Billy” which mainly focused on her being haunted by Vecna and preparing to die. Putting Max into the spotlight was a smart move, she’s been destined for a bigger role in the show for a while now. It’s clear Sink is a star in the making and giving her a larger storyline paid off. 

Oh, boy did Joseph Quinn make Eddie Munson quite the character. Quinn gave a truly charismatic performance for the ages this season. Eddie Munson was your newest 80’s heartthrob of Hawkins, even taking some of the love and attention away from fan-favorite Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) and inspiring amazing fan art like the one below.

 

(prints are available for sale by StarBlueArt on Etsy)

But Stranger Things, once again, broke our hearts by taking this amazing and truly unique character away from us after only one season. Luckily, season four was extended and fans received extensive time with Eddie and his Hawkins adventure. 

Behind-the-scenes praise

Besides characters, a hats-off is in order for the entire crew that worked on this show. Under the incredibly difficult circumstances of Covid, they put together spectacular VFX work, sets, and cinematography. There were very few moments that took me out of a scene due to something looking off in the VFX or practicality, something that has, unfortunately, become common in some other franchises. 

Stranger Things season 4
(L to R) Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson, and Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley in Stranger Things (Netflix)

Finally, the writing for this season was impeccable. The Duffer Brothers really put something sensational together with this piece of work. Few shows have wowed me in the past few years the way this season did. The three-year wait was well worth it, with this season swiftly becoming one of my favorite seasons of a TV show in recent memory.

The bad of Stranger Things 4

There were no outright horrible moments in this season, I would say. However, some aspects didn’t land as well as others. The California story outside of Eleven became a bit stale at points. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Argyle (Eduardo Franco) could have reunited with Eleven a little bit sooner than they did.

I would have liked to see the California Crew get involved with Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) and Dr. Brenner’s (Matthew Modine) secret lab. The dynamic between Mike and Dr. Brenner could have been interesting. But ultimately, I was beyond content with Eleven’s story this season, while Mike and Will could have made that storyline become too crowded. 

Stranger Things 4 Series review- Eddie
Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in Stranger Things 4

The one true astronomical error made this season was killing off Eddie Munson. A truly brutal mistake, Stranger Things once again continued the trend of killing one-season-only heroes. This time they killed possibly the largest fan-favorite character yet. Eddie Munson’s character also felt unfulfilled, as we will never see a true redemption moment where Eddie goes from the enemy of Hawkins to the Hero of Hawkins. Eddie’s storyline certainly should be fulfilled in the final season. Instead, a bit of a sour taste will be left in the mouth of fans over this character’s fate.  

A Wasted Character

Jason (Mason Dye) also felt like a throwaway character with very little character growth. The final episode finally gave the character a chance to redeem himself by showing that the Hellfire club weren’t the bad guys. The door was wide open to give Jason a season five character arc, where he learns of Eddie’s heroic acts and dedicates himself to helping our heroes of Hawkins in honor of victims like Chrissy and Eddie. But instead, we got what felt like a bit of a cheap moment, where he dies as the town of Hawkins splits open, mainly due to Jason’s ignorance.

There were moments here and there where I felt like the story could have moved at a swifter pace. I do feel as though Hopper’s storyline lost track a bit towards the end of the season. The writers knew it wasn’t feasible for Hopper and crew to make it back to Hawkins so soon. They chose to keep them fighting in the prison, with what felt like very minimal stakes. Other than that, I am ecstatic about the season that we just witnessed. 

Closing thoughts on Stranger Things season 4

I don’t tend to use this word often anymore, but Stranger Things 4 was a masterpiece. Through and through, the level of excellence matched in the writing, directing, production, and acting is astonishing. This season is certainly a feat rarely achieved in modern television. Getting all of this season shot throughout the height of COVID is even more impressive. It was a time when the world was as separate as possible, making it difficult to work as a unit. But the entire Stranger Things team truly pulled it off, delivering a season that is miles stronger than season three and far ahead of any TV show out at the moment.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, and Eduardo Franco as Argyle in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
(L to R) Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, and Eduardo Franco as Argyle in Stranger Things (Netflix)

The show also revolutionized nostalgic songs like “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush and “Master of Puppets” by Metallica. I’ve spent the past month hearing “Running Up That Hill” on every social media platform nonstop. Along with that, I have been reading theories and conversing with friends about the series. The complete cultural takeover matched with true excellence in production and acting has made this show a very rare commodity.

Season four has officially come to a close, with fans now waiting for the grand finale that is season five to arrive, as it has high marks to beat following the masterful Stranger Things 4. But what did you think of this season? Leave a comment on Twitter and let us know!

Want more information about the individual volumes? Check out Brian’s reviews for Stranger Things Vol.1 and Vol. 2!

 

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