STRANGER THINGS: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, Brett Gelman, Jamie Campbell Bower, Eduardo Franco, and Joseph Quinn
Creators: The Duffer Brothers
With Part One of Stranger Things‘ fourth season, The Duffer Brothers set the stage for the darkest, scariest, and strangest season yet. In reflecting how far these characters and the audience have come, the tone is more mature while also keeping the elements that have made it Netflix’s best original series intact. Furthermore, the scope of the season is insane, with a reported price tag of $30 million per episode. It was worth every penny because this season is truly astonishing. It feels more like a cinematic experience than a TV series, and each episode will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Part Two marks the beginning of the end for Stranger Things, which is thrilling for both the characters and the fans. It’s truly one of the best seasons of television ever created, achieved by elevating the series’ greatest aspects through a more cinematic approach and more mature inspiration. It’s much closer to dark horror films like Poltergeist and A Nightmare on Elm Street than E.T. and The Goonies now. Given the episode runtimes, Netflix probably should have released the season weekly, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll be glad you got stuck in the Upside Down again.
For multiple reasons, I was skeptical about Stranger Things’ fourth season, and while it’s certainly not terrible, Part One just didn’t do it for me. There are four mostly unconnected storylines, but since they are working overtime to set up Part Two (and the final season), they are only interesting about half the time. It’s also a little distracting just how much the child actors have aged out of their characters. That said, this season is the best since Season One, and there are nearly six hours of story still to come. It’s possible that everything ties together nicely once all is said and done.
Being Part Two, it’s understandable that several of my issues with Part One have carried over to these final episodes. That said, the disparate storylines (unnecessary subplots and all) eventually come together in a way that mostly make sense, and the final showdown may be the best stretch of the entire series. However, judging the season as a whole, it just takes so long to get to the grand finale (not to mention the 40-minute epilogue) that the climactic impact of it is somewhat muted. Still, it’s a worthwhile, if imperfect, season, and I hope Metallica’s “Master of Puppets'' enjoys the same “Kate Bush bump.”
The long awaited fourth season of Stranger Things jumps right into the series’ major strength: lovable young stars with refined acting ability being comfortable in their roles. They carry this season through fairly commonplace coming-of-age, thriller, and horror storylines. It’s a much darker season, and show creators The Duffer Brothers bring that out with grander scale, story, and direction. The cast fills the growing world with charm and commitment, and while the episodes’ length are heavily felt if binge-watched, following the characters you love keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Now we wait expectantly for the final two episodes to arrive with Part Two.
In its fourth season, Stranger Things is the strongest it has ever been, arguably positioning itself to be one great season away from being the best Sci-Fi series of all time. It takes all the best parts of previous seasons and learns from their missteps. Breaking the season into two parts allows for the final two episodes (aka movies) to wrap up multiple storylines with extremely satisfying cohesion, concluding the penultimate season in an intense and emotional way. It also has one of the most badass guitar solos in recent memory, which mirrors the exhilaration evoked throughout the nine epic episodes.
Packed with story to the point of straining, the first part of Season Four of Stranger Things is nonetheless off to a great start. It’s unlikely anything surpasses the micro-miracle of Season One, but this batch of episodes does a lot to resurrect the good parts of the last two seasons, including re-introducing the Upside Down and Hawkins Lab as major players in the overall narrative. It can sometimes feel overwhelming with the epic runtimes and multiple story threads to follow, but the character work and performances are excellent, while the editing this time around may be the best it’s ever been.
Following the release of Part Two, I can confidently say that this season of Stranger Things is easily the best season since the first, a return to form for the show itself, and a huge triumph for Netflix. There is a lot of story to keep up with, which can make some episodes feel bloated, but on the whole, it’s excellently paced and brilliantly edited. The Amblin-style horror vibes are back in full-force, and nearly every character gets something interesting to do as the season finale ratchets up the tension for one final go-round. Bring on season 5!