Stranger Things season 4 turns usual format upside down


Stranger Things amps up the stakes in its fourth season but ultimately fails to find the charm that helped the previous seasons succeed. Without the sets, music or dialogue that helped create the 80s feel of the earlier seasons, season 4 decides to focus more on horror, which makes it feel larger but not much like the show that everyone fell in love with in middle school. With the characters split up among states and even continents, the small town feel has completely vanished into a CGI-filled conclusion with overly long episodes that have gone from a story about friendship to a story about monsters. However, despite its turn away from what it once was, Stranger Things season four manages to do what the show has always done best: it entertains. 

With Joyce and Murray off to the Soviet Union to rescue Hopper, and the Byers living a peaceful life with El in California, the remaining crew in Hawkins has to work together to defeat the new big bad Vecna without the help of their superpowered friend. While the Hawkins plot manages to be the most entertaining and best written part of the season, the other storylines feel left out to dry as they drag on for more than half a season. It felt like the writers had no idea what to do with certain characters and gave them nothing to do for multiple episodes while writing some of the worst dialogue seen so far on the series. Mike spends the entire season worrying about his relationship with El only for the payoff to be a cheesy monologue in a pizza restaurant, and Jonathan stresses about his relationship with Nancy only for there to be no payoff whatsoever. 

While most of the relationships that were built up in the earlier seasons are spread apart in season four, the best ones remain in Hawkins. Episode four proves that. ‘Dear Billy’ showed the talent that could have been present throughout the whole season. With great action, emotion and plot, episode four is one of the best episodes in the entire series. After an excellent ending in the mid-season finale that tied lots of dragged out plot points together, the payoff in the final two episodes, while entertaining and with plenty of good action, felt like it could have been much better. The overuse of CGI and a predictable death after a two-and-half-hour long episode made me miss the low stakes and emphasis on friendship that seasons one and two had mastered. 

Overall, Stranger Things 4’s thrilling action, massive reveals, many jumpscares and gruesome deaths are enough to make a satisfactory season, but it didn’t truly lift off without the relationships and atmosphere that were built up over the first three seasons. Hopefully with all of the characters reunited, season 5 will be able to better toe the line between epicness and relationships to create a great finale to one of the most popular shows of all time.