I’m finally catching up on Stranger Things: Season 4

This is definitely a case of “better late than never,” but nine months after it dropped on Netflix, I’m finally getting around to watching the fourth season of Stranger Things. Miraculously, I’ve managed to avoid most spoilers, although I know everyone was obsessed with Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill” and a character named Eddie had a killer guitar solo in the Upside Down. 

It’s not that I didn’t necessarily have time to catch up on Stranger Things before now; it’s just that the summer of 2022 was an emotional whirlwind and I was never quite in the mood to watch a show that I knew was going to be dark and emotional. Last summer, my 19-year-old cat was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. I had my own cancer scare, though I’m incredibly grateful the results came back benign. We had an unexpected move and had to put our house on the market rather quickly.

I finally started watching Stranger Things season 4 in early 2023 and then had a bad fall that led to a mild concussion, potentially fractured nose, and a damaged tooth that will need a root canal in the near future (lucky me!). But I’m a stubborn completionist, and since I started Stranger Things before the accident, I pressed on ahead. 

This season is intense – both storywise and emotionally. It really doubles-down on the horror genre, and I’ll admit, I watched it with all the lights turned on. Stranger Things continues to be compelling television, the sort of show that always makes you want to watch “just a little more” because you’re dying to find out what happens next. 

I remember when Stranger Things first became a buzzworthy hit back in 2016, and EVERYONE was talking about it. Overall, I think those first two seasons were the best, the perfect blend of ’80s nostalgia, a great cast of young actors, and a vibe that was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with a strong dose of horror and a splash of Dungeons and Dragons. 

I’d rank season 4 slightly above season 3. It doesn’t have the same fresh, “wow” factor as the first two seasons, but I’ve come to love all these characters and I want to keep watching to see what happens next. 

The villain is definitely creepy (I always watch a light and fluffy video right before bed so I don’t have Vecna haunting my dreams). But what makes him interesting is the fact that this character is not just about having a creepy villain to move the plot along; this creature is haunting children with deep emotional trauma, and fighting Vecna forces the characters to confront their own struggles and grief. 

The show also addresses themes of loneliness and belonging, and I wasn’t prepared for this season to dredge up my own memories of feeling like a nerdy outsider in high school. It’s hard for Lucas to resist the temptation to hide parts of himself to seem more like the “cool kids,” and Will and Eleven’s fresh start in California isn’t all they hoped it would be. 

Here’s some other miscellaneous thoughts about the season, in no particular order:

  • Lucas’ younger sister Erica continues to be a scene-stealer, and I love that Dustin and Mike recruit her to be the back-up player in Eddie’s D&D match. She’s a delight.
  • As much as I adore Hopper, Joyce, and conspiracy-loving Murray, the “Hopper in Russia” scenes were probably the least compelling part of this season. Hopper’s return feels just a little forced, even though his “death” broke my heart in season 3 and I should in theory be glad to have him back. This whole section definitely had major “side plot” energy and stretched believability a bit, at least for me. 
  • I loved seeing Steve, Robin, and Nancy teaming up with the younger kids to solve the mystery and defeat Vecna. 
  • Eleven had better get a happy ending after all this, because this poor girl has been through so much and I want to see her live a normal, peaceful life. 
  • I think it’s good the show is ending in season 5. Less is more when it comes to TV, and once a show passes five or six seasons, there’s a strong chance it could overstay its welcome. Also, there’s only so many times poor Hawkins, Indiana, can be terrorized before you find yourself wondering why the CIA doesn’t just come in and shut down the town and find everyone a new home in a place that’s not haunted by the Upside Down. 

Even though I’m a little sad I missed out on the conversation surrounding the show’s release, I feel like waiting to watch it was a wise decision for me. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it last summer, and again, I’m surprised and pleased I was able to avoid most spoilers. I’m ready for season 5 to wrap up the story and to see how everything ends (hopefully not with the apocalypse!). 

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