Stranger Things season 4 volumes 1 and 2 were released within the span of a month and gave us a mind-numbing story that we didn't even know we were waiting for!
The Duffer brothers, Matt and Ross, earlier said how this season of Stranger Things was their Game of Thrones and after watching the two volumes, it definitely can be said so! While there was speculation going around that season 4 which was coming after a wait of 3 years was going to be the last season of Stranger Things, thankfully it's not so. But this doesn't make Stranger Things season 4 any less of an epic ride with that unimaginable origin story. The season is divided into two volumes, a dice thrown by the makers that could've been risky but worked in favor of the show given the heavy-handed content of the season that requires patience to be consumed even for die-hard fans.
The strongest suit of Stranger Things has always been its dark content that's able to talk through metaphors and the mere fact that a children's play could be made so believable, addictive, humanistic, and encapsulate an era with all its truth and high-riding emotions. Season 4 doesn't leave behind the core of Stranger Things, even though the show takes a much darker turn than the previous seasons. The season starts in 1986, after almost six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought so much terror and destruction to Hawkins and even causing deaths. While the whole gang is struggling with its aftermath, it's for the first time that our beloved group of friends are separated and are at different locations instead of different teams in the same place. And everything seems to be changing and not for the good but actually for the worst, which the gang needs to navigate through.
The young kids have all grown up and entered the world of high school and each one is dealing with complexities on their own. But there lies a more horrifying and supernatural threat ahead of them as Vecna who is hell-bent on possessing and killing in Hawkins. So apart from being divided into two volumes, the fourth season is also divided into locations like Hawkins, Nina Project, California, and Russia. As was already predicted, Stranger Things season 4 with both its volumes is highly dark and is the perfect tribute to the era that it is representing. From Katie Bush's song, horror films, metal music to cult groups, ignorance of the actual truth, representation of Russia and drugs while also maintaining the core of Stranger Things that is D&D and a story about finding your strength in friendship, family, love, longing, reunions, all while coming of age. Though the length and stretchiness of the show require some patience, the culmination of it all makes you want more!
Just as the kids of Stranger Things have grown so have the seasons and this one is heavily loaded with a maximum of action lying in Hawkins. We see Dustin, Steve, Eddie, Nancy, Robin, Lucas, Erica, and Max being on a hunt to find the real identity of Vecna while also working on saving Max from his possession and finally fighting with him to stop him in his evil plans. They do this all while fighting a cult in town that's risen because of people dealing with grief, being scared of black magic and unknown sudden deaths, and blame it all on Eddie and D&D. The characters of Hawkins and its storyline with all its humor and seriousness will have you in its raptures completely where you're screaming, shouting, praying and what not!
The other location aka the Nina Project makes sense in the larger scheme of things and elevates the story to the next level. Eleven has lost her powers and is dealing with bullying in school and is taken to an unknown place where Dr. Brenner’s Nina Project is. There she's put in a water tank to relive her past memories through recordings and gain her powers back. She regains her power greater than before and with her mind travel goes out to help the Hawkins team fight Vecna. It's finally revealed that Vecna is none other than Victor Creel’s son as well as the first child of Dr. Brenner, who had taken him under his wing as One and is related to Eleven as she's the one that actually sends him off into the other world of Upside Down. While Eleven comes face to face with her truth from the past she's not entirely ready to fight off Vecna who has been planning the world's destruction for so long.
Even though the origin story is quite heavy and has to connect all the dots with all the previous seasons, the makers don't rush anything to tell the story, and this slow patient reveal works in the show's favor. Its visually stunning VFX, color palette, and makeup add to the fantasy but it's the sheer belief in human intricacies that leave you so hooked to the show. Vecna doesn't take possession and kill off random people, rather he harpers on the darkness festering within human beings. And while I have always believed that Stranger Things is a show that has metaphorically with Demogorgons or Mind Flayer always talked about mental health, this season with Vecna and its reference to the darkness and lightness concept makes me sure of it.
America's view of Russia, a country that is always in competition, is aptly depicted in the show. After a long tussle, Hopper is finally rescued by Joyce and Murray from the horrific Russian prison where with Yuri and Dimtri they discover a hoard of Demogorgon and mini Mind Flayer encapsulated and get to know that the kids are in trouble and decide to help from Russia. With the whole storyline of Hopper, the show takes on the role of Shawshank Redemption for a while and also depicts the darkness of the prison. But while it's an interesting plotline in the larger scheme of things, it feels too stretched and a bit derivate hence falling a little flat even for Hopper and Joyce's kiss finally.
But given the rest of the locations, the worst location comes off as California where a worried Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Argyle set off to look for Eleven who's first arrested and then taken off to Nina Project, the location of which eventually is found out with the help of Dustibun's girlfriend Suzie. And after reuniting with Eleven, they help her in her mind travel by building a deprivation tank. It's disappointing because Mike, Will, and even Johnathan who have always been quite central and guiding characters in the plotline, have been sidelined. Mike, who has always been a guiding heart, just as the painting also depicts, is disappointingly reduced to a helpless lover. Will's secret and Johnathan being lost are great arcs that just haven't been explored well enough.
The logic at times seems complete off like the presents of the kids, and by the end as usual the entire gang from different locations come all together to fight off Vecna. By this time, you forget about everything else (that metallic piece). Even though all of them together just simply are able to hurt him but not stop him, Vecna's curse after four sacrifices works as Hawkins experiences the worst ever earthquake seen in history, and Max is barely saved. But the dark clouds hovering above Hawkins' ring show that Vecna isn't gone, in fact, he just started. And now we finally understand why this is not the end but just the beginning!
Stranger Things season 4 has been the biggest season of all that was totally worth the wait and probably is the best season of all, especially after the not-so-good season 3, and ended up giving us all the answers that we probably weren't even looking for. And while everything from the story, color tone, effects, and acting have all been at par, you have to admit that the biggest character growth has to be Steve's. And the scene stealers of this season were definitely the music and Dustin, Steve, Eddie, Max, and of course the Hawkins gang, and Vecna too! And yes, even though they didn't look like heroes they surely acted as one!
Also Read: Here are all the reviews from the Janta after the jaw-dropping finale of Stranger Things season 4 volume 2
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