Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

Stranger Things Season 4 will cap off later this week with the release of Volume 2. As a refresher, I’ve combed through the first volume of season four to find my favorite moments for your reading pleasure. Check them out below, and let us know which aspects of the current crop of Stranger Things episodes you enjoyed most!

RELATED: Stranger Things Creators Reveal Backstory of Eleven’s Unique Speech Patterns

New Players (But Mostly Eddie Munson)

Yes, Stranger Things’ cast has grown remarkably over the last several seasons, leading Millie Bobby Brown to joke that the creators need to start killing people off, Game of Thrones style. She certainly has a point, but I’m not going to complain — so long as the new players are as fun as those introduced in season four.

Case in point: Eddie Munson — leader of the Hellfire Club and perhaps this season’s diamond in the rough. As portrayed by Joseph Quinn, Eddie serves mostly as comic support, but still manages to lend an incredible amount of emotional depth to this side character. That early bit between him and ill-fated cheerleader Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) goes a long way in establishing his infectious charisma, as does his playful big brother banter with the likes of Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery). In other words, this guy belongs with the Hawkins gang, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Duffers let him linger through Season 5.

Other newbies include Eduardo Franco’s pot-smoking Argyle, who adds more colorful comedic support (though, admittedly, he’s a bit too one-dimensional for my liking); Mason Dye’s likable, though misguided, Jason Carver; and Tom Wlaschiha’s slimeball-turned-hero Dmitri. Oh, and let’s not forget Jamie Campbell Bower’s mysterious Peter Ballard (more on that below).

Vecna’s Curse

The first episode of season four gives us a nice recap of where our plucky heroes are at this point in time, and even gives Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) a glorious buzzer beater that wins the game for the Hawkins basketball team, placing him among the “cool” kids of the high school. Throughout these early character beats, we also follow a young cheerleader named Chrissy as she attempts to ward off nightmares featuring clocks and an evil entity who our heroes dub Vecna.

In the final scene of the lengthy intro, Chrissy heads to Eddie’s house for recreational drugs and ends up incurring Vecna’s cruel wrath. The demon lifts Chrissy into the air, breaks her bones and gouges out her eyes in bloody fashion. It’s a shocking moment that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the season, and allows us to fully grasp the hefty stakes that are in play.

Later, we see the same gruesome fate applied to Nancy’s fellow newspaper editor Fred Benson (Logan Riley Bruner), and basketball star Patrick McKinney (Myles Truitt). Each death pushes the series in intense new directions and keeps us on the edge of our seats praying our Hawkins heroes make it out of this season in one piece.

Murray’s Karate

Brett Gelman’s Murray was always a fan favorite despite his limited screen time, but in season four, the man really gets a chance to shine. After being swindled by Yuri (Nikola Djuricko), Murray and Joyce find themselves stuck on a plane headed for Kamchatka, Russia. Thanks to quick thinking on Joyce’s part, the pair escapes their bonds. This draws the attention of Yuri, who heads into the cabin to retake control of the situation. Luckily, Murray has a black belt in karate (at least, according to him) and uses his deadly set of skills to take down the turncoat. Later, he fights a handful of Russians in a prison and helps save Jim Hopper (David Harbour) from certain death. Hell yeah, Murray!

The Nightmare Connection

Stranger Things has always used bits and pieces from ’80s movies to fuel its intricate plots, and season four is no exception. Drawing heavily from the slasher films of the era, the Duffer Brothers do their best Wes Craven impersonation to deliver the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot/remake I never knew I needed. From casting the great Robert Englund for a brief (but essential) cameo to framing Vecna as a Freddy Krueger-like being who preys upon the fears of children (and even boasts his own oversized claw), Stranger Things Season 4 does a terrific job remixing elements of the Elm Street franchise into something wholly original.

There are also callbacks to Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, and Halloween, but this new season is undoubtedly first and foremost a loving homage to Craven’s terrifying 1984 shocker — and it’s all the better for it.

Nancy Wheeler Takes Charge

Nancy (Natalia Dyer) has always stepped up in big situations throughout Stranger Things, but her leadership really takes center stage in season four. From the onset, Nancy takes action into her own hands by beginning her own investigation into Chrissy’s violent death. Her efforts give our ragtag heroes important details regarding Vecna, setting the stage for the big reveal in the closing moments of Episode 7. Later, she plunges into a lake to save Steve from certain death and makes other important decisions throughout that all but cements her as the de facto leader of the Hawkins group. Also, she needs to ditch Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and get back with Steve.

Dustin’s Arrogance

While characters like Steve and Max are learning to dump their arrogant personas and open up to their friends more, Dustin seems like he’s headed in the other direction. The foul-mouthed hero makes a number of discoveries that aid in the battle against Vecna but does so in a manner that draws more eye rolls than applause from his mates.

At one point, Dustin, frustrated with his friends’ lack of understanding, exclaims, “How many times do I have to be right on the money before you trust me?” Prompting Steve to wonder out loud, “Jesus Christ. This kid’s gotta get his ego in check.” “It’s his tone, right?” Eddie says.

This isn’t a knock on Dustin, whose confidence is matched only by Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson), but rather a shoutout to the young man’s natural progression from pint-sized supporting character to full-fledged warrior. I’m all for Dustin taking command, though it’s fair to wonder if Steve and Eddie’s criticisms are foreshadowing bad things to come.

Lucas’ Big win

Lucas remains one of my favorite original cast members on Stranger Things, so naturally, I fist-pumped after the kid made his big shot to win the semi-finals matchup at the tail end of the first episode. The only downside to Lucas’ feel-good story is that none of his friends are around to witness the big moment, which naturally leads to some tension later on. His big shot also places Lucas amongst the popular crowd, where he struggles to adapt to their culture — parties, drinking, and girls. Things take a turn after Chrissy dies, prompting team captain Jason Carver (Mason Dye) to take up arms against those he assumes are responsible — i.e., Eddie and the Hellfire Club. Thankfully, Lucas sees through the folly and rejoins his mates during their quest to bring down Vecna.

As a side, actor Caleb McLaughlin requested to wear No. 8 on his basketball jersey to pay respects to Kobe Bryant. Can we give Lucas the MVP award already?

Joyce and Hopper Reunite

Not everything about season four is perfect. Case in point: Hopper’s Russian storyline, which spins its wheels for far too long before finally breaking loose in Episode 7. Even so, the payoff is ultimately worth the wait as we get to see Hopper chuck a spear in the mouth of a Demogorgon and reunite with Joyce for the first time since his “death scene” in the final episode of Season 3. The latter is a genuinely sweet moment acted to perfection by Harbour and Winona Ryder. We see how much they mean to each other — she flies to Russia to save his life on a whim — and can’t wait to see the pair take on Vecna alongside Eleven and the gang.

Eleven Gets Revenge

Eleven/Jane spends the early episodes of season four basically defending herself from some extremely vicious bullies who seemingly go out of their way to tear the young girl down in front of her peers. The conflict comes to a head at a roller rink where the bully ring leader, Angela (Elodie Grace Orkin), who must’ve missed the part in Carrie where the victim uses her mind powers to vanquish an entire school, attacks and embarrasses El in front of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Will (Noah Schnapp). Naturally, El retaliates by breaking Angela’s nose with a roller skate. And while the series treats this moment as a low point for El, I honestly couldn’t help but applaud El’s actions — Angela had it coming! Violence is bad in any way shape or form, but sheesh, who wouldn’t clock Angela in the face after her actions?

At any rate, this moment was immensely satisfying, even though I can recognize the darker implications.

Number 1’s True Identity

Like Hopper’s plot, El’s storyline takes a long time to reach its destination. Patience is certainly rewarded, however, as the final episode reveals the truth behind the “Massacre at Hawkins Lab” and answers a number of burning questions in the process. In the first episode, we see Hawkins Lab strewn with corpses of children and assume El has committed the atrocity — hence my concerns following the roller skate episode. As it turns out, El isn’t actually a murdering psychopath. That label falls on the mysterious Peter Ballard (Jamie Campbell Bower), who is actually One — Dr. Brenner’s first test subject, and a being of immense power. Peter tricks El into removing the chip in his neck and then proceeds to murder everyone inside Hawkins Lab. El uses her power to throw Peter into the Upside Down where he morphs into the big, bad Vecna. It’s also revealed that he was the son of Victor Creel (Robert Englund), and more or less a sadistic murderer whose actions essentially set the entire Stranger Things universe in motion. Mind blown.

Yeah, this whole backstory does raise some continuity questions, but I’ll forgive the occasional lapses when the results are this awesome.

RELATED: Stranger Things Director Shares Behind-the-Scenes Look at Season 4

Max’s Big Scene

As great as all of these moments in season four of Stranger Things were, nothing comes close to Max’s big scene. When we first see Max she’s haunted by the death of Billy (Dacre Montgomery, who died off in Season 3). This inner turmoil makes her an easy target for Vecna. Following the deaths of Chrissy and Fred, Max’s hauntings grow more severe and she essentially prepares for her death by writing letters to friends and family. Whilst delivering a letter to Billy’s grave, Max suddenly finds herself face-to-face with Vecna in the Upside Down and very nearly bites the dust, until Lucas, Dustin, and Steve use the power of music — in this case, Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” — and friendship to punch a hole in Vecna’s domain, allowing Max to break free from her bonds and escape to freedom.

Aside from Sadie Sink’s exquisite acting, the moment encompasses everything I tune into Stranger Things for — action, horror, drama, ’80s nostalgia, and an inspiring story about the powers of friendship. Great stuff!

Now, we begin the long wait until July 1.

By admin