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“Stranger Things” Is Back! Thoughts On The First Part of Season 4

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for all seasons of “Stranger Things”

It’s July 2016, you are lying comfortably on the couch as the theme song of “Stranger Things” plays for the first time and you watch the whole room turn red due to the TV lights. By the end of the episode, you need to know: what happened to Will Byers?

Set in the 1980s, the sci-fi horror TV show is one of the most popular productions on Netflix right now, and the beginning of the end is getting closer. The last two episodes of season 4 – coming out on July 1st — will set up the conclusion of the show in its 5th and final season. So what were the most important things from Volume 1 of Season 4 so far?

The Premise

After following Hawkins’ events for three seasons – which took place between 1983 and 1985 –, season 4 picks up about 6 months from the last time we saw the characters. One of the things that surprised the viewers the most this season was seeing the group divided and the story happening in four different places.

Eleven starts off in Lenora, dealing with the loss of her father and her powers, as well as being bullied in her new school. However, everything changes when she goes back to the cares of Dr. Owens and Dr. Brenner. In an attempt to get her powers back, the doctors do experiments on her and end up revealing pieces of her past she had forgotten.

That’s also when Mike, Will, Jonathan and his new friend, Argyle, start on a quest to get Eleven back. After finding out that Hopper is still alive, but being held prisoner in a soviet prison, Joyce also leaves California with Murray to rescue him. Back in Hawkins, the other characters are investigating the strange deaths that are occurring and trying to find a way to stop the new monster, Vecna, from killing people. That happened to save Max’s life from the monster’s “curse” and clear the name of the town’s number one suspect, Eddie Munson.

The kids aren’t kids anymore

After the summer blockbuster movie vibe for season 3 – with the supernatural events laid on top of teenage romance and goofy scenes – creators Matt and Ross Duffer decided to take the horror factor up a notch for season 4.

The kids aren’t kids anymore, so now they can be put into danger that truly is scary. During “Stranger Things 4 Volume 1: Unlocked”, an official after show on Netflix Geeked Week, the Duffer Brothers said they took references from their own high school experiences on their approach to season 4, which made them want to tackle serious subjects such as depression and anxiety. 

With this being a sci-fi horror show, they decided to represent these subjects with a monster who preys on people, especially teenagers who have gone through some kind of traumatic experience, and tortures them with twisted versions of these memories. Another thing that adds to the tone of the narrative is Vecna using a clock to taunt its victims, which ticks in the background of a lot of scenes, giving an overall sense of anxiety and inescapable tragedies. 

The darkness, in this season, also comes from the encounter with an alleged serial killer, Victor Creel, in a sanatorium, as well as the investigation of his supposedly haunted abandoned house.

Running Up That Hill

A lot of the personal events of season 4 are shown by following the characters’ responses to things that happened in the previous season. The biggest one, probably, being Max’s mourning over Billy, which made one of the most iconic scenes of the show possible .

With an entire episode named after this event – “Dear Billy” –, Max becomes aware that she is the next victim of Vecna and starts saying goodbye to her loved ones in case they can’t save her. She reads the letter she wrote to her brother by his grave – that’s actually the first time Max really admits her feelings and says them out loud, even if she’s not close enough for anyone to listen. That’s when her time runs out and Vecna takes her into his “mind prison” to end her life. At the same time, Dustin, Lucas and Steve figure out from Nancy and Robin that music might be the way to break the monster’s control over her mind. 

Max’s favorite song, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Kate Bush, starts playing over the scene as she finds the light within the darkness and runs to save herself. This scene is now considered one of the most incredible, emotional and memorable moments of the entire show. The song, which has been out for 37 years, became the most played song on Spotify worldwide after the release of the episode, marking the strength of Stranger Things in pop culture right now.

Vecna

Another iconic moment of not only this season, but of the entire show, was the revelation of Vecna on episode 7. The creators Matt and Ross revealed that they drew inspiration from the movies they loved when they were in high school to create the villain for season 4.

One of the horror movie villains from the 80s that inspired them was Freddy Krueger, from A Nightmare on Elm Street – whose actor, Robert Englund, makes an appearance as Victor Creel. Instead of continuing with the animalesque kind of monsters like the Demogorgon and the Mind-Flayer, the Duffer Brothers wanted a new villain that felt more human and intelligent.

Vecna brings all of that not only by the way he chooses his victims – by preying on emotionally vulnerable teenagers –, but also by his backstory, when we find out he used to be human and a character we already knew. The revelation that Creel’s son was actually One, who was also the nurse helping Eleven in her flashbacks was turned into Vecna by her when she first opened the portal to the Upside Down was mind-blowing. It was an intricately planned and incredibly executed plot twist, made unforgettable by Jamie Campbell Bowers performance.

The actor spent about 7 hours on the makeup chair every time he needed to turn into Vecna with a series of prosthetics being applied to his entire body and a mechanical left hand to create the monster’s elongated fingers. Vecna was mostly done with practical effects – the digital ones were used only to remove his nose and to add moving vines to his body. 

The visual effects used for his victims also made the season full of gore, since Vecna’s modus operandi is to suck teenagers’ eyes into their heads and crack their bones as they are levitated. All of this measured up to be what is now considered one of the most iconic villains from fiction.

What to expect from Volume 2 and Season 5

Season 4 was split into two parts with over a month of waiting in between to keep the hype for the finale as we brainstorm theories, instead of having all our questions answered in a one-day binge-watch. However, the creators of the show said that not all of our questions will be answered in the last two episodes, rather a lot of them will be left for the final season. Matt and Ross also stated that a lot of the mythology about the origin of the Upside Down and its creatures will be a key part of Season 5.

For the final two episodes that compose Volume 2 of Stranger Things 4, we hope to get the answers to the following questions, at least: Will they be able to defeat Vecna and save Max’s life permanently? Will Eleven get her powers back? Will Nancy get out of the Upside Down? Is one of the main characters going to die?

Episode 8 is 1 hour and 25 minutes long and episode 9 is 2 hours and 20 minutes long. They both come out on July 1st on Netflix.

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The article above was edited by Lethicia Lioi

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Amanda Ferreira

Casper Libero '22

Advertising student and aspiring writer!
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