Stranger Things 4: The Season’s Best and Worst Instincts

Stranger Things 4 trusts the season's best and worst instincts


Though Netflix marketed Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 as a stand-alone season of the Duffer Brothers’ wistful sci-fi masterpiece, its two incredibly long episodes are actually just the conclusion of Vol. 1’s narrative about the antagonist that has been stalking Eleven and her pals all along. Vecna’s entrance in Season 3 is concluded in Stranger Things Season 4 Vol. 2, which also prepares the way for the show’s psychic hero and antagonist to assume even more significant roles down the road.

"Netflix: Stranger Things 4 trusts the season's best and worst instincts"
POPSUGAR: Netflix: Stranger Things 4 trusts the season’s best and worst instincts

Vol. 2’s ability to rise to the occasion and deliver an emotional payoff-focused season finale. However, it also makes use of some of the negative traits that have dogged the Stranger Things series from the beginning.

Stranger Things Seasons 4 Vol. 2 does really sneak in a few jokes:

The episodes pick up immediately after the ones before them without losing any of the story’s momentum, even if Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 does really sneak in a few jokes that are really good and neatly sum up the key points of Vol. Stranger Things 4 revealed that Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) first terrifying display of power occurred during a fight with Henry (Jamie Campbell Bower), the man who would later become Vecna when she was a young girl. The previous three installments of the series did their best to make you believe that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) killed all of the other child test subjects at the Hawkins Lab. In the first chapter of Volume 2, Eleven learns the entire extent of her relationship with Henry/Vecna and makes her own decision regarding how to handle his violent scheme to leave the Upside Down.

Stranger Things 4 has been purposely returning the series to its beginnings, when both the show’s audience and its characters were typically in the dark about what was going on, by depriving Eleven of her powers, severing her from her pals, and introducing even more unexplored lore. That finally alters with Eleven’s choice to confront her first adoptive father, Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), who came to Stranger Things with the promise of giving Eleven back her lost powers.


Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 frames Eleven’s rebellion towards Brenner as a manifestation of her empowerment and appreciation for the sincere love she was able to find after initially escaping the lab by emphasizing how abuse defined their relationship. This entire season, Millie Bobby Brown has been continuously captivating to watch, but in Vol. 2, her performance as Eleven has a rawness that effectively bridges the gap between a worn-out action hero in their final act and a fearful girl who just wants to be with her family.

Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 places a lot of emphasis on how Eleven and Henry’s entire development—both in terms of their developing identities and powers—started with their decision to defy Brenner in the lead-up to their ultimate clash. Brenner is occasionally depicted in Stranger Things 4: Vol. 2 as an even more scary, sadistic presence than previously. The passages in which Modine’s character is yelling and obviously acting out of fear—fear of the monster Henry has turned into and his loss of control over Eleven—are the ones where he stands out the most.


All of the character arcs in Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 come to a climax in this season:

Nearly all of the character arcs in Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 come to a climax in this season, and it does it with an incredible level of complexity, but because of the cast size, both episodes come off as dense and almost overstuffed. Each of their subplots ramps up to ensure that everyone receives some degree of (momentary) closure as Eleven simultaneously reclaims her power and remembers that she can use it to remotely check in on the Hawkins crew.

It still boggles the mind that all of the kids without powers decide that they should travel into the Upside Down to battle creatures there, especially at this late stage in Henry’s — who the show repeatedly makes fun of by pointing out how many names he goes by — great plan. But with a smoothness that was noticeably lacking in Vol. 1, Stranger Things Vol. 2 seamlessly transitions into the series’ regular action-adventure rhythms.

A lot of time focusing on Max’s tale:

The final two episodes, for the appropriate reasons, spend a lot of time focusing on Max’s tale and how profoundly her interactions with Henry/Vecna have affected her. Max’s portrayal in Stranger Things hasn’t always been the most nuanced, but this time Sink has the chance to fully express herself as the program revisits the significance of her numerous relationships throughout the seasons.

Stranger Things’ capacity to delve deeply into what has been bothering the kids all season is made possible by their foolish plan to battle Vecna in the Upside Down. Mike nearly settled into Eleven and Will’s (Noah Schnapp) orbits throughout Stranger Things 4 Vol. 1, and it’s mostly the same in Vol. 2 as the show brings the three characters back together. Unsurprisingly, as Stranger Things provides Eleven and Mike the time and space to properly process their complex feelings for one another, the pace slows and the focus softens.

Similar to the first volume, Vol. 2 seeks to touch your heart as Will feels secure enough to open up to Mike and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) about the nagging secret he’s been keeping under that bowl haircut. But among the other inconvenient roadblocks that prevent Vol. 2 from realizing its full potential are Will’s fairly clunky resolution.

More Wonderful things in Stranger Things 4:

Even though it’s been wonderful to see Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder), and Murray (Brett Gelman) leave the children in charge while they deal with their own adventures in the Soviet Union, Stranger Things is aware that their tales aren’t what viewers are coming in for. Instead of leaving the grownups in Hawkins for the occasion, Vol. 2 does the honorable thing and keeps them busy with plenty of real activities.

The final season of Stranger Things is cleverly hinted at in Vol. 2, but Hopper’s epic battle with the Demogorgon is also a part of how these episodes serve as a reminder of how much everyone has grown throughout the course of the series. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Eddie (Joseph Quinn), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), and Steve (Joe Keery) all exhibit somber emotions as a result of the possibility of dying in war, which complements their proactive approach to weathering the apocalypse.

Vol. 2 decides to break up its time with Lucas ) and Max:

It’s kind of odd how Vol. 2 decides to break up its time with Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max to remind you that he’s also evading Jason Carver, a high school basketball star-turned-military guy (Mason Dye). Given that Jason personally experienced Vecna’s fury, his escalation to a gun-toting villain in Vol. 2 doesn’t really contribute much to the episodes other than to highlight the fact that he was always a jerk.

Eleven’s battle with Vecna may not be the most spectacular in the overall scheme of psychic confrontations, but it does have a strong emotional undertone that hasn’t always been there in Stranger Things’ prior finales. Even while this season of Stranger Things undoubtedly felt like it might have been the series’ end, it’s fair to say that the show does have a little bit more gas in the tank because Vol. 2 recontextualizes many of those battles with some straightforward foreshadowing of what’s to come.

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