Stranger Things season 4 finale crashed the Netflix app for a while on Friday and that’s as big marker of audience’s love as any. People across the world waited for the show for two years and for most, the wait has been worthwhile. The new season launched first seven episodes on May 28 and the final two arrived more than a month later. This new release format has found multiple takers across platforms lately but has never been able to inspire me to get back to a show I abandoned a month ago. However, Stranger Things Season 4 Vol 1 ended on such a spicy note, I could not wait to get back to it. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. (Also read: Stranger Things season 4 Vol 1 review: Netflix’s first blockbuster is scarier than ever before)
Feature-length episode eight (1.5 hours) kicks off right where we left. After the identity of Vecna/Henry/One is revealed, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) returns to her own timeline and regains her powers. After some weightlifting flex, she decides to check in on her Hawkins friends through her mind palace and finds them plotting for Vecna’s murder. Now the plan sounded cool as all hell to me but Eleven is not really keen on letting her friends die. She decides to leave for Hawkins immediately but the worst fake papa of all time Dr Brenner won’t give her his blessings.
Elsewhere, Mike, Jonathan, Argyle, Will and his hurting, closeted heart are searching for Eleven. The foursome would have won the crown of the dullest grouping of all season had it not been for Argyle and he doesn’t let you down in final two episodes either. Noah Schnapps and Finn Wolfhard were tasked with carrying some of the most heartbreaking moments of the episodes but the boys can’t really pull off the corny lines. I would still like to believe that it is not Noah or Finn’s shortcomings as actors but some unprecedented bad dialogue-writing on the show. When no words were spoken and Noah silently cried into the car window, it did made me want to punch a wall.
Elsewhere still, Joyce and Jim’s Russian adventure is the second best subplot, second only to the truly elite grouping of Nancy, Steve, Robin, Dustin, Eddie, Max and Lucas and Erica. It’s an iconic convergence of Stranger Things’ greatest hits and I will not entertain any debates. Each and every scene featuring the gang is either hilarious, cool, adorable or everything, all at once. Steve (Joe Keery) shares his beautiful dream with Nancy (Natalia Dyer), laying the bedrock for that rumoured death in the next episode. You almost find your eyes welling up at just how scared you are about the best character of the show potentially being sacrificed at Duffer Brothers’ altar. To be honest, losing anyone from this elite group would have hurt too much. Robin (Maya Hawke), sadly, doesn’t get the attention and love from the writing department that she so deserves. One who stands out as the season’s biggest winner is undoubtedly Eddie (Joseph Quinn). With his love for Dustin, flirting Steve and always getting caught up in some well-intentioned chaos, he shines the brightest in the already-awesome posse of Vecna killers. The writers also arm him with the ‘most metal solo concert ever’ and a hero’s arc. It’s enough to register his name among the coolest high schoolers who ever graced our TVs.
Next up is the Bollywood-length episode nine, clocking in at 2.5 hours. The finale does get a little too slow to sit through. Vecna just cannot get to his murdering business without delivering monologues and people get choked in the background for an entire hour. And with cutaways to four different locations, the passage of time seems even slower and … weird. Again, Vecna also felt far more sinister and spooky when he wasn’t even in a scene. The anticipation was the horror. His arrival was always followed by long story session which got really boring, really quickly.
Even though the 2.5 hours could have been better utilised or even severely cut down, the finale manages a satisfying and bitter-sweet end to the season. Demons are slain, concerts are held in hell and Molotov cocktails are thrown, which is never not cool. The music–from Metallica to the return of Kate Bush to even the ever-gorgeous synth in the background–adds to the beauty of each and every scene. The death, yes there is one (and a half?), is also not brushed away as soon as the climax fades to black. There are happy reunions and some sad ones too.
The epilogue also does a fantastic job of setting up room for the next season. The effect of the final shot is so similar to witnessing the Undead marching towards Winterfell in the X season finale of Game of Thrones, back when it meant something to us. The rightside up or Upside Down worlds are colliding and the wait is just too long to get there.
Stranger Things has never been the one to overhaul the tone or even the general plot with every season. The kids come together, are having a good time when evil strikes, they band together, make a plan, slay the dragon and Will always gets a scratch on his neck in the final scene. It’s almost a paint by numbers exercise now. However, why fix what ain’t broke? Where Stranger Things has always shined is the fresh characters it brings on board every season and brilliant actors to play them. This season, the better than usual villain and the resurgence of Kate Bush have just been the cherry on the cake. Me and my Spotify play wait for the next season eagerly.