Stranger ThingsOne of Netflix’s most popular original series is back with a fourth season after a rather long (three-year) wait. However, Duffer Brothers wants you to ignore the time interval. While the kids (if they still are, since many of them are adults) look noticeably old, only six months should have passed in the universe.
Regardless, after the whirlwind finale of Season 3 and what happened with the Mind Flayer, many of our heroes are scattered. Eleven or Jane Hopper (Millie Bobby Brown), who has lost her power due to the biggest beast in Upside Down, lives with Byers in California. Jim Hopper (David Hubble) as we know it is found alive but trapped in a hostile Soviet Union.
However, the other main characters Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Garten Matarazzo), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb Mack) Laughlin) and others are still at Hawkins. They all continue to have their own personal struggles.
Lucas gets into the Cool Boys Club and wins a basketball championship, Mike and Dustin join the Hellfire Club, a group of weirdos who go through a tabletop role-playing game (if they have video games) and seduce Lucas’s sister Ei. Rika (Pria Ferguson). Max (Sadie Sink) still isn’t over the death of her brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Meanwhile, Eleven is bullied at her school and Will is powerless to protect her.
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But it’s Stranger Things, and while it’s great as a teen or coming-of-age drama, its selling point is the horror elements that are creepy enough but also thin and savage. New addition to Grace Van Dien as Chrissy Cunningham introduces the weirdness this season. She is haunted by visions of her dead family and a grandfather clock that seems to be ticking until her death. Before she gets to the end, there is a nightmarish creature that only she can see. The scene involving her is the creepiest the show has ever seen.
Whether the creature had nothing to do with Inversion at all, belonged to another hellish dimension, or was somehow related to the Mind Flayer, who wasn’t dead after all. Reviving apparently dead characters isn’t new to the show. In the first scene, we see Eleven’s “Dad” Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine). It’s a flashback, but is he really alive?
Stranger Things 4 offers a wealth of entertainment content. There are several exciting moments where the show enters a truly creepy horror territory for the first time. The interactions between the characters are still fun and pay homage to old-school horror, and other genres aren’t bad either. I’m not too fond of the Duffer Brothers taking elements from horror genre lore and calling it a “homage” (I used to call the show Familiar Things in season 1), but this time the reference is more subtle, except for a Happening. There’s also a good balance of humor and dark moments this season.
But all those good parts are offset by the painfully bloated runtime and uneven drawing, but mostly the bloated runtime. The episodes are long, and, I assure you, they do feel long. This has been an issue for many Netflix series, but Stranger Things 4 takes everything else a backseat in the department. It’s as if the writers are sadistic and don’t want you to enjoy the show, even though they sometimes provide some great writing. In fact, Stranger Things 4 behaves a lot like a shaky teenager, like one of its heroes.
When it works, it works very well. If not, it’s the most frustrating thing about this year. The final two episodes of Stranger Things 4 will be released in July.