For those of you who haven’t canceled your Netflix subscription, you’ve likely seen the latest outing from The Duffer Brothers sitting somewhere on its trending chart. The fourth season of “Stranger Things” was one that I had almost no faith in when I started it, but by the time it was done I was thoroughly impressed.
I’m happy to say that The Duffer Brothers and Netflix managed to do something that not a lot of titles have been capable of doing, and that’s getting back to what made them good in the first place. In the case of “Stranger Things,” it’s a solid mix of horror, coming-of-age themes, well-fleshed-out hero’s journeys, and 80s nostalgia.
It’s amazing to see how original and inspiring the first season was. This is evident by the fact that so many people still wanted to watch it. The fact that the second season was something of a disaster and season three, though far better, didn’t live up to the standard of the first season and had people ready to shrug off the series. Despite the fact that it had been three years since Season 3, many people decided to return to Hawkins in Indiana to see the children one more time.
The fourth season picks up from the previous, but it also resets the series. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), now lives with the Bryers in California. She’s lost her powers since the third season and is attempting to navigate being a new student at a high school where she doesn’t know anybody, a tough mountain to climb given that she never truly had a normal childhood. She’s often picked on and for reasons, she can’t understand.
All the rest are now back at Hawkins and going through high school. The boys are now part of a D&D group called “The Hellfire Club” led by Eddie Munsen (Joseph Quinn) who evokes comparisons to Judd Nelson’s John Bender character in “The Breakfast Club.”
Joyce Byers, Winona Ryder), is trying to find Jim Hopper (David Harbour), missing after the finale of the third season. It’s soon revealed that Hopper is being kept in a Russian prison. Murray Bauman, a Brett Gelman character recruited by Byers to assist him in conceiving a plan for getting Hopper out.
Munsen is shocked to see a school cheerleader brutally killed in his home by an unknown force. The murder shocks the town to its core, especially the cheerleader’s boyfriend, the captain of the basketball team Jason Carver (Mason Dye). Carver starts a manhunt to find Munsen, who then goes into hiding. While the town blames Munsen, the kids know he’s innocent, as they’ve seen this kind of horror before.
It’s a thrilling ride that starts from here, with lots of heart and character development as well as emotional scenes and fantastic horror, all topped off with an intriguing mystery that is sure to catch you by surprise.
There are some flaws to the show. A few plotlines are too complicated and could have been simplified a bit. The show starts off slowly because of this and doesn’t really get going until around the third episode. Your mileage may vary but Eleven’s plotline is, in my opinion, a tad drawn out. This is a minor flaw that the season still succeeds in filling out. The Duffer Bros finish it off with an action-packed finale.
But you’re probably wondering whether or not they injected politics into the show, as this could make or break whether or not you watch it. The answer to that is yes…and no.
The wokeness of modern television has been fading, and Stranger Things is still a part of that. It’s established in the third season that Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) is a lesbian, but they don’t ever make it her entire character like some writers tend to. You don’t feel forced to accept it in the story. She’s one of the more charming characters this season.
But I can’t say the same for Will Byers whom the show continuously hints at being gay to the point where it becomes too much. The character will be delivering a perfectly good line or exposition, and then suddenly say or do something to remind you that he’s holding back a painful secret from the rest of his friends. It makes his character exhausting and it brings down almost every scene where he’s the focus. Luckily, there are enough plotlines in the show that it doesn’t weigh it down too badly.
Moreover, it’s balanced out with some things I didn’t expect to happen in today’s modern entertainment. In this episode, men are permitted to become heroes. Steve Harrison (Joe Keery), in particular, reminds me of a 1980s action hero. Murray is more than a sidekick in the kitchen. He also gets to play a role as an evil sass on various episodes. The only 100-pound girl you’ll see tossing around men three times their size is Eleven, and she does that with powers not possessed by the average person.
Dare I say it…the men actually shine in this series, particularly Munsen who has an incredibly satisfying hero arc.
That isn’t to say that the women are all fainting damsels in distress. They are focused and determined to achieve their particular goals this season. Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), and Max Mayfield, (Sadie Sink), have the most memorable scenes in this season. The latter has the scene that defined the whole season for me as well.
The Duffer Brothers did something you don’t get to see very often nowadays, which is allowing characters to be themselves and not cave to some outside ideological force that has no business including itself in the storyline. With only a few hiccups, this “Stranger Things” outing is likely a contender for the best season the show has ever released.
It can maintain this pace and Season 5 should be amazing.