When the fourth season of Stranger Things was announced, many fans wondered how the Duffer Brothers could possibly raise the stakes to the Upside Down, without falling back on familiar tropes. What no one expected was a season that touches a 13-hour runtime with one of the most satisfying finales in TV history, all the while setting up the stakes for the fifth and final season.
Here are our favourite moments from Season 4. (Spoilers ahead. Look away if you haven’t watched Volume 2 yet)
Hellfire x Basketball
One of the reasons why the show’s parallel storylines do not feel difficult to keep up with is the masterful editing, which draws similarities between arcs and amplifies the emotional quotient. We see this during the first episode, where Mike and Dustin bring Queen Erica as Lucas’s replacement to The Hellfire Club, while Lucas is caught up with the championship basketball game. The montage is full of snappy cuts, culminating with the Sinclair siblings emerging as underdogs-turned-heroes, reminding us that the best part of Stranger Things is just kids being kids. Meanwhile, the show goes back to its Season 1 origins by naming the villain during a Dungeons & Dragons game, and we know that something big is at play here.
Chrissy’s death ft. Eddie
The final scene of the first episode is when we know that this show has graduated from Goosebumps to A Nightmare on Elm Street. Because the Duffer Brothers are so good at alluding to horror without actually showing it, it is absolutely terrifying when they do. While we see Vecna terrorising Chrissy’s mind throughout the episode, nothing prepares us for her shattering limbs and popping eyes. Joseph Quinn is particularly great as Eddie, augmenting our terror at the unbelievable events that are transpiring.
The horrific scene where Nancy and Robin confront Victor Creel adds a major layer to the killings in Hawkins, which were so far just by an anonymous evil. The entire Creel house narrative is brilliantly written and directed, acting as its very own horror short film, making the evil in the Upside Down feel more tangible. The make-up department deserves a pat for creating a man who looks like a living nightmare, and Robert Englund expertly plays Creel to arouse sympathy beneath the spook. Englund’s cameo is an all-time best guest star role, given the Nightmare on Elm Street homages throughout the season and reference to Englund’s Freddie Kruger.
Max running up that hill
Sadie Sink ran from Vecna and into our hearts in what was arguably the greatest scene of the season. This moment pushes all the emotions buttons, riding on the back of an arc where we intimately get to know Max. For the first time, we see a main character come within touching distance of death, and it establishes how no one is safe. The writing gives nothing away about Vecna, and yet shows how close his danger looms over the gang. And don’t get us started on Running Up That Hill. We recommend that you (re)watch it to give yourself an adrenaline boost.
It blows our minds that Brett Gelman played Martin on Fleabag, given how likeable he is as Murray. Then again, it’s a testament to his brilliance as an actor that he had the funniest scene of the season (despite Argyle). We, like everyone else, laughed in disbelief when Murray claimed that he was trained in combat. We laughed harder when he challenged Yuri with, “fingers like arrows, arms like iron, feet like spears”. And we couldn’t stop laughing when he destroyed Yuri, while cheering all the same. In the midst of Vecna’s horror and Hopper’s imprisonment, this fight scene provided some much needed comic respite.
Hopper fights a Demogorgon
In all the scale and spectacle that this season offers, it is easy to lose sight of the horrific unknown that made Stranger Things what it is. The scene where Hopper and Dmitri fight a Demogorgon with nothing but a flaming spear and courage is peak Stranger Things. But what makes it special isn’t the elaborate fight choreography or overused CGI. It is the sense of crippling urgency that grips us, hoping that Joyce and Murray aren’t too late to save Hopper. It is the eerie sound design that makes us think that our hero is done for. And most of all, it is David Harbour’s brilliance that makes us still believe that we are about to witness a miracle.
Vecna is 001 is Henry
There were plenty of hints planted by the Duffer Brothers across the three storylines that we discovered upon rewatching. But no one saw this twist coming when Vol 1 released. The revelation that Vecna was 001, who in turn was Henry Creel, shocked us with its absurdity, and yet made complete sense. Not only does it make Vecna more compelling, but also more terrifying. As fun as it was to see the gang fight faceless flesh monsters, it set up a finale with a villain, who literally mirrors our hero.
Will gives Mike will(power)
The only complaint we had from Vol 1 was how Mike and Will barely had anything to do. Vol 2 brought some much-needed depth to their dynamic, with a scene where Will almost comes out to Mike. As Mike opens up about fearing a time when Eleven wouldn’t need him, Will painfully reassures him of how her feelings are genuine, masking his own. His empathy for what Eleven goes through because of being different feels extremely personal, and the shot where he looks away to cry, is heartbreaking. We hope Will finds the love he deserves.
Eddie goes Metal
It is very difficult to resist making a separate list from the finale itself, but including this was a no-brainer. While some would argue that Eddie Munson breaking into a Metallica guitar solo on top of a caravan in the Upside Down was essentially fan service, we’re definitely not complaining. Given how the character became our favourite (discounting Steve) over the course of the season, it was a fitting completion of his arc from the scrawny guy who ran from his trailer. We didn’t know it was possible to love him more till he said, “Chrissy, this is for you.”
The climax of the finale can rival any Marvel Cinematic Universe climax, and deserved to have been screened in theatres for cheering fans. A culmination of over 90 minutes where our heroes have struggled to keep up, this decisive moment was the payoff we were all waiting for. Multiple threads play out leading to multiple cliffhanger moments — Max with Vecna, El with Vecna, Hopper with the Demogorgon — that give all our heroes from Mike to El, Joyce to Hopper and Murray and Team Nancy the chance to play their part in defeating Vecna. Just when we thought all had been won, Vecna’s body disappeared and Max stopped breathing, leading to four gates opening in Hawkins. Season 5, we’re waiting for answers.