Review | Stranger Things – Season 4

  • There is spoilers. Read the reviews for the other seasons here.

After almost six years since its release, I believe it is more than obvious to criticize or praise the nostalgia of Stranger Things. We already know the 80s setting of the period, the many homages to old movie classics, and the many charismatic nods to a distinct and still incredibly fascinating era to revisit through art. But all this is ambiance, it’s a vibe and a spectacularly well produced time tunnel. Behind the packaging, the heart of the series is – and always has been – about characters. Between monsters and portals, each narrative conflict is intimately thought out and, in many ways, are allegories for realistic situations and human dramas: losing a child is an interdimensional war; being an orphan is Area 51; to be “different” geekbe part of a minority, is to face the bullies and the Demogorgons of each day.

The premise of the fourth year is similar to what was done in previous years: establishing new dynamics and another status quo with the protagonists, now with part of the group in another city, while the residents of Hawkins are divided between tribes. At the center of the show, then, are the teenage issues with our main cast. Between pinches of romance and doses of companionship, the charisma and the good development of the characters carry the problematic script of the Duffer Brothers, but I will talk about that later. For now, I want to focus on the part that creators continue to do well: the maturation of young people. It is remarkable how the dramaturgy of the production has grown and deepened with the protagonists, touching on delicate content in this fourth season. O bullying and romantic flirtations are still part of the story, but we also have themes such as grief, guilt and suicide being well articulated by the text.

For such a focus on personal narratives, it’s cruelly poetic that the villain is Vecna ​​(Jamie Campbell Bower), a monster who invades the minds of vulnerable teenagers, with the dreamlike plot and nightmare antagonist clearly inspired by Freddy Krueger. Most of their clashes come against Max, by far the best developed character of the season, with the script bringing Billy’s death as the trigger for the dramas of the little girl who stars in some of the show’s most memorable, emotional and cinematic moments – that whole act of The seventh episode is a masterpiece, going through the art direction of the world of Vecna, the striking use of songs and musical themes (such as the ticking of the clock) and really all the construction of the direction and the staging of the fight.

I also really like Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) arc. Bring flashbacks and returning with Brenner (Matthew Modine) didn’t seem like attractive choices at first, but the script knew how to handle this part of the past with care and feeling, and, even better, with a sense of progression for Hawkins’ superheroine, including connecting insightfully Eleven’s drama with Max’s (the scene where she admits her thoughts to Vecna). I have some reservations about how the segment manages to be didactic and tries to over-explain the mythology of the Upside Down and how it all happened (did we need to know that?), but it’s one of the most interesting blocks of the season. Another positive point for the Duffers continues to be the introduction of new characters, such as the hilarious Eddie (Joseph Quinn) and the witty Argyle (Eduardo Franco).

However, not everything is flowers. I really wish creators had the same creativity for driving plots that they have for creating and developing characters. First, this narrative mold of the separate groups converging in the last episode is too repetitive and too convenient. Second, the entire core of Hopper (David Harbour) and the Russian prison doesn’t work on any level, whether it’s the lessening of the sheriff’s sacrifice at the end of the previous year, or the forced and inorganic way the script tries to connect the adult characters with the adventure. Everything here is sloppy, unnecessary and contributes to a growing problem of Stranger Things: swelling.

I appreciate the fact that the series continues to increase in scope, and like I said, I loved some of the new characters, but the fourth year story feels like it’s going to explode at any moment. There are too many characters, too many science fiction explanations and too many cores. As a consequence, we have Will (Noah Schnapp) being ignored for the second season in a row, while Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) continues to contribute in small doses – not even Mike (Finn Wolfhard) was well taken advantage of by the script. It’s the proverbial “sometimes less is more”, something epitomized by the exaggerated length of the final episodes, with a montage that can’t handle its five different endings – at times, everything felt like a poorly thought out and badly edited version of The return of the king.

In the midst of its troubles, however, Stranger Things continues to find strength more in individuals and less in the journey. The Duffer Brothers formula works and entertains precisely because they love their characters, make us love their characters, and like to stay as long as possible in their conflicts and emotions. It helps a lot when there are brutal consequences like the last episode – I just hope this time the creators make the impact permanent. And, well, it also doesn’t hurt that the show’s scale has only increased, with production taking a show increasingly visual, whether aesthetically or cinematically. As needlessly extensive as the season four finale is, one thing we can’t deny: it was the show’s most epic (and macabre) year; but, as always, keeping the human side that makes the work so empathetic and fun to follow.

Stranger Things – Season 4 | USA, 2022
Showrunners: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer (Duffer Brothers)
Direction: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Andrew Stanton, Rebecca Thomas
Road map: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Justin Doble, Paul Dichter, Jessie Nickson-Lopez, Kate Trefry
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Matthew Modine, Joseph Quinn, Eduardo Franco
Duration: 480 min.

About Hrishikesh Bhardwaj

Tv specialist. Falls down a lot. Typical troublemaker. Hipster-friendly advocate. Food fan.

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