The long awaited fourth season of “Stranger Things” achieves the necessary balance of a watch-worthy sequel. It doesn’t entirely rely on the success of previous seasons, but continues to feature what was integral to previous seasons’ success.
“Stranger Things” proceeds weaving fantasy, story and imagination with technology, science and logic. The science of the Upside Down gives the story a logical set of rules, which helps viewers suspend their disbelief. The fantastical explanations of the evil dimension – based on Dungeons and Dragons lore – humanizes the struggle to defeat it.
Season 4 expands the possibilities of the Upside Down by featuring a new type of monster, Vecna. Vecna torments the mind – unlike the Demogorgon and Demodogs from previous seasons – and is described as the Mind Flayers’ Five Star General. His telekinetic attacks occur while characters, new and old, go about their signature “Stranger Things” adventures. This allows the action and horror to coexist with the comedic and sentimental charm so fundamental to the franchise.
This season is much scarier than the seasons before it, but horror elements are performed tastefully and in moderation. Season Four’s embrace of violence, gore and suspense doesn’t depreciate the story.
Vol. 1 features three pocketed adventures that are all likely to contribute to climax and resolution of Vol. 2. Mike visits the Byers, who have moved to a small town in California with El to escape ongoing tragedy in Hawkins. Dustin, Lucas, Steve, Max, Nancy and Robin remain in Hawkins with Vecna’s wrath; and Joyce and Murray find themselves on a mission to rescue Hopper from a Russian prison.
Each storyline features new lead characters, all of which are likable. Eddie Munson, a super-senior, drug-dealing, Dungeons and Dragons freak, is a stand out. His eccentric yet realistic interactions bring a freshness to the dynamic of the already beloved Hawkins High School monster hunters.
“Stranger Things’”golden girls, Eleven and Max, are older, prettier and take on more of a “damsel in distress” role this season. Although they are both strong women, they become the targets of multiple adversaries and require rescue from their increasingly masculine counterparts. It’s romance in its most basic form, and it works.
With much appreciation, “Stranger Things” continues to feature a score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. The modern synth tones are simple, nostalgic and scary when need be. The melodies successfully build the emotional intention of the scene. Only some are sentimental in mood, but all are sentimental in that they remind viewers of emotionally loaded moments from seasons past.
“Stranger Things” Season 4 Vol. 1 was watched for 286 million hours in its debut weekend, the biggest series premiere for Netflix ever. Vol. 2 includes the final two episodes of the season, both of which are feature film length, and will be released to Netflix on July 1.
Kelsey Percival is the editorial assistant for The Durango Herald and an avowed cinephile. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.