The final episodes of the fourth and penultimate season of Stranger Things have dropped, and now those of us who follow the show must wait over a year to find out how things will end for the small town of Hawkins, Indiana.
If you haven’t checked out this show, it is a sci-fi horror story that begins with the disappearance of a middle school boy, Will Byers, from his small town of Hawkins in 1983. We get to know his friends, family, and local authorities as they each take their own routes to save Will, and it becomes clear that his disappearance is part of something much bigger and more dangerous than they could have ever imagined. Think Goonies meets Alien, and then a bit of The Exorcist in this latest season. Other reviewers have called it Steven Spielberg meets Stephen King, which is also pretty accurate.
Based on those comparisons & it’s ’80s setting, you might imagine it’s a bit of an homage, or worse, a rip-off, regarding entertainment of that era, but Stranger Things is absolutely it’s own thing, though it certainly pays tribute to what came before. The tropes of secret science labs & suspicious government agents might be familiar, but the story of what they’re doing in Hawkins, how they’re doing it, and why is one that always keeps you guessing, and even four seasons in still has some mystery left to reveal.
The real drive to this show, though, is the characters. They’re all thoroughly complex, with charms, quirks, and flaws that make even the most endearing heroes a little irritating at times, and the most obstinate of antagonists sympathetic, if only for a moment. Even the single-season characters shine, the writers maximizing their limited screen-time to sell their character arcs so that it always stings when they go or when we’re reminded of them later.
So, if you haven’t checked out the show yet & think you might, stop here until you do. Because now I’m going to talk about my reaction to the end of season four, and what I think might come next, so things could get spoilery, though I’ll try to be vague.
You’ve been warned.
I completely understand why this is the penultimate season now. There is no dragging this on much longer, no more hiding or ignoring the problems in Hawkins by the higher-ups–either the Upside-down destroys Hawkins or the damage is stopped permanently. This is exciting because it means big things are going to happen, especially now that all our characters are back in Hawkins, but it also means the government/military authorities might be more underfoot & interfere with the old gang.
I also assume that no character is safe. Going in to the last episode I assumed Max couldn’t be a casualty because in most fiction mortally threatening a character once & saving them (especially in a very dramatic, drawn-out, narrow escape scene) lowers the stakes & takes some of the punch out if you try it a second time later. Technically, I wasn’t wrong, but boy was I not right either. The younger cast all got to show off some dramatic chops this season.
I’m not sure why the Johnathan-Nancy-Steve triangle is back and dragging on. The signals the writers were sending this season seem to indicate Steve & Nancy are endgame, which is fine given the conversation Johnathan had with Argyle about his doubts for their future together. But in the final scene Nancy gave Johnathan the perfect opportunity to come clean about his college plans & share those doubts, and nothing! In the limited amount of show left, I really don’t want to spend time watching Johnathan be suspicious/jealous, especially given what he told Argyle. Just give us the clean break, let Johnathan & Steve have a little side-adventure that helps them be on friendly terms, then Steve can win Nancy back.
Predictions for the final season:
- Jonathan is going to have to come clean with Nancy about his future plans. Will this be what breaks them up, though, or will it be something else?
- Now that the Upside-down is leaking into Hawkins & a little harder to ignore, it’s possible Mrs. Wheeler might finally clue in to what her children and their friends have been dealing with the past few years. I am certain Mr. Wheeler will continue to be no help.
- Will’s connection to Henry is going to be important, and he’ll become more of a plot focus like in the first two seasons.
- Max will be involved in another mind-fight.
- Eleven can’t fix this all by herself anymore. Given what they’ve been through, I think Will or Max one will end up with some kind of ability related to Henry & Eleven’s. Either that, or the Chicago group Eleven found in Season 2 will reappear.
Scene pairings/team-ups I’d like to see in the final season:
- Johnathan & Steve
- Nancy, Robyn, Erica, & Eleven
- Robyn & Will
- Will, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin
- Murray & Dustin
- Hopper & Joyce with any combination of the younger cast–we don’t usually get to see the adults’ storylines fully merge with the kids’ until the end of a season, so I’d love to see more interaction throughout the final season.
Any other Stranger Things fans out there? What are your expectations for the final season?