Stranger Issues 4 is just like the seasons that got here earlier than it in the way it attracts inspiration from the pop cultural canon of the ‘80s, making its particular person chapters really feel like studied homages to the style cinema of the period. On this fourth installment although, Stranger Issues embraces a newfound sense of itself as one thing greater than a stylized tribute to the creature options and coming-of-age classics that packed theaters many years in the past. Stranger Issues 4 is larger, bloodier, and way more intense than the seasons that got here earlier than it, nevertheless it additionally looks like a pure evolution of the sprawling epic the Duffer Brothers have been telling from the very starting.
Time has all the time been a considerably tough factor in Stranger Issues’ fictional city of Hawkins, Indiana, the place slimy portals to nightmarish parallel dimensions are recognized to often open up, nevertheless it takes on a brand new significance as Stranger Issues 4 catches up with its teen heroes. Set about six months after the occasions of its season 3 finale, Stranger Issues’ latest batch of chapters opens on Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Max (Sadie Sink), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) all doing their finest to search out some sense of normalcy after their final battle with a being from the Upside Down.
“Regular” for Eleven, Will, Will’s older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and the boys’ mom Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) means settling into a brand new life as a seemingly common household in California the place they imagine “Jane” — Eleven’s start identify — can get a contemporary begin. With Eleven’s powers on the fritz and her adoptive father Jim Hopper (David Harbour) nonetheless lacking, studying the best way to merely exist as a daily teenager is each a problem and thrill for her. However Eleven’s real pleasure and the Upside Down going all however dormant following their departure from Hawkins makes the Byers’ journey out West really feel like one thing that’s proper for all of them.
Stranger Issues 4 finds the remainder of the gang again in Hawkins additionally principally thriving because the city’s youngsters gear up for his or her impending spring break. With Lucas dedicating extra time to Hawkins Excessive’s basketball staff and Max nonetheless dealing with the dying of her brother, Mike and Dustin discover new associates within the Hellfire Membership — a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons-enjoying outcasts led by outgoing senior Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn).
By splitting the youngsters up into smaller models and introducing different new characters, like basketball staff captain Jason Carver (Mason Dye) and pizza-delivering stoner Argyle (Eduardo Franco) into their arcs, Stranger Issues 4 establishes change as one in all its defining themes this season. Stranger Issues’ core group of childhood associates aren’t breaking apart or falling out precisely, however they’re rising up and aside as youngsters are likely to do as they grow old.
Leaning into that actuality is a part of the way in which that Stranger Issues 4 tries to skirt round the truth that basically all of its younger actors have already visibly out-aged their characters. The distraction works, particularly as Stranger Issues’ central thriller pulls its protagonists nearer collectively within the face of the supernatural as soon as once more. However when the youngsters are coping with extra grounded on a regular basis challenges in regular settings, like getting a grasp on the social dynamics of their excessive faculties, it’s often laborious to purchase them as unpopular highschool freshmen.
What’s a lot simpler to imagine and extra attention-grabbing to dig into is the psychological baggage Stranger Issues 4 highlights in every of its protagonists. Although Stranger Issues has all the time and really a lot continues to revolve round Eleven and her connection to the Upside Down, this season performs with the concept of Hawkins being a cursed place that has an uncanny means of fixing individuals who learn about its secrets and techniques. Whereas most everybody’s busy going by puberty and staying on prime of schoolwork, they’re additionally coping with the burden of understanding what sorts of horrors the Hawkins Nationwide Laboratory has unleashed upon the world.
Although this season introduces yet one more Dungeons & Dragons-inspired creature from one other world — this time a Nightmare on Elm Road-like ghoul — the monster performs an vital function in how Stranger Issues 4 begins to flesh out and reply a number of the sequence’ greater mysteries. For characters like Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery), and Robin (Maya Hawke), Stranger Issues 4 is a narrative about understanding themselves and embracing accountability at a time when the adults of their lives aren’t outfitted to. What’s spectacular is how successfully Stranger Issues organically pulls their threads collectively to inform a narrative that feels prefer it’s gaining momentum within the buildup to the sequence’ not-too-distant finale.
As Stranger Issues 4 evokes the real-world satanic panic that gripped pearl-clutching ‘80s dad and mom who didn’t perceive why folks would wish to battle make-believe dragons in dungeons, you get the sense that that is the course the Duffer Brothers all the time deliberate to take the present. There’s a thoughtfulness to each Stranger Issues 4’s central monster and to the obstacles it throws at Eleven and co. that retains this season principally crackling with a vibrant power. However that power falters every time Stranger Issues slows down for one in all its many quippy exposition dumps that pop up with growing frequency because the season progresses. These caches of plot element — all the time delivered in breathless exchanges of virtually rhetorical questions — are additionally partially why a few of this season’s episodes run (unnecessarily) lengthy.
One motive Stranger Issues 4 generally feels the necessity to overexplain itself could also be as a result of there’s fairly a bit happening this season that’s all meant to suit collectively like a satisfying puzzle as soon as sufficient of the items are laid out. That impulse could also be justified given how far this story’s come within the six years since Stranger Issues first started airing, nevertheless it solely serves to underline how easy many of the present’s twists are once you step again to think about them.
Unlikely as Stranger Issues 4 is to confound you, it has a significantly better likelihood of disturbing you with its unusually grotesque and graphic means of sending off this season’s victims. There’s a logic behind and significance to the quantity of gore Stranger Issues 4 places on show, and the way in which these issues are revealed actually works to emphasise what degree of menace Eleven and her associates are going through.
What’s curious in regards to the episodes of Stranger Issues 4 that have been offered to press is how the present already feels prefer it’s within the sequence’ imminent endgame territory. It’s not that season 4 solutions each burning query that you simply may need had. However it does handle to face by itself in a means, as an alternative of merely feeling like set-up for the finale. It’s daring, bloody, and slightly too large — nevertheless it’s additionally an excellent reminder of what made Hawkins such a success within the first place.
The primary seven episodes of Stranger Issues 4 premiere on Might twenty seventh, 2022, with the ultimate two dropping on July 1st.