Stranger Things: (Max)imum Style

VincentVanSpock June 2nd, 2022

Stranger Things is one of those ideas that doesn’t sound like it should work. “Lets take a bunch of kids, put them in the 80’s, have them play Dungeons and Dragons, and whatever monster they fight in their DND campaign will show up in the real world and kill people. Also, theres a girl with super powers for some reason.” Yet, in spite of the weird premise, and the fact that its mostly following a bunch of kids, the shows visuals, acting, soundtrack, characters, story, and overall execution truly came together to create a captivating, exciting, and devastating television show. But, the first 7 episodes of season 4, called part 1, has cranked everything up to Eleven (pun definitely intended).

*SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE ON*

The season starts off by showing the audience the after math of a violent bloodbath of children in what looks like a medical facility. This hits particularly hard given that the season released only three days after a terrible school shooting in Texas. Flashes of blood covered children laying limp and motionless immediately fill the viewer with sadness, hatred, and disgust. They show this in order to give the audience the impression that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was the perpetrator of such violence. Then we see Eleven at her new school in California where she is bullied and struggles to fit in. This fuels our fears that Eleven might snap and kill again. Throughout part 1, she struggles adapting to the world, not only without her powers, but without her friends as well.

Next, we get a plot where Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) gets a package in the mail that tells her that Hopper (David Harbour) is alive and being held captive in Russia. She calls on the help of Murry (Brett Gelman) in order to pay the rescue fee and bring Hopper home. Yet, she and Murry are doublecrossed, captured, and brought to Russia to be sold into slavery. They manage to escape, infiltrate the Russian facility, and meet up with Hopper after he fights off a particularly dangerous Demogorgon. We are left with Joyce, Murry, and Hopper behind enemy lines with the Demogorgon still on the loose and the many Russian agents looking for them.

Throughout the first part of season 4, we see several characters being mentally attacked, by a fear inducing new villain called Vecna. Just like the Demogorgon and the Mind Flayer from previous seasons, Vecna is introduced in a short segment of the kids playing DND. Vecna is particularly scary, given that it first plays on characters individual fears but only in their mind. Then, after 5 full days of mental attacks, in the real world, Vecna puts the victim in one final trance, lifts them into the air and kills them in the most gruesome and horrifying way. It is reminiscent of Freddie Kruger killing people in their dreams but having something happen to their body in the real world. The producers must have known this considering they cast the original Freddie Kruger actor Robert Englund as the only survivor of Vecnas attacks.

Vecna kills a high school cheerleader named Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) in front of the drug dealing new dungeon master of the DND group, Eddie (Joseph Quinn). Eddie is assumed to be her murderer and is hunted by the Hawkinson police, high school basketball team that Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) has joined, and the citizens of Hawkinson. Chrissy was the girlfriend of the captain of the Basketball team, Mason (Jason Carver). Mason uses the fear that DND was considered satanic at the time, and the fact that Eddie was a drug dealer, to convince the people of Hawkinson to hunt Eddie down.

Then to top all of this off, Max (Sadie Sink), my personal favorite character, is under the attack of Vecna and prepares herself to be killed. She writes notes saying her final goodbyes to each of her friends and one to her brother, Billy, who died heroically at the end of season 3. The group finds out how Robert Englunds character survived Vecna the first time; because his favorite song was playing in the background during Vecnas final attack. They then use this information to attempt to save Maxs life. The scene that follows is one of the most beautiful pieces in television history. The song thats playing is perfect, the way Max fights no matter how bleak it seems, the slow motion, the hole of white freedom in the otherwise red world of her trance state, and the buildup of maxs character from past seasons, makes the climax of Episode 4: Dear Billy, heart pounding, tense, and emotional. It took everything in me not to cry even before knowing whether or not she survives.

The four main stories intersect and intertwine beautifully. The subplots and character development continue perfectly considering past seasons. Season 4 thus far has become one of my favorite seasons of any television show. I cannot recommend this show enough. I am beyond excited for the second part which comes out July 2022.