The season finale brings us to a Stranger Things series endgame, and though convenient plot armor preserves most character favorites, not everyone comes out unscathed.
Stranger Things was absolutely devastating. The finale for season 4 part 2 was one of the darkest stories ever told in the series. To see characters that fans have absolutely fallen in love with go through what happens in this finale was heartbreaking, as some of our favorites in Hawkins are the furthest thing from okay.
We’ve already covered Season 4 Part 1, but if you’d like a spoiler-filled review of Part 2, listen to the podcast where Josh and I break down all of this Stranger Things season. For a short review as to why you should probably watch this season right now, read on, as this is the prelude to the end all be all regarding the storylines of Stranger Things.
Now, this season doesn’t exactly end Happily Ever After. In many ways mimicking Avengers: Infinity War, this is a storyline that sees several plots converging simultaneously, with separate teams coming together to stop a great evil from destroying the world. But I’ll leave it at that regarding what happens.
Aesthetically, this finale does much to feel more like a movie and not a season of television. There’s a lot of detail in the shots and some of the panoramic views make you wonder how big of a Hollywood budget the show had gotten this time around.
In comparison to other Netflix shows that are obviously shot in their CGI littered backlots, part 4 is the greatest visual marvel the series has brought up thus far, filled with richly detailed upside-down particles, gooey tentacle monsters, desert shots, and science-lab horror sequences.
Most of the final two episodes are the set-up against Vecna and the battle to come. It’s a bit everywhere and so I’m going to list the subplots moving along for just about every character (again, minus most spoilers).
Eleven encounters Doctor Brenner for a last Yoda-like training conflict that reveals some more about her and 01’s history. While this is happening, the military decides to close in right as time is running out making the moves needed to stop the evil monstrosity that is Vecna. As this is all very obviously the endgame.
Meanwhile, Robin and Steve (who’s very enamored with Nancy) try to spend a moment regarding their love lives while preparing for battle. Leading the Hawkin’s group is Nancy, who comes up with a master plan to take down Vecna once and for all.
I should stress that every single member of the cast plays a major part in this well-balanced ensemble. Dustin and Eddie actively choose to play support/ ‘not heroes’. Max takes the ultimate gamble in what’s easily the most talked-about arc of the season (if you’re looking to avoid spoilers specifically avoid Max spoilers). Lucas and Erica try to fend off the jocks in a storyline that feels awfully fitting of the times in a subtly uncomfortable yet not preachy statement about fitting in.
As for Jonathan and the California crew, their search for Eleven hits its conclusion and Hopper, Joyce, and the Russians reunite for a big battle of sorts.
There’s a lot going on this season and I’m impressed as it is all mostly good storylines woven together well in brief campy character moments. There is also a lot of fan service regarding romances and long-anticipated reunions, all of which balances the loads of horror thus far present throughout the season.
Still, there are definitely some who don’t do as much. The Byer’s children specifically. Will and Jonathan haven’t had all-that compelling of a story this season. Their speeches and brief moments in the second half should be noted as heartwarming highlights to part 2 but it’s still awfully short.
Will’s story specifically has made many headlines in the media as of late as a (possibly) struggling person wanting to come out of the closet in the 1980s. We’ve seen hints of it in Part I but I think where fans are semi-annoyed is that he’s a little too passive of a character.
Whereas Robin—also a gay character—felt less nuanced and better-rounded, mostly, because I think we had gotten to know her better when expectations were high regarding her and Steve in season 3. Will’s flaw in the series is that when he’s not a tool or instrument for the Mindflayer plot… he is sadly, just not really doing much as a character.
Because it’s an ensemble showcasing inner motivations, almost everyone does a whole lot of excess talking in part 2 of the series. While I loved it, I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea, and many reviewers complained the finale was drawn out for far too long.
One thing that felt out of place was how the kids talk way too adult in this finale. It doesn’t feel like teen dialogue, and without getting into detail, the romantic love monologues felt heavy for a show mostly about children.
I also think the show might be relying too much on its laurels and formula. As a lot of what works about the season, when taking a step back, is an awful lot of repeats of things we’ve dealt with before… just on a bigger in scale (taking the bigger is better approach very literally).
All that being said, overall, I think the series was as fantastic as it was disturbing. It had most definitely sacrificed its 80s nostalgia kid-friendliness for some sheer horror and stories of consequences setting up for a grand bow out next year.
I think the only issue for folks (but not an issue for me) is that the show feels like a superhero movie. There is a formula to Stranger Things regarding who plays hero, who makes sacrifices, and who continues onward to tell their stories—so the series surprises aren’t feeling as, well, surprising anymore.
This is not a criticism of the show. But rather, a critique on visual storytelling in media today. That because there’s just too much of everything lately, it all feels kind of predictable. And we’re losing creativity for the sake of preserving nostalgia and throwing said nostalgia on the line for the sake of conflict.
But honestly, given the unpredictability of the world today, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, it’s somewhat comforting knowing that things might be okay… if you can touch at the bad times.
I can’t say the same for the state of the world right now.