Stranger Things 4 is a mess, in the best way possible
Stranger Things 4 is a mess. Yes, it is more original than 2 an 3 combined but did not found a way to break the pacing issues its predecessors had, just catapulted it into blockbuster vicious extremes. This is all over the place, literally. With too many plots to follow and too long episodes packed with unnecessary fillers, the new season feels like it wants its cake and eat it too. The whole thing clocks in close to obnoxious 12 hours in nine episodes, with its last episode finding the guts to last over 140 minutes. And if the pacing of this whole thing seems a little bit better is because they (the show runners) chose to tell 4 stories, inter-cutting them like we even cared. The way they separated everything between Russian, California, the Army and the Hawkins crew just made them lost a lot of what the show is really strong for: character chemistry.
Half the main cast don’t matter anymore, until the last few minutes, those when you feel relieved this whole thing is over. The California story line is the most unnecessary thing ever. Just bring the kids to Hawkins already. Mike and Will are plain boring together and Johnathan who?
Eleven’s story line is a huge mess dressed as a nice arc to find out some stuff from her past and how she sort of started the whole thing, but yet, it feels like an afterthought, gives us the most boring episode of the bunch (I’m talking seven) and just throw it out the window with the “heart and love and fight” cliche.
Hop and Joyce’s adventure in Russia is dull, just laughable, until it tries to connect to the main story line of Season 2 and the Demodogs, which raises the chances of it being good, only too late for that. It is indeed a very gritty and adult take on a prison break story, but for what reason again? It’s like the whole Russian story arc is just there because they commit the mistake of putting Russia in the season 3 in the first place. David Harbour and Winona Rider were not exactly wasted here, specially Harbour who is the back bone of this really good story, it is just not good Stranger Things and ads to nothing in the big picture.
The way the season was divided in two volumes is atrocious and the final two episodes just simply don’t deliver anything the show seemed to be building for. If the visuals were not so distinct (i.e. the larger than life Upside Down) you could not even say it is all the same season.
One of the best moments in the entire season if not the whole series is Hop and Eleven’s reunion, which lasts for less than a minute in the end of the last episode. Or maybe Will and his always amazing connection into the Upside Down (the voices he hears, the chills in his neck), that only show up in the final scene, just being mentioned as an ad lib a minute prior to that. Yes they lost touch of what we actually love about Stranger Things, which is not the Michael Bay style explosions in the middle of Nevada desert.
Vecna is a better villain than the first three and just because he has a human element to it. We finally understand what the hell is going on in this town, but his motives are even weaker than a marvel phase 2 villain. It is not Jamie Campbell Bower’s fault, the dude made a great job and kudos to the art department on his practical make up.
This season tried hard to answer questions left behind from the first three seasons, but in the process, just lost its way on too much explanation and mindless action than actually giving us something to care about.
But when in Hawkins, this season shine brighter than the previous two combined. Sadie Sink’s Max and Natalia Dyer’s Nancy are the standout of this season and episode 4 “Dear Billy” is the best the show’s ever made. The town and citizens of Hawkins are also appropriately portrayed this time, and if the danger of the main characters don’t sell the catastrophic implications of their actions, the town folks do it, and that’s fun and all, but lack development. The conspiracy theory thing thou, hilarious and brutally realistic. Kudos to Noah Schnapp for actually acting in the final two episodes, for at least two pretty good (yet predictable) scenes.
Now, let me go into SPOILERS territory here.
Steve and Max are not dead. You heard me. The most controversial thing here. Steve survived the ending of Volume 1 without much flair. And Max was literally brought back to life after a dragging too long sequence of “are they really gonna do it?”. Yes, her character is missing from her own mind and is probably blind and paraplegic, but nonetheless, dead and back again by the sheer powers of her best friend’s love (and superhuman abilities). And the worst part of it is that they killed Eddie and thought we would feel it the most because of Dustin. Now, I’m not saying Eddie is not a good character, he is the best new character the serie has introduced in the whole season (there are a lot of new kids in the block) and has a few good moments with the kids (specially Dustin) that suggest since joining High School they might have had some off camera relationship that would make Dustin suffer that much. But they chose to really sell it as if it was as strong as Steve’s death would have been.
The 30 million dollar budget is also in everything your eyes can see, and obviously Netflix will push to Season 5 to be even bigger and larger than life, as the final shot indicates, however, this might hurt the final batch of episodes even more whenever they come out (it took 34 months between 3 and 4).
And even if the hype benefits the season by splitting in two parts, it could benefit even more from a weekly release, which has been working to some of Netflix’s best shows lately.
At least the new season is not bating on 80’s nostalgia for nostalgia sake anymore and just inhabits the 80’s like season one did. That’s a bonus. Let them live then and when.