‘Stranger Things’ expansive fourth season exceeds expectations

Stranger+things+season+four+breaks+the+mold+of+the+previous+seasons+by+being+more+expansive%2C+more+complex%2C+and+with+a+run-time+to+match.+Despite+struggling+with+bloatedness%2C+it+achieves+a+level+of+entertainment+unmatched+by+its+predecessors.

Stranger things season four breaks the mold of the previous seasons by being more expansive, more complex, and with a run-time to match. Despite struggling with bloatedness, it achieves a level of entertainment unmatched by its predecessors.

Nearly three years after “Stranger Things” season three, the show has at last returned for its extra-long extra-scary fourth installment. With every episode coming in at over an hour — and the longest at over an hour and a half — “Stranger Things” has cultivated its most complex and expansive plot yet. It’s also been criticized for being overstuffed, slow, and lacking momentum. 

Luckily for the audience, the intense likeability of most of the characters and relationships make up for the bloatedness. 

Though at times the pacing drags on, the longer run times serve to give room for the expansive story to take place while allowing each character to breathe. Fantastic storylines and mind-boggling twists mixed with season one nostalgia make for a truly enjoyable piece of television. ”

— Maya Hruskar ’23

 

Season 4 starts off six months after the ending of season three, when Eleven and the Byers family relocated to Lenora Hills, California. As a result, this season is no longer confined to the setting of Hawkins. In fact, there are four different settings and storylines that span across the season. There’s the Byers and Mike in California, Eleven in the lab, Hopper in Russia and the rest of the cast back in Hawkins. 

 

The Hawkins storyline was by far the most interesting and drove most of the plot. Steve, Nancy, Robin, Dustin, Max and Lucas try to uncover the upside-down monster — Vecna — behind a series of grisly murders while protecting a falsly accused super-senior oddball being hunted by vengeful basketball players. 

 

This storyline is the funniest, most action packed and overall most similar to the “Stranger Things” we’re used to. The momentum generated by this corner of the show allows the audience to keep interested as the slower parts set in other locations go on. Steve and Nancy’s rehashed romance as well as Dustin’s comic relief serve as a highlight here, while Max’s emotional turmoil in the wake of her brother’s death provide gravity to the ensemble. 

 

Next, there’s El in the lab. This part of the show follows El’s journey to regain the use of her powers after they disappeared at the end of season three. She does this by exploring her yet-unrevealed memories of her time spent in captivity in some disturbing, complex, and overall far too stretched-out sequences. 

 

The unnecessarily drawn out nature of this setting detracted from the drama and action of the Hawkins storyline. At the same time, it answers many of the long-standing questions about the origins of the upside-down and Eleven’s past. This storyline also culminates in one of the best twists I’ve ever seen in television, but I won’t spoil too much.

 

Hopper’s imprisonment in Russia, while more action-packed, suffers from the same missteps as El’s walk down memory lane. The brief but entertaining action sequences serve as the highlight of this corner of the show, while the off-moments tended to be a bit more dull. Luckily, towards the latter part of the season Hopper’s plot speeds up and Joyce and Murray’s rescue plan insert some much-needed comedy. 

 

Lastly comes Jonathan, Will, Mike and Argyles journey in California. This corner of the show was by far the weakest, only ever achieving comedy or drama in a few high points while plodding along the rest of the way. Argyle, the new comedic-relief stoner character, struggled to insert any humor while the show focused on the un-fun relationship problems of Mike and Jonathan. 

 

Though not without its flaws, season four of “Stranger Things” was ultimately bigger, scarier, and worthy of its predecessors. It balanced its length and complexity while remaining both hilarious and utterly terrifying for the vast majority of the time. If you’re ever looking to feel some 80s nostalgia, get the life scared out of you, and have a laugh, tune into “Stranger Things” season four.