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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student

arts review

COLUMN: The long-awaited fourth season of ‘Stranger Things’ is equal parts chilling, thrilling and ambitious


The Duffer brothers have taken a “more is more” approach regarding virtually every aspect of the fourth season of “Stranger Things,” including the world-building, characters and plot lines. Overall, this season may have some pacing problems, but nevertheless, the sprawling plot is consistently engaging to watch. 

Netflix used a unique release strategy for the fourth season of “Stranger Things.” Rather than release all of the episodes at once, they released the first seven on May 27 and will release the final two on July 1. 

Season 4 of the beloved Netflix series is bigger in scale than the previous three. Each episode is over an hour, with episode seven clocking in at 98 minutes. When the season finale releases on July 1, it will be the longest episode of the entire series at a whopping two and a half hours. The average budget for each episode was roughly $30 million.

This extravagance could have resulted in disaster, but instead, it allowed for the Duffer brothers to effectively expand the “Stranger Things” universe. Much like the third season, this season follows multiple story lines that eventually come together. But, instead of taking place entirely in Hawkins, the characters are spread out between California, Nevada, Alaska and even Russia. 

This expansion caused for a somewhat sluggish start. It took a generous amount of time to set up each storyline, but the pacing eventually sped up as the overarching story began to unravel. The introduction of a new and intriguing villain, Vecna, also helped move the story forward. 

This season is the most spine-chilling that “Stranger Things” has ever been. There’s Vecna, who makes his victims live in a nightmare before killing them in the most gruesome of ways. There are also multiple set pieces that draw upon past nostalgic horror influences, namely Stephen King. While watching, you can see how “Carrie,” “IT” and “Silence of the Lambs” influenced the creators. 

The season’s darker tone can also be attributed to the explored storylines, including Max’s grief after Billy’s death, Eleven’s backstory at Hawkins Lab and Hopper’s imprisonment at the Russian camp. Despite the darkness, resilience seems to be the theme at the center of this season. 

This tonal shift breathed new life into the series. While the show has gone to dark places in the past, the overall tone has remained light and hopeful. But, now that the central cast is older, the decision to venture into the dark side of Hawkins’s history is a crucial development.  

Even though the stakes are higher than ever, the characters are still given time to work through their personal drama. Will feels his friendship with Mike is slipping, Jonathan and Nancy’s relationship teeters, and Lucas wishes to reconnect with Max. These smaller moments help the characters stay grounded in a vast and fantastical plot. 

With more time devoted to character development, the cast is given room to showcase their acting talent. But, there are a few key standouts. Sadie Sink as Max, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, David Harbour as Hopper and Joe Keery as Steve are the backbone of the season. 

A couple of new additions to the cast also give the show a much-needed boost of energy. Tom Wlaschiha as Antonov, a corrupt Russian guard that helps Hopper and Jamie Campbell Bower as a mysterious orderly who helped Eleven during her time at Hawkins lab are memorable additions to an already crowded cast of characters.

However, it’s Joseph Quinn who manages to steal the show entirely. Quinn plays Eddie Munson, the metalhead leader of the Hellfire Club at Hawkins High. Eddie gets roped into the mysteries of the Upside Down alongside Steve, Robin and the others. He fits in perfectly as his newbie perspective and comedic ability create a fun dynamic within the group. 

Even though the amount of plot points is somewhat overwhelming and certain character arcs are put on the back burner, the season is edited with precision. It all comes together in the thrilling seventh episode that is filled with shocking twists, revelations and a cliffhanger that will make you count down the days until July 1.

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