Review | Stranger Things season four struggles to juggle its own universe

By Shreya Singh, Staff Writer

Six years ago, the Duffer Brothers brought us a show that would proceed to put adults and teenagers alike in a chokehold. After three long years of waiting, season four of Stranger Things has finally dropped — or at least the first part of it.

Instead of the typical method of the season being released all at once, season four was split into two parts, with the second part set to premiere on July 1. As we wait in anticipation for part two to make its appearance, let’s discuss the rollercoaster that was part one. 

The show has always focused on the introduction of new monstrous creatures — from the demogorgon in season one to the mind flayer in season two — and this season wasn’t all that different. But the newly added element of slow-churning horror elevated the show from a kid’s supernatural drama series to a more mature-themed horror show.

This makes sense, considering it’s been six years since season one premiered. After all, as the show progresses and the once-innocent main characters grow up, the show should become darker. This season took inspiration from 80s horror flicks and icons such as infamous Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

If you paid close attention to the previous seasons, you might hear the faint ticking of a clock in the background during suspenseful scenes — like in season one when Will went missing. That sound came full circle with the introduction of Vecna, the show’s most notable creature yet, possessing and preying on its victims only to snap their bones in inhuman ways. 

The sound of the grandfather clock had me frozen, and the spine-chilling introduction of Vecna in the first episode told me exactly what I needed to know — this season was worth the three-year wait. 

And I wasn’t wrong — until I kind of was. 

Despite the show being packed with so many different characters, the Duffer Brothers somehow always manage to introduce another one without it feeling like too much — like Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn). Eddie was one of the best additions to this season, with his eccentric golden retriever personality. His character turned out to be a much more lovable person than I expected, and I’m happy to see other viewers appreciating him as a character. 

This season also focused more on Max (Sadie Sink) and her trauma from last season, which is a storyline many viewers have wondered about. 

On top of that, this plot really allowed Sink to shine this season — her acting was phenomenal. Coupled with her performance in Netflix’s “Fear Street,” I think Sink’s excellence could establish her as the go-to horror girl. 

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Noah Schnapp and his portrayal of Will Byers. The entire plot of the show started out with Will’s disappearance and he was essentially the most important and interesting character of the show. Additionally, Schnapp played the part extremely well — when he was 11 years old, no less. Now? Will was sidelined and given absolutely no screen time, which I highly disapprove of. 

Now that the gang is split up, it’s hard to keep up with each individual group. This season was essentially one big geography lesson for us viewers. From Mike, Will and Jonathan being in California to Lucas, Max, Dustin and Steve being in Hawkins to Joyce and Hopper being in Russia/Alaska and Eleven being in Nevada and so on and so forth, there was a lot to keep up with. 

Luckily, knowing that each group had no clue what the other group was discovering makes for a suspenseful reunion in part two (hopefully). For example, no one but the Nevada gang knows that Eleven has her powers back. And no one in California knows that Vecna is terrorizing Max. 

What was lacking, however, was the fact that some groups were obviously more interesting to follow along than others. I think it’s obvious that the Hawkins gang was always the most entertaining and maybe that’s because, to me, Vecna and the Upside Down is the most notable storyline of the season.

Something that I miss tremendously is the sibling-like relationship between Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) that we saw flourish in season three. It was a duo we never saw coming in season one until it happened and suddenly made perfect sense. 

I was excited to see the two on screen together again this season, but their moments weren’t as humorously filled with love like the previous one, which is a disappointment. But I’m holding out hope that we get prime Dustin and Steve content in part two of this season. 

Despite thoroughly enjoying this season, I can’t totally look past the multiple letdowns and can only hope that part two makes up for the chaos in part one. Putting that aside, I am excited to see the entire story come full circle and for the gang to finally get the closure they deserve.