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Warning! This article contains spoilers for the 4th season of ‘Stranger Things’.
THE DUFFER BROTHERS managed to build the darkest, most complex, and emotional season of Stranger Things, the series that has been wowing nostalgic 1980s fans for six years now, even without having lived through the decade.
The fourth season, which kicks off with an effort by the main characters to integrate into normal life after the tragedies that have plagued Hawkins, shows us that sometimes ordinary life can be crueler than the hellish world of the Upside Down. Particularly, Eleven suffers from it: the real threats were never the monsters, but the kids her age who arbitrarily control who and when she fits in. Thus, even with a strong sense of guilt, we celebrate the blow with which Eleven breaks her bully’s nose.
But normalcy is just a facade. Things are not resolved. The monsters are still there. And, this time, a creepy figure with a voice from beyond the grave appears to murder his victims in the most terrifying way Stranger Things has offered us so far: they rise several meters as if possessed; their limbs fracture, their fingers twist and their jaws break; their eyes turn upside down and blood flows from their orbits. One by one they fall, after spending days haunted by their worst nightmares (disturbing images of the deepest fears of the murdered).
The culprit is Vecna, a humanoid monster that is later revealed to be one of the scientific projects of Papa, the antihero who supposedly tortures, kidnaps, and manipulates Eleven because he has an unfathomable love for her.
Stopping Vecna becomes an almost impossible task, as the clock ticks down and the atmosphere builds for not only Hawkins to eventually be destroyed, but the world as well. So, our heroes, the main characters from the first season, now joined by a couple of well-done characters with whom the audience builds a bond, take on the challenge, even if it seems like a suicidal act.
Several plots are developed in parallel. It was well achieved, almost all equally attractive, and with the satisfaction that, although they seem isolated, in the end, they are related. On the one hand, Joyce and her Soviet adventure to rescue Jim Hopper. On the other, Nancy, Steve, Dustin, Robin, Max, and Erica, along with the newly integrated Eddie Munson, plot an ambush against Vecna while on the run from the delusional and choleric Jason Carver, once Hawkins’ popular boy. In California, what would come to be the weakest plot, the Byers brothers, along with Mike and pizza vendor and marijuana addict Argyle escape from the U.S. government to rescue Eleven. And Eleven, for her part, implicitly kidnapped by Papa, seeks to develop her full potential to finally have the ability to face and beat Vecna, who so far is as powerful or more powerful than her.
Finally, Stranger Things builds a villain on par with the heroes and Eleven. This time, he has a face and he has a story. And the whole plot captivates you as it is revealed and we understand that, although the fourth season has a very different tone and rawness than the first three, it is closely related to absolutely everything we have seen in these last years of Stranger Things.
Vecna drags a past that drives him to commit the worst atrocities, without the slightest remorse. Death, suffering and nightmares fuel him and his will is to break the minds of the fragile and traumatized. For all this, this is finally a villain who truly manages to terrify the audience, because, for the first time, he attacks the integrity of the protagonists.
Wounded, harassed, and terrified, our heroes do not give up and, knowing that they are about to lose everything and that the world as we know it depends on their fight, they decide to risk their lives, to the point that, for a moment, we feel that Vecna won.
The series succeeds in building a tragic and melancholic atmosphere of pain and despondency. The death of those we have grown fond of over the years is imminent. There is no way for everyone to escape unscathed. The music, which has always been the great resource of the Duffer brothers, appears to corner and sink us. But, then, and thanks to the energy of some of the main characters, the intro of the series bursts in and the heroes overcome. It’s predictable, it’s clear. It is desirable. But the unfortunate thing is that the series does not end up being heartbreaking because, thanks to the magical juggling of the script, Max, whom at one point we had already given up for dead, revives.
And those of us who had already been moved to tears and excited that a series that always seemed for teenagers had taken the brave step of tearing the audience apart with tragedy, which is innate to life and which is inevitable when the world is about to crumble because of the evil of an inhuman monster like Vecna, were disappointed.
The fourth season of Stranger Things is the best, but the Duffer brothers will always seek to remind us that, at the end of the day, this is a series for teenagers, where the script is elastic enough to avoid the real drama and tragedies of the adult world. Entertaining like a few other series, it’s worth every second and leaves us wanting so much more. Let’s hope the fifth season is on the same level as the fourth.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.