The long-awaited return of the ‘ Stranger Things series to Netflix is, above all, a confirmation of the platform’s commitment to its star brand, which means that horror and fantasy films occupy a preeminent position within its production. , and that only confirms its darkest and creepiest season, in which the Duffer brothers have tipped the balance of science fiction towards its most surreal and dreamlike extremes.
So the other side is now a hellish territory where there are not only demogorgons, anatomically incorrect, but diabolical figures that alter consciousness, entering a different terrain than the creature feature that had been deployed so far. Right from the start, season 4 surprises with its tone, which goes right into high school horror, mixing Satanic Panic and heavy metal with somebody horror scenes that could be part of a sequel to ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street ( A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1986) or ‘ IT ‘ (2017-2019). But its dark tone not only extends to its desire to fully enter the genre but is one of the pillars to face Eleven’s past and everything that happened in the Hawkins laboratory, building chapter by chapter a crescendo that has its reward in a masterful finale, a great itinerary work that turns the season into a direct answer, at last, to the questions generated by the beginning of the series in 2016. What does Eleven have to do with the other side, what relationship do the experiments have with the evil that plagues Hawkins?
The first episode sets the tone, and its 75-minute runtime makes it an introductory mini-movie. Already the opening scene is brutal and changes everything for Eleven, trying at the end a cold opening justified and key to understanding not only the season but the mechanics of the series. As the characters deal with the tragedy of season 3, the different plotlines take a trail in various directions which, as has been discussed elsewhere, increases the scale of the narrative.
A sensational season
And so far we can go pointing out that everything that is said about this season is true. It’s more ambitious, you can tell it’s $30 million per episode, and for the most part, it works as an exploration into the show’s mythology ignored in the previous two seasons. The new characters, such as Argyle and Eddie Munson — a heavy roller named after an Iron Maiden character from ‘ Deathgasm ‘ (2015) — are great, the former forms with Johnathan an original version of the protagonists of ‘ Wayne’s World ‘(1999 ) or ‘ Zero in behavior ‘ (Detroit Rock City, 1999) and the second is the metal freak that we have all met in class once.
Max has major development and is the main contact with the nemesis this season and Robin continues to demonstrate the great discovery of Maya Hawke. However, despite the spatial expansion and the breakdown of certain schemes inherited from other seasons, this time there is an attempt to return to the origins represented by the conflict of Eleven, who must deal with the loss of her powers by returning to the most traumatic stages of his education, forgotten in memory, again connecting the mystique of the series with ‘ Beyond the Dark Rainbow ‘ (2010).
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It also changes the main dynamic of the series and returns to a mystery in which the Hawkins gang resembles the juvenile investigators of the new Nancy Drew, with moments that replicate the greatest hits of the cinema called by the success of the series itself. , such as the visit to a mental hospital and spiders as in ‘ Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark ‘ (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, 2019) and many visual cues from cousin sisters of the duo ‘ IT ‘ (2017-2019), like the visit to Mrs. Kersh, Max levitating abductee and that Freddy Krueger and Pennywise figure that is Vecma, whose modus operandi has an explanation in the ending.
Back to the rainbow room
In the first episode there is a tendency to overstretch some redundant moments, but the rest of the season overlaps and save for the constant use of unnecessary flashbacks – it sounds like someone from production at Netflix wants to make sure people can get hooked starting from the 4th—, the duration of each chapter does not drag the rhythm and all the subplots come together harmoniously in a monumental final episode in which its 100 minutes almost fall short.
As all the storylines build to a climax, Episode 7 focuses on Eleven and goes back to the beginning, exploring the root of the evil that plagues Hawkins, with the girl forced to relive painful memories to regain her powers, while floating in the water tank his mind drifts to the past and it is revealed that Brenner’s assistant is his first patient, number 001, a very careful development that shows us the claustrophobic sessions in the rainbow room and how he is cheating on you.
A script game that allows us to see Brenner’s atrocities and the rivalries between the different students as a distraction so that in the end the revelation has a tremendously shocking effect. The retaliation to the assistant and the memories of the massacre go from putting Eleven as a suspect, then her opponent, to convincing her that she must flee, getting her to remove the tracking device implanted in her neck, which is when the true identity is revealed. of the assistant as patient 001 and we know that the chip was not such, but a suppressor of powers.
The origin of a hulking villain
The script then does a triple somersault and joins the 001 stories with that of Victor Creel, played by Robert Englund, resulting in his son Henry Creel being Hawkins’ first patient. Henry was the one who caused her to seem haunted—that whole flashback is reminiscent of Amityville —and when he became aware of his psychic power, he haunted his family with visions before finally killing them to leave most of them alone, leaving his father to be framed for the murders and locked up in a mental hospital as a deranged serial killer.
Henry then finds himself in the care of Brenner, who kicks off the entire show that Eleven enters. The Duffers’ script carefully weaves together all of the boy’s motivations and obsessions to explain the season’s great villain, Vecna. Everything fits and the appearance of the spiders in Max’s dreams, the jars that Nancy finds, and the victims that appear placed in “cocoons” in Vecma’s mental space, respond to his fascination with the logic of black widows and their predatory mentality of the weak.
This also explains his position reigning on the other side as if it were a spider’s web where he can get his prey by breaking their dimensional perception, also achieving that the psychic contact and his death open small gaps in the real world, which explains his relationship with the great villain of the upside-down world. But before reaching that point, Henry only seeks to kill in 1979, because he considers the rest, except Eleven, to be weak, he considers her the only one on his level, which makes him have a rather murky implication, considering the age.
That’s why Eleven faces using a happy memory, instead of a sad one, adding a nuance of positive or negative force, a la ‘Star Wars’ depending on the source of your powers and dominating it. There is a magnificent duel that is more than ever reminiscent of David Cronenberg ‘s ‘Scanners’ (1981) and when he finishes with Creel, he opens a portal to the upside-down world and locks him in the dimension.
Two great elements of the series come together
We see how Henry becomes the monster that now terrorizes Hawkins in the present as Vecna, possessed and mutated into a monster in a plot very reminiscent of Dr. Channard’s cenobite in ‘ Hellbound: Hellraiser II ‘ (1988), included even in the design, being, in the same way, humans locked in an infernal dimension at the service of the lord of evil, even the infernal space of that one has points in common. At the same time that this is revealed to us, we connect with what we knew in the first season, that the hole in the lab had been opened by Eleven .
This relationship between the evils and terrors that appear through the gap finally unites the two plots of ‘Stranger Things‘ that seemed to have no relationship with each other, the boys with powers and the world upside down, now we know that there is an “anti -Eleven” that directs everything from the other side and that its birth has to do with experiments, humans with powers and their ability to alter the border of both dimensions. Vecna’s search for victims, on the other hand, has a similar point to Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ mythology and may have more implications than explained.
There are two episodes left with almost four hours left to finish the season on July 2 and many situations still need to be resolved, especially how the recovery of Eleven’s powers will affect her confrontation with the demons of Hawkins, now that she is “supervised” by a faction of the government that believes in it, the scale has become a giant thing and it remains to be seen how it comes together in a final season. With the 4 to finish, it can be said that it is the best since the first, much more mature, well written, and without ever losing its essence.