It’s D-Day, Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1 is finally coming to Netflix. In heavyweight version with seven XXL episodes and full of adventures!
Three years of waiting. Since the launch of Season 3 on July 4, 2019, fans of Stranger Things had to be patient. With a higher budget – 30 million per episode! – an expanded territory and quite stunning horror sequences, the new season of the hit Netflix is the event of the week.
A warning, however, is in order. The very long duration of the episodes, with an average of around 1h15 per episode, and the slow development of the plots makes any form of binge-watching indigestible.
3 years = 6 months
The notion of time has always been a bit of a tricky thing in the fictional town of Hawkins, where slimy portals to nightmarish parallel dimensions are known to open occasionally, but that takes on new meaning as Stranger Things 4 catches up with its heroes who have become… teenagers!
Three years for us – and incidentally for the actors – but it’s only been six months for the band since the battle for the Starcourt Mall. It was so intense that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) found herself in the end without her powers.
So she went to live with Joyce (Winona Ryder), Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) in California, while Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Max (Sadie Sink), Luke (Caleb McLaughlin) and Steve (Joe Keery) remained in Hawkins.
Presumed dead, but alive and well, Hopper (David Harbor) is a prisoner in a secret Russian gulag. And even thousands of miles from Hawkins, he’s not quite done with the Upside Down…
Scattered like a puzzle
Stranger Things 4 resembles previous seasons in its way of staying within the cultural and pop canon of the 80s with its share of homages to genre cinema of the time. In this fourth installment, however, Stranger Things assumes more of its own identity by becoming something other than a stylized tribute to the creatures and great classics that filled theaters in the 80s.
This season is clearly fuller, more gory and more intense than the previous ones. But it also follows the natural evolution of this sprawling epic that the Duffer brothers have been telling from the start.
“Normal life” for Eleven, Will, Jonathan, and the boys’ mother Joyce Byers is playing the average American family, at least on the surface, settling into a new ordinary life in California where everyone hopes that Jane – that’s Eleven’s real first name – will be able to make a fresh start.
For the young girl, evolving in this new setting, without her powers and without her adoptive father Jim Hopper who is still missing, is learning to exist simply as an ordinary teenager. And it is both a challenge and an anguish for her. But Eleven’s sincere enthusiasm coupled with the Upside Down’s apparent mothballing since leaving Hawkins comforts the Byers in their new life out West.
This season finds the rest of the gang in Hawkins in full swing as the high schoolers prepare for their infamous “spring break,” spring break. Now Lucas devotes more time to the high school basketball team. Max continues to struggle with the death of his brother Billy. As for Mike and Dustin, they find new friends at the Hellfire Club – a group of nerds who play Dungeons & Dragons under the supervision of Eddie Munson (joseph quinn) a repeating high school student, much older.
By breaking up the original strip into smaller groups and introducing new characters, like basketball team captain Jason Carver (mason dye) and pizza delivery boy Argyle (Eduardo Franco) Jonathan’s new best friend, this Season 4 establishes change as one of its defining themes for the season. There is a break recorded both in form and in substance, even if these fragmented groups work each on their side for one and the same cause.
If a certain change of scenery is felt at the beginning, we get used to this new narrative geography as the episodes apply to dig into the psychology of the characters. Although Stranger Things continues to revolve around Eleven and her connection to the Upside Down, this season plays with the idea that Hawkins is a cursed place and the town, in its own way, moves people’s inner lines. who know its secrets.
While most teens are busy coping with puberty and, eventually, securing their school life, our heroes are also dealing with the weight of knowing what kinds of horrors Hawkins National Laboratory has unleashed upon the world. And if they are clearly too young for that, they gain very quickly in maturity, largely helped on this point by their appearance now of young adults.
Although this season introduces a new monster inspired by Dungeons & Dragons – sharing a strong resemblance to Freddy Krueger from the Claws of the Night – this is of particular importance. Because his presence partly answers some of the biggest questions of the series.
It is in these circumstances that we feel that the end of Stranger Things is approaching. We know that season 5 will be the last. Maybe that’s why the episodes in this part 1 are outrageously long. We guess that the Duffer brothers want to tell everything, to spare no detail. But there remains the impression that instead of completing the weaving of a complex narration, they dilute in a surplus of scenes which could have remained in the editing room.
There are still a few flashes. Just like the Upside Down which always seems bigger to us, Stranger Things is changing and coming out with these new episodes of classic series status. By presenting one feature film per episode, it is transformed into a mega-series whose hyper-serial nature makes it a series-film object in its own right. In short, it’s long but it’s good all the same.