Review by Tatiana Miranda
Stranger Things finally returns three years later with its fourth season, split into two parts. Season four begins six months after the events of season three, with the leading characters now split up between Lenora Hills, California, and the familiar Hawkins, Indiana. The new setting comes with new characters and trials for those who reside there, but the main danger comes from Hawkins, as it often does.
Unlike its past seasons, season four of Stranger Things explores a horror genre separate from its sci-fi roots. The new season hones in on popular supernatural horror of the time, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street. Gruesome character deaths are reminiscent of Freddy Krueger's torment, and there's even a spooky boiler room scene. This new nightmarish style of horror is very different compared to the sci-fi feeling that Stranger Things fans are familiar with. While it still has elements of sci-fi, the presence of haunted houses and possible demonic possessions move the show into a new era of frights.
The new changes to Stranger Things don't stop at the genre-bending, but it also continues to develop with the presence of new characters. One new character, Eddie Munson, is one of the most notable new faces. A clever representation of the weird kid trope and alternative subcultures of the eighties, Eddie is the Dungeon Master of Mike, Dustin, and Lucas's Dungeons & Dragons group. While his personality closely resembles Steve's goofy but tough older brother vibe, it's clear that he is not the story's hero but instead just a pawn to keep it going. Although that's not to say his scenes with Steve, Robin, and Nancy aren't extremely enjoyable to watch.
Even more so than in the last seasons, the jumble of locations and storylines tends to get confusing and messy as the episodes go on. Where season three managed to get the hang of balancing out all the different groups, season four spreads itself thin, which makes sense why it is ultimately divided into two parts. Season four also marks the return of the same Russia plotline from season three, which takes up more of the season than it should as it is easily one of the most uninteresting parts of the entire series.
Volume one of season four of Stranger Things does as much as it can in its six episodes. Beyond bringing old friends and lovers together, it also establishes new bonds and growth for certain fan-favorite characters. For example, El's story goes beyond just her struggles in her new home in California since she also starts to come to terms with her past and what it's like to live without her powers. Max also particularly steals the show as she deals with losing her brother, Billy. This season's high school-centered subplots are utilized well by putting the characters in new predicaments outside of the supernatural, which makes the show's character-building even better than it already is.
Volume one of Stranger Things season four begins streaming on Netflix on May 27th. All six episodes of volume one reviewed.