It’s funny, isn’t it? You wait literally years for the latest season of Stranger Things, and almost within the blink of an eye, it’s all wrapped up again. Such is the life of the product of a streaming service which dumps its content in one go, and cursed be our binge-watching habits. Stranger Things season 4 part 2 has arrived, and despite almost four hours of content, it just doesn’t quite satisfy the hunger we felt after the conclusion of part 1.
After the tantalising developments in episode 7, our Stranger Things season 4 review was touting this as the best season to date of the Netflix series. The subsequent two bumper episodes that tie this chapter up are still strong enough overall to cement that accolade, but we can’t help feeling a little bit underwhelmed at the same time.
Granted, both episodes 8 and 9 deliver some truly incredible set pieces, as well as the usual grandiose technical and stylistic elements we have come to expect from Stranger Things by now. This is still small-screen action at its very best, we just want more – which is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.
Season 4 part 2 picks up directly where part 1 left off, with our heroes scattered and Vecna’s plan for Hawkins picking up speed. The incredible revelations of the villain’s true identity in the previous episode set up these next two instalments perfectly for a big finish, and left audiences with huge expectations.
The two new episodes see Eleven get her powers back and desperate to find her way back to Hawkins to take on Vecna. Meanwhile, over in Russia, Hopper and Joyce are reunited and must also find a way to get back home. While in Hawkins, the rest of the gang prepare for battle to protect their town.
There’s plenty of positives with how The Duffer Brothers have handled the narrative for the latest season of the sci-fi series, with Stranger Things ramping up the horror and delivering a story of epic proportions. But it is not without fault.
While the finale is admittedly very exciting, there is a sense that this chapter was more concerned with setting up Stranger Things season 5, than giving audiences something truly special right here and now. I can’t help but feel the creators were holding out on us.
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Of course, the bigger picture should always be considered, and I’ve no doubt that the final season will once again see the show step up a notch and offer viewers the perfect ending to a great story. I just wish there was a willingness to be more brave and bold with some of the decisions for season 4.
Nevertheless, this season, and indeed the finale in particular, have given us some of the coolest moments of any TV series in recent memory. Eleven’s big battle with Vecna is predictably thrilling and emotional, but badass moments such as Hopper taking on a Demogorgon with a sword, and Eddie Munson rocking out on his guitar in the Upside Down are truly special, too.
Along the course of these latest two episodes, we learn more about Vecna and his origins in the Upside Down, and both he and Eleven become more and more intriguing as their stories continue to intertwine.
What has been most impressive about Stranger Things season 4 though, is the show’s ability to really strike a chord on an emotional level. There’s a number of impactful moments in part 2, but once again it’s Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) who is the heart and soul of the season.
One element I was worried about going into season 4 part 2 was the fact that all the characters were in different places, but I have to commend the way the various groups tie together narratively. As much as this is a win for the writing, it should also be regarded as a sign of strong editing, too.
The effective editing should also be recognised in the fact that the long runtimes of these two episodes, particularly the final chapter which clocks in at 149 minutes, never feel bloated or tiresome. Arguably you could have split episode 9 in two, but the beauty of a streaming platform is that the viewer is in control anyway.
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Something I am particularly impressed with is the way The Duffers have such a strong handle on the lore and the science of their story. The logistics and rules of their particular brand of interdimensional travel and the Stranger Things monsters never feel convoluted, and the large-scale narrative journey continues to mesh together wonderfully.
As is also customary with Stranger Things by now, we should once again celebrate the amazing use of music throughout; the remix of ‘Running Up That Hill’ with the show’s iconic theme tune is goosebump-inducing. So too are the visuals, with exceptional VFX work taking the Upside Down to terrifying new heights.
It’s safe to say Stranger Things season 4 is the best season of the show to date, with the scale and the stakes taken up a level this time around. However, I can’t shake the feeling that we have been given something of a stylish stopgap to keep us warm for the grand finale.
In a sense, that’s a good thing – it means the series is doing its job in keeping its audience engaged and wanting more. While I thoroughly enjoyed Stranger Things season 4 part 2, a small part of me does feel a little bit short-changed and dare I say it, underwhelmed.
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By the end of the season, pretty much all our questions have been answered. I’m sure there will be more mysteries to come though, and I’m sure the endgame will be epic. The battle may be over, but the war is still to come, and we want it now!
If you have seen the latest episodes of the show, you may want to take a look at our Stranger Things season 4 part 2 ending explained guide, to clear up any questions you had after the credits rolled.