- Creator: The Duffer Brothers
- Starring: Millie Bobbie Brown, Finn Wolfhard, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Noah Schnapp, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery
Warning: Reviews of Stranger Things season 4 will contain spoilers.
Look, with every season of television, you’re going to have filler episodes. Episodes where hardly anything new is discovered, and little has changed from the beginning to the end. A show as big as Stranger Things technically should not be immune to this criticism, but when you have a season of one of the biggest shows on the planet, you expect more bang for your buck. I’m not saying that all 77 minutes of “Vecna’s Curse” needed to be all killer and no filler, but it’s hard not to feel like nothing has happened by the time the credits roll on this episode.
In all seriousness, what new information do we learn throughout the episode that we didn’t know before? Mike arrives in California to hang out with Eleven and Will, where they proceed to… roller skate. Most of the drama in this bit revolves around Eleven lying to Mike about how great and popular she’s become in California. I understand that this is a show about high schoolers and high schoolers have a conflated sense of drama, but these are two people who have literally fought monsters, so why are we spending such valuable time on such insignificant character beats? Eleven discovered that her powers weren’t working as they should in the last episode, but nothing advances there this time around. If anything changes on the California side of things, it’s that Eleven strikes back at Angela, her cartoonish bully, and hits her with a roller skate.
The cold open reveals that, yes, Hopper did survive the explosion at the end of season three, but was there ever really any doubt about that, even without the mysterious note from “The Hellfire Club”? We do get glimpses of Hopper’s life in Soviet prison, which is about what you’d expect to see in a Soviet prison. Beyond that, we learn that Hopper may or may not have an ally in the prison named Enzo, who extorts Joyce for $40k and tells her to go to Nome, Alaska.
The events in Hawkins are equally divided, to mixed results. First, Dustin and Max meet up with Steve and Robin to look for Eddie. Max witnessed Eddie fleeing the scene after Chrissy died, and they set out to find him before the cops presume him guilty. These scenes offer some briefly satisfying character beats and humor, which almost make them worthwhile, but by the end of the episode, they’ve simply found Eddie and come to realize that something supernatural is happening again.
Indeed, something very supernatural is happening to Nancy’s friend and co-editor at the school newspaper Fred (Logan Riley Bruner). They arrive at the trailer park to get the scoop on Chrissy’s death (Because these are the kinds of stories to cover for a school newspaper? I get that the Duffer brothers want to portray Nancy as a fearless go-getter, but whatever. At least we’re introduced to the new Hawkins sheriff, played thanklessly by Rob Morgan). Fred begins to have some haunting visions, much like Chrissy did before her death, and we learn bits of information that imply that he was involved in a deadly car crash somehow. But, as great and creepy as these visuals are, it doesn’t upend what already happened with Chrissy, or give us any new information about “Vecna” – another monster whose name is derived from D&D. The final shot of the episode does raise some questions about Vecna, though. We see him camped up in some sort of decrepit house with flying bat-like minions, but it’s unclear if this is happening in the real world or the Upside-Down.
Does what’s happening have any connection to the cold open of the season, wherein everyone in the Hawkins Lab was found mysteriously slaughtered, except for Eleven? Is it a coincidence that both deaths so far have occurred on or around the trailer park? The good news is that, after “Vecna’s Curse” is over, you can simply skip ahead to the next episode without having to wait a day or week. The bad news is that there are only 5 episodes left in this batch – and 7 overall – and one of them is a dud.
7 Episodes of Stranger Things are available on Netflix now. Episodes 8 and 9 will premiere on July 1.