- 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.
Now that’s more like it. It’s probably no secret that I’ve enjoyed the Vecna/Hawkins mystery much more than anything else this season, so color me surprised that that storyline moved the needle the least for me here. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good or worth discussing, but what was happening on the other side of the country/world sets up some really intriguing questions going forward.
Even though it didn’t add much in the grand scheme of things, even the Mike segment of “The Dive” at least had some humorous bits in it. The guys arrive in Utah to a crazed household full of weirdo kids (read: Mormons) to try and get help from Suzy, Dustin’s long-distance girlfriend. I don’t know how realistic it is that a high school freshman could hack a top-secret government computer, but at least Mike is one step closer to busting Eleven out of the Nina Project. Also hot on their trails is the mysterious army general, who we know next to nothing about, seen torturing the agent from California into revealing where Eleven was taken.
And the Nina Project appears much more sinister this time around than before. It’s still unclear to me exactly how the situation works, from a logistical standpoint: is Eleven simply re-living these memories and we the viewer are the only ones that see her as older, are these new experiments where Brenner is hoping to unlock something, or is it all just a simulation, where none of it ever actually happened? Or am I simply over-thinking it all (honestly, this is the most likely scenario)? Regardless, Eleven’s ally, the subdued but creepy orderly, reveals that there was another like her named One, who had as much power as her but either disappeared or was killed. We get a bit more insight into Eleven’s past, and what may or may not have happened to spur on the massacre from the season’s cold open, but given that the next episode is literally titled “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”, I imagine we’ll get the real story soon.
It’s been heavily hinted this season that Steve and Nancy will get back together, but “The Dive”, along with “The Nina Project”, seems to imply that it will actually be Nancy and Robin who end up together romantically. Season three had done a fantastic job at making Robin a real person who just happened to be gay, but she hasn’t had any romantic prospects yet this year. If this is the case, the good news is that, since Stranger Things is not a Disney property, there’s a real chance that the show will treat this gay subplot as something more than a surface-level congratulatory development. The end of the episode sees Steve volunteering to swim to the bottom of Lovers Lake and be sucked through a portal to the Upside-Down, with Nancy, Robin, and Eddie following. Will they make it in time to save him from the creepy bat creatures? No major characters have died this season, so it would be shocking, to say the least, if Steve was the first casualty. Do the Duffer brothers have the guts to pull it off? Despite my trepidation over some of the season’s developments so far, I remain excited for the “finale” – or, more accurately, episode seven.
Lest we forget, there’s also some intriguing developments with Hopper, Joyce, and Murray in “The Dive”. Joyce, Murray and Yuri were all wearing their plot armor when their plane crashed and walk out mostly unscathed, so they set out, undeterred, to rescue Hopper still. Meanwhile, Hopper and his prisoners are treated to a fancy meal in a secluded room. But while they stuff their faces, Hopper has a grim warning: they’re being fattened up to be fed to a monster from the Upside-Down. If this has been what the whole Hopper storyline has been leading up to, I’m here for it, as Hopper is always at his best when fighting monsters.
One understated development from the episode sees the basketball team rallying the town to take up arms against Eddie, even after seeing firsthand what happened to one of their own. They describe the Hellfire Club as a satanic cult, responsible for conjuring the forces of evil to kill the teens in the town. Much as Stranger Things’ 80’s influences can be fairly shallow, this is a real-life bit that was developed nicely, regardless of how it influences the final three episodes on the whole. I never thought I would see the day where I’d be excited to watch and review a 100-minute episode of television, but, given the show’s success rate at making its seasons go out with a bang, I’m optimistic it will be a worthwhile experience.
7 Episodes of Stranger Things are available on Netflix now. Episodes 8 and 9 will premiere on July 1.