‘Stranger Things’ 4, Volume 2: The End or Just Beginning?

If someone were to approach me with the question, “What decade would you want to travel back to?” my answer would always be the 1980s. During my childhood, I constantly collected cassette tapes and records passed down from my parents, dreamed of getting a perm and always gravitated toward bright shades of pink and yellow. As one would imagine, my love for this time period increased that much more when watching “Stranger Things.”

But, with the fourth season of the series just finishing up, notably called Volume 2 of Season 4, it begs the question if the series can maintain its momentum while ending on an eventful note. In this season, audiences are reunited with the beloved characters of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery), Max (Sadie Sink) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), who all attempt to stop an evil force, Vecna, from entering their town of Hawkins. 

Although the stakes are higher than in previous seasons, there is nothing that truly shocks the viewer in the end. Even though Volume 2 consists of only two episodes, the conclusion to the season hovers around a total of 235 minutes. There is more that happens in the first five minutes of Pixar’s “Up” than in the last two episodes of “Stranger Things.” 

Courtesy of Netflix.

If you are a diehard fan of the series and see no fault in anything the Duffer Brothers produce, then you will be pleased with the amount of classic battle scenes between the villain Vecna and Eleven, the bromance between Dustin and Steve and the frequent use of 80s tunes. But, disappointment could ensue if the viewer desires a final resolution to the season that leads to their jaw-dropping in shock.

In promotion of Volume 2, which was released on July 1 just weeks after Volume 1, Noah Schnapp revealed on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” that “You can expect from Volume 2, we’ve got some deaths coming.” Similarly, when the Duffer Brothers were asked by Variety if the “body count” of deaths would be high, they replied, “For sure, for sure.” But in reality, there are only two major deaths: Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), who developed Eleven’s powers in Seasons 1 and 4, and Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), a major character in the latest season who joined the returning characters to defeat Vecna. Although Max Mayfield is put in a coma at the end of Volume 2, she is yet to be pronounced dead and still has a chance to return in the next season. Therefore, what was billed as a blood-filled ending turned out to be a minor scrape on the knee.  

Despite the overall let-down of the ending, the one main glorified takeaway is the performance of Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays Venca/Henry/One. Along with his ability to play his character at two different times in his life, an employee of Dr. Brenner’s who attempts to aid Eleven in an escape and the monster Vecna who strives to destroy Hawkins, Bower carries a duality that astonishes the viewer. Even though the monsters in each season of “Stranger Things” appear to be deadlier and darker as the series progresses, Bower’s Vecna takes the cake as the best and even made me fear the grandfather clock in my own house. Perhaps the Duffer Brothers realized the uniqueness of Bower’s performance and that is why Vecna’s victory at the end will lead to his ultimate return in the next season.

The other admired moment in the series, besides Bowers’ performance, is the blossoming love between Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder). A side-storyline of this season focuses on Joyce traveling to Russia to break Hopper out of prison, with many fans wondering about the purpose of these scenes besides Hopper being able to return to Hawkins. But, in the last episode of Volume 2, the two are finally reunited and are on the cusp of returning home, and they celebrate with a kiss — that was entirely unscripted according to the writers of the show. Now, the ship name “Jopper” can finally be a reality for fans.

Courtesy of Netflix.

As every season of “Stranger Things” ends on an ultimate cliffhanger; Volume 2 follows suit. The final scene showcases the four new gates to the Upside Down that Vecna created and how Hawkins is slowly being devoured by the creepiness of this alternate world. But, what questions are left unanswered? 

Some are wondering what the future holds for Will, who is normally the character possessed by the creatures of the Upside Down. But this season, he had an unusually quiet performance. Fans speculate that Will may be a part of the LGBTQ community and is prepared to reveal that in the next season, while others think Vecna will use Will’s body as a means to manipulate Eleven’s powers. Another question viewers may have in mind is if Nancy and Steve will get back together — even though Nancy has been with Jonathan since early on in the series. But, with Nancy and Steve spending quality time together this season and Jonathan being in California, fans speculate that a love triangle is on the horizon. Finally, due to the strength of Vecna, many ponder if all the beloved characters will make it out alive in the end. Despite this season revealing how someone’s favorite song can help people escape Vecna’s trance, it may not be the only solution to running away from his power.

While the ending of Season 4, Volume 2 may have largely disappointed fans, those viewers will still eagerly tune in for the next installment of the series. This is due to the show’s uniqueness, spectacular visual effects, and a connection to characters that audiences have witnessed grow before their very eyes over the years. On the release of Volume 2, over 13,000 users on Netflix reported an outage on the streaming service since so many were logging on simultaneously to watch the ending. The Duffer Brothers have created a fantasy sci-fi universe that people will never be tired of watching. But, I think the audience’s complaints about the latest ending should remind them to create content that has a direct purpose and does not waste anyone’s time. Believe me, I did not watch all those hours of television to hear Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” played over and over again. 

Season 4, both Volume 1 and 2, of “Stranger Things” are available to stream on Netflix.

By Megan Forrester

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