The final two episodes of season 4 almost feel like an extended one-two punch to the emotions, don’t they? Stranger Things has already managed to tweak the emotions of so many fans over the years that it’s fair to think that some folks have either grown an emotional callous or are hesitant to invest in any of the characters for fear of losing them. A lot of folks were entertaining the thought that someone was going to die when it came to season 4, as Vecna/Henry/One is the worst enemy that the group has fought to date, and in a stunning revelation (spoilers) he’s the guy that’s been behind everything since the show started. Or rather, he’s been the main villain, while Eleven’s efforts to get rid of him have spurred his every action from the moment he entered the Upside Down. That feels like a bit of a villain’s cop-out, doesn’t it? The whole ‘you made me this way’ routine does have some merit since Henry was mistreated, but deep down, he knew what he was, and what he could do without remorse.
That’s why Vecna isn’t one of the most unique villains in the world, but he is one of the most vengeful and the most insidious, since every season has been his doing, from the release of the Demogorgon to the Mind Flayer and every incursion into Hawkins. It’s a bit obvious that Vecna has been playing the long game, and is ready to bring his work to fruition as the four deaths he needed to enact his plan allowed him to wreak havoc in Hawkins. The two extra-long episodes that finished off this season were epic in a way that might have felt stretched out and even over-dramatized in some ways (some moments were kind of odd, admit it), but the overall feeling was that the defenders of Hawkins did what they could. Now, the next stage of the battle is set to happen in season 5, which has no set release date yet.
It does sound as though season 5 will experience a time jump that will help to explain the aging of the actors, which was bound to happen at some point thanks to the delays that took place between the seasons. Hey, things happen, and the Duffer brothers are making it work. But getting back to this current season, it’s easy to state that the brothers and their crew have struck a powerful note with the story they unleashed years ago. The manner in which things have evolved has been great since the inclusion of new characters, the advancing of the story, and the overall fantasy of a group of kids taking on an ultimate evil is the kind of story that we might have expected back in the 80s and 90s, especially since it deals with the fact that most people in Hawkins are oblivious as to what’s really happening. What appears to be freak accidents and unfortunate tragedies to many others is known to only a few to be the efforts of a savage and foreign world to break through and destroy the town. It sounds a bit silly when one says it like that, but the child within each viewer can surely see the sense in it.
There are two moments that stand out in the final two episodes, at least in my mind, even if both are great just about all the way through. But the Master of Puppets moment that gave Eddie his moment to shine was great, even if it was only supposed to be a diversion. It’s not hard at all to say that this was one of the best diversions in TV history to date, since the track came off beautifully, and the team of Eddie and Dustin turned out to be one of the best pairings in the series at this point. Watching Eddie jamming out and eventually refusing to run and become the hero he wanted o be was inspiring in a way that’s hard to top. But seeing Hopper take on a Demogorgon back in Russia, with a very familiar blade no less, was all kinds of awesome. Seeing Hopper pick up that iconic blade, and nerding out hard over the realization of where it came from, I can say that I feel better for not being the only one to do so. After all, what better weapon to use against a monster that appears unstoppable? One can imagine that a lot of fellow nerds around the world felt vindication as Hopper dismembered the monster with a weapon that hails from one of the most revered movies of all time.
The battle for Hawkins still feels lost at this point, but with the group back together, and the real enemy finally revealed, it’s very unlikely that anyone is going to simply give up and give in. There’s a hard road yet to travel to the end, but one thing is obvious, the Duffer brothers are going to give us a finale that will be remembered for a while to come.