Stranger Things S4 Vol 2, though captivating, struggles to keep up with its momentum


By Toni Baynes, First Year, English

Stranger Things, the nostalgically charming and action-packed Netflix sensation, has recently released its fourth season. Split into two volumes, Stranger Things has upkept the franchise’s high standards and expectations for the season 5 finale.

Volume 1 ended as we discovered that Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) was the puppeteer of The Upside Down and all the previous villains, like the Mind Flayer. Volume 2 followed directly on from this cliffhanger and consisted of episodes 8 and 9, with a joint runtime of almost 4 hours.

Courtesy of IMDB

The music in volume 2 was incredible; it’s a core aspect of the filmmaking and worldbuilding of the show and is now also integral to the plot as a metaphor for love. This extra layer of meaning is seen when tracks like ‘Running Up That Hill’ played during epic fight scenes- making it even more powerful.

Likewise, in terms of technical aspects, it is pretty much faultless. The cinematography is impressive and Jamie Campbell Bower’s transformation into Vecna through SFX makeup, rather than CGI (which are typically used in big-budget action films nowadays), is incredible too.

Jamie Campbell Bower as Vecna in Stranger Things Season 4 // Courtesy of IMDB

I think character development is something Stranger Things has previously excelled at, but it was lacking in volume 2. It prioritises setting up for season 5, which meant lots of characters lacked an arc or positive moments, like Will (Noah Schnapp) or Jonathan Byers (Charlie R Heaton).

Although, we do start to understand Will better emotionally as his unrequited love for Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is made apparent. Mike’s character, however, seems to have been ignored and undeveloped, merely written off as Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) boyfriend and nothing more.

Courtesy of IMDB

There was a lot of hype for volume 2 as the writers of the series, the Duffer brothers, took a leaf out of Avengers: Endgame’s (2019) book by teasing a big death count. Although these expectations weren’t met, with the main cast overly protected from any real harm, it did create a more tense and immersive watching experience as viewers believed that these loveable characters were truly in danger.

Instead, the show resorted back to what has become a convention in each season thus far: for the loveable side character to be introduced and then killed in the same season. Eddie was one of the best parts of season 4, Joseph Quinn aced him as a character and made him into one of the most iconic and loved parts of the franchise. His death was one of the heart-breaking parts of volume 2, and Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) deserved an acting award for that scene alone.

Similarly, the acting of Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) and Sadie Sink (Max) was also incredible when Eleven brought Max back to life. This scene felt like the climax of volume 2 because of the anxiety built throughout volume 1 for Max; it was heart-breaking and powerful. The time jump to two days later, right after this climactic point, is one of the volume’s downfalls as it felt very jolting.

Courtesy of IMDB

Eddie’s death seems inconsequential to all other characters, except for Dustin, as we never see their reactions to his death. This could be setting up a time jump back to these two days skipped in the final season.

Stranger Things Vol 4 had its high points, with its incredible music, cinematography and acting; however, it seemed to have struggled to keep up with its momentum. Whether it was due to bad writing, rushed because of the pandemic, or merely to set up its final and fifth season, its abrupt ending was disappointing, to say the least.

Featured Image: IMDB

Were you disappointed by the Stranger Things Vol 2 finale?