REVIEW: Grappling with the Horror of Stranger Things 4

Nearly three years after the debut of the previous season, the fourth season of Netflix’s hit sci-fi series “Stranger Things” returned on May 27, but the series abandoned its sci-fi character-focused roots. fiction and opted for gruesome terror in season four which left viewers, and myself, with mixed feelings.

Written and directed by brothers Matt & Ross Duffer, the show has gained notoriety for its unique and spooky plot, stunning scenery, and lovable characters.

While previous seasons of “Stranger Things” inspired ’80s TikToks, retro bikes and Eggo Waffles’ childhood throwback with its lighthearted scenes of best friends Mike, Will, Eleven, Dustin, Lucas and Max cruising together. through their teenage years, “Stranger Things” season four took on a decidedly darker tone.

After the first episode, I didn’t think I could keep watching.

The first episode of season four opens with a particularly gruesome scene depicting bloodied children and adults who have been murdered in Hawkins Lab, ending with an equally grisly scene of high school girl Chrissy Cunningham being killed by the villain of the season, Vecna.

I started season four excited for the fun TikTok trends that would surely come out of it and for the cute scenes of the kids hanging out – but I left the first episode feeling like I’d just watched a movie. gory horror instead of the show I started watching with my mom as a freshman in high school.

A few days later, I attempted to brave episode two, but had to stop 30 minutes after another high school kid fell victim to Vecna ​​in another gruesome scene.

Season four seemed to miss what made me fall in love with the show in the first place – kids being just kids.

Although the sci-fi plot is central to the series, I always felt like I could have done without it. Rather, I just wanted to watch Mike, Eleven, Dustin, Lucas, and Max hang out.

All my friends and family members feel the same way. The characters are each so strong and interesting that we could have enjoyed a spectacle of characters simply trying to get through high school together as nerdy outcasts.

I loved the moments in previous seasons where they had sleepovers, faced dating issues, and lived through the phrase “weird” in high school.

However, this season couldn’t have been the farthest from that.

Instead, we watched the kids deal with death, heartbreak, and complete ostracism.

For most of the season, they fought battles within themselves and against outside forces alone – Eleven and Mike were separated as they both worked to save Hawkins (and their relationship). Will was obviously alone as he watched his best friend neglect him for his girlfriend, Max was trapped in the world of Vecna, and Lucas was cast apart by the basketball team.

I missed when they were all together and when their lives weren’t consumed by evil, but despite my fear, this season was perhaps the most powerful yet.

“The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” (Ep. 7) is one of the most awesome and craziest TV episodes I’ve ever seen. The story of Vecna’s creation was flawless, unexpected, and linked to every detail of the season. I thought about it for days.

I also realized, after my shock and horror wore off, that although they may have been separated, the love and support of the six friends still remained.

I may not have gotten to see them biking through Hawkins and doing typical teenage activities, but I did see them show some compelling acts of friendship throughout the season: Eleven returned to the lab to save her friends despite her trauma, Max fought for her life through her friends’ memories and Nancy, Steve, Robin and Eddie risked their lives upside down to give everyone else a chance to live.

The season was also a reminder of what I and many others have had to go through in our lives.

Since the release of the third season of “Stranger Things”, there has been a pandemic, multiple mass shootings and conflicts. I personally graduated from high school and started college in the midst of the pandemic.

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Like season four, sometimes it seems like I, too, can’t escape all the evil around me. I miss the carefree days of high school with my friends; I hate the constant anxiety the pandemic has left me with and I mourn the senseless deaths around me.

Season four took on a decidedly darker tone than previous seasons, but it seems like the world has too.

Maybe it was harder to watch because I want to take a break from everything and I don’t want to deal with all the bad stuff that’s constantly happening, but I’m sure the kids in ‘Stranger Things’ feel the same thing.

Like them, we no longer have the privilege of being children and have to grow up in a world that constantly encounters obstacles – it’s difficult.

However, while this season didn’t inspire any fun ’80s trends or hang out at the mall, it did inspire a sense of love in a world that seems to be filled with hardship.

What sets One and Eleven apart is that Eleven was able to find love both outside and inside to share with the world.

Despite the constant bullying and torture in the lab, Eleven did not turn evil like One did. She did not let the misery that surrounded her consume her but instead remembered and carried within her the love she had for her family and friends.

This season, while utterly terrifying, reminded me that while it’s so easy to let all the badness consume you, it’s important to remember that love also exists in this world and that love could be the only thing that gets you through life.

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