‘Stranger Things Season 4, Vol 1’ review: All aboard the Upside Down for yet another merry round

From the rocking 80s soundtrack, to analogue devices, richly drawn characters, genuine thrills, scares and humour, it is all laid out in a delicious Spielberg-inspired platter

May 25, 2022 12:38 pm | Updated 05:29 pm IST

A still from the fourth season of ‘Stranger Things’

A still from the fourth season of ‘Stranger Things’

Even though each of the seven episodes of Volume 1, Season 4 of Stranger Things is practically a mini-movie, it is so gripping and mind-blowing that you do not realise you have binged it, till the end credits roll, and you have a hollow feeling in your stomach for having forgotten to eat. 

Season 4 picks up six months after the climactic battle of Starcourt Mall, which was set in the summer of 1985. The Byers, Joyce (Winona Ryder), her sons, Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), moved to Lenora Hills in California. 

Eleven is a telepathic and psychokinetic girl who escaped from the Hawkins Laboratory where experiments were being performed on her by “Papa” Brenner (Matthew Modine). She rescued Hawkins from all the nasties from the alternate dimension of Upside Down. But now, Eleven finds it difficult to adjust to school at Lenora Hills with its bunch of mean girls. 

Mike, (Finn Wolfhard) who helped Eleven when she first escaped, and who he is dating, comes to Lenora Hills for spring break to find many things, including Joyce having to rush off to Alaska. She goes with her friend, Murray (Brett Gelman) to meet the mysterious Yuri (Nikola Djuricko), with a chunk of change after getting a mysterious communication from Russia about an American prisoner. 

At the end of Season 3, Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) seemingly died, but in the post-credit sequence, there was mention of an American prisoner in a chilly maximum security Russian prison... 

Stranger Things
Season: 4, Vol 1
Episodes: 7 
Run time: 63 to 98 minutes   
Creators: The Duffer Brothers 
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Dacre Montgomery, Paul Reiser, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, Brett Gelman, Jamie Campbell Bower, Eduardo Franco, Joseph Quinn, Chris Van Dusen
Storyline: A new terror is stalking Hawkins, Eleven has to return in time to get her powers back, and a certain American has to break out of a Russian prison

While Eleven, Will and Mike are dealing with their issues, and Jonathan is smoking up with ultimate stoner and pizza delivery boy Argyle (Eduardo Franco), there are stirrings from the Upside Down in Hawkins.   

A sinister creature, Vecna, targets the minds of troubled teenagers and destroys them from the inside. Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), the leader of the D&D club in Hawkins Middle School, Hellfire Club, is the prime suspect. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) puts her journalistic instincts to good use remembering a serial killer from the 50s, Victor Kreel (Robert Englund), whose family met with a similar sticky end.

Max (Sadie Sink) still has nightmares about her step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). When she is targeted by Vecna, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), join Nancy, her ex-boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery), and Robin (Maya Hawke) who work with Steve to get to the bottom of all the rottenness in Hawkins. Erica (Priah Ferguson), Lucas’ 10-year-old sister is also helping with her wisecracks. 

When Sam Owens (Paul Reiser), the sympathetic Department of Energy executive takes Eleven to a secret facility in an attempt to help her get her powers back, and government officials in suits and shades descend on the Byers home, Jonathan, Will, Mike and Argyle decide to do some digging on their own. When they realise there is some serious hacking required, they stop over at Dustin’s girlfriend, Suzy’s (Gabriella Pizzolo) for tech support. 

Eleven finds herself back in the lab with Papa, who is doing all manner of evil mind control. The only person who tries to help her is Peter Ballard (Jamie Campbell Bower), a kind orderly at the lab. 

All that made Stranger Things the phenomenon it became, is present in spades. From the rocking 80s soundtrack (‘Tarzan Boy’ and ‘Amadeus’ among others), to analogue devices, richly drawn characters, genuine thrills, scares and humour, it is all laid out in a delicious Spielberg-inspired platter.

While some more time spent decrypting Mike’s comments to Will in the previous season about not liking girls would have been welcome, a tight rein has been kept on all the moving parts presenting a coherent, cohesive thrill ride. The extra time spent in the mysterious Upside Down gladdens the heart. The bromance between Steve and Dustin is sweet, Argyle is legit funny, and so is Eddie who takes time to compliment Steve on his Ozzie move with the Demogorgon. Murray riffing off Yuri brings out the laughs.

And there is the two-episode epic finale dropping on July 1... 

Stranger Things is Season 4, Vol I streams on Netflix from May 27 

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