Warning: Spoilers for previous seasons of Stranger Things ahead.
The fourth season of Stranger Things is just days away, and fans have literally been waiting for years to see what happens to Eleven, Hopper, Joyce and the rest. , in those pre-pandemic days that now seem hard to recall. Before the pandemic hit, Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer signed a multiyear film and series deal with Netflix, and have promised two more seasons of the show. (If you just can’t wait, our is here.)
Stranger Things captivated the streaming world when it debuted in 2016. Set in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s, the show begins with the disappearance of a kid named Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). Researchers at Hawkins National Laboratory have opened a gate to the creepy alternate dimension known as the Upside Down and are experimenting on a group of special children, one of whom, known as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), escapes and befriends Will’s group. Part of the show’s charm is its varied young cast, who feel like real friends, and its nostalgic setting.
Where we left off
At the end of the third season, Eleven and the Byers family left Indiana for California. So the new season will have to show the two groups of friends living far apart, and how they stay in touch. Remember, the 1980s were pre-cell-phone and internet days. And a spooky trailer released in April shows life in California isn’t all sunshine and lollipops.
Police Chief Hopper (David Harbour) appeared to be dead at the end of the third season, but video clips show him being held at a creepy labor camp in Russia that’s not against feeding prisoners to the monsters from the Upside Down.
Early reviews are in
Breathe a sigh of relief, Stranger Things fans. Season 4 is earning raves.
Best season yet
InI call season 4 the best one yet, and praise the creators, the Duffer brothers, for managing to balance all the various settings, develop the spooky plot, and keep the characters as lively and likable as they’ve always been.
“Though the show ping-pongs between California, Hawkins, Russia and Eleven’s laboratory days, not one of those settings drags,” the review says. “You’ll have to hit the pause button for any needed bathroom or snack breaks, because once this season starts rolling, it doesn’t let up.”
Jolt of joyful energy
Entertainment Weekly’s review echoes ours. “Fresh locales, appealing new characters and a rewarding expansion of the mythology give the new season of Stranger Things a jolt of joyful energy, just when the series needed it most,” writes critic Kristen Baldwin.
The AV Club critic likes the new season, but felt some episodes were bloated.
“Volume 1’s finale is almost 100 minutes long,” writes Saloni Gajjar. “The show continues to demand patience from its audience after a three-freaking-year wait.”
‘Stranger Things’ Stars Now and Then: Wow, They’ve Really Grown Up
When is season 4 coming?
The first seven episodes of Stranger Things’ fourth season will be released on Netflix on Friday, May 27. Two additional episodes will arrive on Netflix on July 1, giving fans a few weeks to mull over the first-half events. That season 4 finale is over two hours long, so prep for a feature-film-length event.
In 2021, the show’s official Twitter account revealedfor the next season. The photos were tweeted upside down, in honor (we guess?) of the show’s terrifying underworld, the Upside Down. And since I’ve seen the first part of season 4, I can tell you there are other new characters as well — a couple of great ones, in fact.
Band nerd Vickie will be played by Amybeth McNulty, basketball player Patrick by Myles Truitt, guidance counselor Ms. Kelly by Regina Ting Chen and cheerleader Chrissy by Grace Van Dien.
What will season 4 bring?
Leaving Hawkins and that clock
The first teaser for the new season has creepy music and eerie looks at the rot-filled Upside Down. That teaser includes text saying, “We’re not in Hawkins anymore,” which makes sense considering Eleven and the Byers’ westward move.
A creepy clock appears in the teaser, and later previews reveal that it was once in an infamous Hawkins mansion where a horrific murder was committed.
Eleven’s past and future
In May 2021, Netflix released a trailer focusing on Eleven, played by Brown, the show’s first breakout star. If you remember, Eleven was held prisoner with a group of other kids and tested for her supernatural powers in some kind of weird experiment. The scene flashes back to her time in captivity, as Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) greets a bunch of children. But Eleven seems to be his star pupil for sure.
Eleven is going to continue to be important — duh — as the latest trailer shows Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) telling her “without you, we can’t win this war.” She also is seen in that trailer being taken away in a prison-transport van.
The Hellfire Club
Way back in November 2019, the show’s writers tweeted a photo of the cover of the first season 4 script. The episode is called The Hellfire Club, which is also the name of a supervillain group in the X-Men comics. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is also seen wearing a Hellfire Club shirt as he sits in the gym bleachers next to Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo). It’s apparently the name of the school Dungeons & Dragons club, but in this monster-filled plot, it has a double meaning.
How to watch
Get yourself a Netflix subscription to ensure you get all the new episodes plus access to the first three seasons.
The service offers a free one-month trial, so if you wait to sign up until after the entire fourth season is uploaded on July 1, you can soak it up with previous years’ seasons, then cancel your membership without cost. But then you’re going to have to get a kind friend with Netflix to let you watch the fifth season, whenever that comes around.
Cast: Who’s who?
The biggest casting question has been answered: A scene in the third-season finale mentioning an imprisoned American all but gave away the fact that Hopper survived the bleak events of that episode. Since then, Hopper has shown up in trailers at the Russian prison, which also appears to be a monster-gladiator camp.
We told you above about the four new characters announced in June 2020. Here’s a look at the rest of the cast.