With each new season of Stranger Things, I can’t help but ask myself why Netflix keeps making more of this show. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed each season so far, but it seems like with each one, there’s a new seemingly unstoppable evil and somehow our group of wonderkids saves the day. Everything seems to have a nice little bow tied around it and then BOOM! Something happens that promises a next season and I find myself always asking “why?” Why not just leave this good ending as it is and do something else? After all, the “kids” are basically fully grown adults at this point and each season takes years to make. Not to mention this season promised its longest and most expensive episodes to date. This feeling hit an all-time high at the end of the third season with an infuriatingly lazy post-credit scene that served no other purpose than to say, “don’t you change that channel, we’ll be right back in 3 years”.
Three years later, here we are back in Hawkins, and you guessed it, a new seemingly unstoppable evil has returned, and it’s up to our wonderkids to save the world once again. Sure, the formula hasn’t changed much, but here I am, fresh off finishing episode 7 (the mid-season finale and the season’s longest episode so far at a whopping 100 minutes) after spending my entire week binging, happy to report that by upping the ante on the horror, darkening the overall tone of the show, and adding in some great new characters, Stranger Things has managed to win me over once again.
It's true, the show has always had an undeniable charm, with the impossibly likable characters and the well-executed retro vibe, but that’s not what keeps this show from feeling stale. Stranger Things manages to stay fresh because after six years and only three and a half seasons, the show has been forced to grow and mature alongside its characters as well as its audience.
The show does this in a myriad of ways. For starters, the subject matter has gotten substantially darker each season and this one is no different, dealing with not only more terrifying and gruesome enemies, but also with the adult issues our characters are beginning to face. As they reckon with their pasts and prepare for their futures, it finally feels like the Hawkins kids face real world problems that are almost as perilous as the Mindflayer. On top of that, more blood and gore that’s sure to please more mature horror fans. It’s honestly a miracle the show has managed to keep it’s TV-14 rating but to be fair, it’s balanced well with the show’s trademark comic relief delivered in large part by its new characters.
As the scope of the show has grown, so has its cast of characters, and this season’s additions have been some of the best to date. Newcomers like Eddie, the rebellious dungeon master and self-proclaimed outcast, Argyle, Jonathan’s stoner best bud, and Dmitri, the Russian prison guard, have added valuable support this season. Don’t worry, the excellent additions from last season like last season like Robin, Suzie and Erica are also back to keep stealing countless scenes.
While the new cast members do a lot of heavy lifting, the biggest step forward this season by far was delivering meaningful expansion of Eleven’s character. Last season, the focus seemed to shift away from her a bit, but with these episodes, it feels like for the first time we really know who this character is. What she’s been through, and why she is still one of television’s most badass heroes.
If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’ve probably deduced that I am still a pretty big fan of the show and given its popularity, most people don’t need another reminder to watch, but for those of you who felt like me and are on the fence, I’m here to tell you to give it another go. Sure, the episodes are long as hell, but I’m sure whatever the final two episodes have in store will be well worth your time!
Stranger Things returns with Season 4 Volume 2 on July 1st on Netflix.