By: Steph Cannon
Unless you’ve been stranded on a deserted island for the last six weeks, you’ve known that the collective world has been captivated with Season 4 of STRANGER THINGS. The Duffer Brothers’ smash hit series has become a permanent fixture in pop culture since the premiere of season one in 2016. This latest season, which was broken up into two volumes, spaced out six weeks apart, has arguably been the most intense, crucial, and mind-blowing of all the installments. To name every single moment of insanity from all nine episodes would make for a far too lengthy article. Instead, we’ll take a look at five of the most memorable moments from the season; the ones that made viewers cheer, gasp, cry out, or shield their eyes.
1: Vecna’s First Kill
STRANGER THINGS is no, well, stranger when it comes to formidable and terrifying baddies. This season, we’re introduced to Vecna, a humanoid creature from the Upside Down, so named after the D&D monster he resembles. While we don’t know much about Vecna or his abilities in episode one, we do get a shocking and gruesome encounter between the monster and his first victim.
Cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien) is plagued with horrific visions she can’t control, which leave her struggling to keep any shred of sanity. Desperate for a solution to her troubles, she resorts to buying drugs from the hapless Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn). Things take a dramatic and shocking turn when she’s abruptly possessed by, and then brutally murdered at the hands of Vecna. It’s the first moment the season feels like it fits squarely in the horror genre, and sets up just how menacing Vecna is.
2: Eleven Fights Back… With A Roller Skate
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has been living in California with Joyce (Winona Ryder), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), and according to her letter to boyfriend Mike (Finn Wolfhard) back in Indiana, things are going splendidly. We soon learn that this is a grandiose exaggeration, and things are far from great for her. She’s struggling to fit in and adjust to “normal” teenage life, and has been bullied relentlessly by a group of her classmates. One girl in particular, named Angela (Elodie Grace Orkin), is out on a mission to ensure Eleven is miserably mistreated.
When Mike arrives in California to visit her, she tries in vain to keep up the facade that she has a solid group of friends and is living her best life. When they go for a night of fun at a roller rink, Angela and her crew are there as well, and waste no time in tormenting and embarrassing Eleven in front of Mike. There’s only so much a person can take, and El has been pushed beyond her breaking point, and retaliates by smashing Angela in the face with a roller skate. While it’s a shocking act, it’s hard not to cheer for Eleven when she gets her revenge. For any of us who have endured the pain that comes from being bullied, it was a victorious and triumphant scene to watch. Besides, Angela will be fine, eventually…
3: The Power Of A Single Song
Part of the charm of STRANGER THINGS is its nostalgic use of music, style, and aesthetic from the 1980’s. Popular songs have been used throughout the series’ history to accentuate certain scenes, but no one was prepared for what would happen with one song this season. While Max (Sadie Sink) is trying everything in her power to thwart Vecna after he sets his sights on her as his next kill, she eventually becomes possessed by him in the same way as his other unfortunate victims.
While trying to save her, Steve, Dustin, and Lucas learn that playing music can aid the victim in fighting back. They play Max’s favorite song - Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” and thus a unique resurgence is born. “Running Up That Hill” shot to the top of music charts, and nearly four decades after its initial release, the song has already earned Bush an astonishing $2.3 million in streaming royalties alone. Talk about a renaissance.
4: Vecna’s True Reveal
The disturbing history of Hawkins Lab, and the abuse and trauma Eleven faced there at the hands of Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) - or, "Papa" - is a story that has evolved throughout the show’s run. This season, we learn about the lab’s very first test subject - 001, AKA Henry (Jamie Campbell Bower/Raphael Luce). Henry develops a close friendship with Eleven, often coming to her aid.
In episode 7, we learn that this was all an elaborate plan of his to gain Eleven’s trust enough to convince her to remove the implanted chip in his neck suppressing his powers. When Henry goes on a killing spree in the lab, including going after Eleven, she fights back and sends him to the Upside Down, where he becomes… Vecna. It’s a surprising twist that most viewers could not have seen coming, and further sets up the bad blood between Eleven and Vecna.
5: Joyce And Hopper Finally Get Together
Let’s face it, fans have been shipping Joyce and Hopper (David Harbour) since the show’s premier... or at least, since poor Bob (Sean Astin) met his demise. When Joyce discovers that Hopper may still be alive, she travels to Russia, accompanied by Murray (Brett Gelman), to see if they can arrange for his release. Together, the two endure harrowing and dangerous circumstances, all in the name of saving him from his captors.
Though Hopper and Joyce do share a moment of admitting their true feelings for one another, they don’t have much time to elaborate further on it when they learn the danger the kids are in back in Hawkins. Just before Hopper goes to fight off a horde of Demogorgons, Joyce tells him she’s not having another funeral for him, and they finally relieve years of tension with a kiss. Ryder and Harbour have since revealed that the scene was initially unscripted, and added by the actors the day of filming.
It would be an understatement to say that there is much anticipation for season 5 after the way this one ended, and fans are waiting with bated breath for details on when exactly that will happen. In the meantime, there’s sure to be repeat binge watches and plays of “Running Up That Hill” on endless loops to get everyone by.
STRANGER THINGS season four volumes 1 and 2 are streaming now on Netflix.