There are 9 episodes this season, with the last 2 coming in July. The first three are very similar, figured I’d bunch them.
The biggest change this season is time. Everyone is noticeably older, the kids are in their early 20s now. It’s not exactly jarring, I mean we’ve all seen 20 year olds playing teenagers, but the sense of mystery and “newness” doesn’t come off like it once did.
Which I suppose reflects the change of tone in the season. There’s very little comedy left, it’s mostly drama. The sci-fi portion has been replaced by horror. Even the villain is fully revealed in the first episode, with a death in the first 2 episodes meant to set a foreboding tone. This isn’t Barb’s pool attack here… it’s all on screen. I guess one way to look at this is that we’ve moved away from The Goonies and into Nightmare on Elm Street.
The first 3 episode act as a sort of call back to season 1. There are bullies, there are scientists, there’s the lab, and a big scary bad thing hunting people. It acts as a prologue of sorts, and given that this is season 4, it seems very out of place compared to all the craziness that came before. To make a gaming analogy, like how when you beat God of War 1 and then start God of War 2 and lose all your powers and have to walk in the mud again. The good news here is that all the episodes launched at once, so you can binge through it. Had this been a weekly launch of episodes, it would be infuriating. You can skip the first 2 episodes completely and not lose a beat.
The really great news is that episode 4 is a true highlight.
- I can always use more Kate Bush
- Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) still manage to steal every scene
- It was always odd that no one batted an eye on monsters in a city. Mental health seems to be the core theme this season.
- There are too many characters in the main cast with no purpose other than to be present. Will is even more useless. Mike makes faces and is powerless. Lucas is there to show how bad the local teens are, does nothing else. Dustin is the comedic element.
- I miss Bob. Eddie is a close surrogate.