I thought I would bundle these more, but this particular episode merits it’s own post. Spoilers, obviously
Every so often, you find a particular episode that perfectly encapsulates a series. There’s a little piece of magic found, where the individual pieces fit just right and you get some magic. It requires impeccable timing, amazing acting, a tight story, and an appropriate score. Episode 4 somehow manages to do this, and more miraculously, does so after the doldrums of the first 3 episodes.
The long setup of the first few episodes comes to light here, on all the arcs. Jonathan finally stops being a stoner long enough to actually do something of merit. Will and Mike finally have a conversation that’s more than reacting to El’s behaviour. El is heading back to regain her powers. There’s a big action scene where the military comes to take the kids that pays off with some nice comedic bits from Argyle. A payoff for the stoner comedy is more than welcome.
Hopper escapes, right in line with most action films. Joyce and Murray meet Yuri and are double crossed, while Hopper gets sent to a worse prison. There’s something about a defeated hero that works here.
Robin and Nancy go full undercover to get into see Victor Creel, a source of the suspected murders. Again, Maya Hawke beats the tar out of the script focusing on how women are not even given a chance in a male dominated society. It’s a monologue that is so far ahead of anything else this series has produced, I was just stunned in the delivery. It also comes with a “poltergeist” subview of the start of the curse, which is framed in the typical just enough but not all context of most horror reveals.
The final thread deals with Max, and her acceptance of her inevitable death due to the continual trauma from her brother’s death. She experiences more trauma the episode, and tries to make some sort of amends through letters to those she cares about. She eventually does get captured by Vecna, set up for the kill, and then with the help of Kate Bush, visualizes all the positive memories and people she cares about, enough to escape and “run up that hill” (which is not what the song is about, but it fits). It’s an absolutely fascinating take on mental health, from depression and isolation, through acceptance, and recovery. One that Netflix sorely has lacked. It’s astonishing that a series based on an 80s homage is able to take any topic seriously enough to pump this quality out.
Plus, as always, Steve is the man. He continues to be a better parent than every other adult in the entire series. Which is a topic for a future post.
If Season 4 was a 15 minute summary of the first 3 episodes and then ended here, I would consider it a win. There’s zero filler, and plenty of spotlight for the actresses to shine. No wonder Kate Bush is all over the place right now… for sure this is sticking in people’s skulls.
I really love a slow burn. One of the best things about 21st century TV is that writers and producers seem happy to take two-thirds or more of the runtime of a series on setup, atmosphere, character and ambience. In too many cases that leisurely build-up cascades into a rushed climax but even then I prefer it to the old way of “must have a cliffhanger before every ad break”.
The way this is building, I have to keep reminding myself there’s a fifth season on the way. It feels like we’re working towards an ending already.
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I do enjoy a slow burn, or a more consistent pace. It’s a tricky balance, no question. No one wants another Lost Season 3.
I’m also watching The Boys. This season is astoundingly good, with a much more consistent pace.
As for a 5th season for ST, every season has had near full closure, at least in the construct of typical sci-fi leaving a thread at the end for speculation. Season 3 certainly felt like it had enough to be ‘done’, yet here we are.
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