Stranger Things 4 – Eps 5 -7

Episode 4 remains the season (if not series) highlight, with very strong visuals on mental health and PTSD.

Episode 5 continues that message with Hopper’s monologue on the karmic effects of his time in the military, and Eleven’s literal exposure to her memories in order to access her powers again. There are comedic bits with the kids tracking down Suzie, and Joyce/Murray with the Yuri airplane bit. I am not a fan of the editing in this episode because the themes swing so heavily from one end of the spectrum to the other, which reduces each other’s impact. Oh, an Vecna takes another victim.

Episode 6 feels like the other half of episode 5 if the editing was tighter. They are running 5 main story arcs at once, and that’s a herculean feat. There’s a reason this is avoided. It works here simply because Stranger Things released all these episodes in a batch. Weekly serials would not work. The episode feels like pure stalling to put the characters in the proper place for the next episode. This is the first episode where Vecna doesn’t attack someone.

Episode 7 is the payoff for the setup. Hopper and Joyce/Murray meet up. Eleven learns the truth about Vecna, which is both interesting to see but also mind bogglingly stupid when you think about the chain of events leading up to it. Stranger Things has always had a mystery box portion where you simply need to suspend logic and go along for the ride… *hand waving*… when they get to explaining some logical bits, it rarely works out (see Season 2, Ep 7 – The Lost Sister). Aside from Dark, I can’t really think of a recent mystery box that had a satisfying reveal. A season highlight for me is Eddie (Joseph Quinn), who is a surrogate for the audience geek. He has a completely rational view of all the crazy stuff going on, which is an offset to Robin’s let’s-see-how-far-this-goes approach. Eddie’s chat with Steve in this episode is solid.

There are 2 episodes left, coming out in a few days. I don’t see how these will be episodes as much as a single film split into 2 parts. And at an average of 1:15 per episode, this is a very long season. With one of them being called Papa, I’m hopeful they can finally close the Brenner mystery box. After 3 episodes of flashbacks, I’ve had enough.

Overall I’m surprised at what this season has delivered so far. It’s tonally much different than the 3 prior, with a significant focus on mental health and a monster than feeds off it. I’m not convinced the story understands why this is actually important, as compared to the 80s horror tropes it is emulating, but it’s still there. 2 more to go.

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