Good but too long. Some spoilers.
I had mentioned in my The Boys review that it’s important to treat each episode like it has value. Stranger Things has become a good example, with Episode 8 being 90 minutes and Episode 9 being 150 minutes of plenty of filler. We’re not in Dragon Ball Z territory here, but man…
Now, when the stuff actually happens, it’s as good as any 80s horror homage can be. There are plenty of great scenes to pick from, with Eddie’s guitar shredding masterpiece being a true standout. It just takes forever to get to these pieces, with dialogue that should have happened miles ago.
Episode 8 is called Papa, and well, it deals with the guy that has no empathy. It takes 90 minutes to reach a point of catharsis, and El’s helicopter attack/scream is impressive to behold. MBB is an impressive actress, though that’s mostly when she isn’t talking. But after 4 episodes of being in this mess, it reminds me too much of Lost’s season 3, where there was a writer’s strike and everyone was stuck in a cage for half the season.
Episode 9 was the final attack on Vecna. You know that horrible 80s horror trend where you would should at the TV “don’t go in there / do that” ? This episode is full of such moments, things that stand in stark contrast to the rest of the series. The total lack of urgency in anything here (except Eddie + Dustin) is infuriating. I won’t spoil much here, but the horror sports jock is there to stall for 10 minutes while having done nothing for hours, and then just gets wiped off screen. Sadie Sink (Max) still stands out here above all the others, in being able to convey actual emotion and character progress.
After an entire season, Mike had 3 minutes, Will spends the entire season afraid to say that he’s gay, Lucas finds out that being popular isn’t worth it, Hopper’s storyline didn’t go anywhere (but I will give a hand to Murray’s arc), Jonathan has a 2 minute scene, and Steve… well Steve is still the most interesting bro-dad on TV today.
Vecna, while a very interesting character, is a weird one as all the prior seasons had rather human antagonists, with a shadowy upside down as a threat. He’s impressively well acted, but spends an inordinate amount of time explaining things and gloating, just like a James Bond villain. That he still wins, feels kinda good in that regard, as it turns the tropes on their head.
This season had some standout moments, but it simply took way too long to get to them. Tighter scripts and better editing would have helped a ton to get a meaningful story across. 9 episodes, and 14 hours of content needs some work. Maybe we’ll see a fan edit of all this so that it comes down to a more respectable 45 minutes per episode (or less).
Season 5 is an interesting prospect. It’s clearly the end game of the larger arc. My guess says we’re going to fall into Stephen King honors next, with Hawkins turning into a replica of Derry, Maine. The whole multi-dimensional bit was explored at length, and The Dark Tower could use an on-screen analogy.
Stranger Things 4 is still a decent watch, and it won’t get cancelled by Netflix until it’s all wrapped up. And, there really isn’t much else out there that’s comparable. Backhanded praise, I know. It has so much good stuff in it, just a shame you have to get through the muck to get to it.