To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Stranger Things 4 Vol. I is a sci-fi horror series created by the Duffer Brothers (Wayward Pines). Featuring returning stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, Brett Gelman, Matthew Modine, and Paul Reiser alongside newcomers Robert Englund, Jamie Campbell Bower, Eduardo Franco, and Joseph Quinn. This season takes place six months after the Battle of Starcourt Mall and our protagonists are separated. Joyce, Will, Jonathan, and Eleven have moved to California, Hopper is a prisoner in Russia, and those remaining are still in Hawkins. While things seem to be going well, a new supernatural threat emerges from the Upside Down and begins killing teens in Hawkins.
In 1979, Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) is experimenting on several children at the Hawkins Lab. He takes Ten (Christian Ganiere) to a separate room to run some tests. Ten uses his abilities to spy on the other kids and realizes they are being killed. A mysterious force blasts open the door to the room injuring Dr. Brenner and killing Ten. When Dr. Brenner awakes he heads to the Rainbow Room to find out what happened to the children. Once there he sees an angry-looking Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) covered in blood and surrounded by dead bodies.
Stranger Things has been a cultural phenomenon since it arrived on Netflix in 2016. It had the right blend of 80s nostalgia and modern sci-fi that was becoming popular. The original cast was a mix of known stars and relative newcomers with many of the child actors going on to more prominent roles. Each season they add a few new cast members who instantly feel like they belong. The trend continues with the additions of Argyle (Eduardo Franco) and Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn). Argyle is the new stoner friend of Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) out in California and Eddie leads the Hellfire Club, a D&D group at Hawkins High, attended by Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). Both newcomers are sucked into the frightening situations involving Eleven and Vecna respectively.
One of the best things about this season is the increased episode length. Each episode is over an hour long and episode seven manages to reach a whopping 1 hour 38 minutes. That’s feature-length film territory. In previous seasons only the finale was over an hour. With this much time given to each episode, characters can be fully fleshed out and new characters can get more screentime. This is also the first season to be split into two volumes. Although with its length it could have easily been split into three volumes. The Vol. I finale is fantastic but the cliffhanger at the end of episode six was probably more worthy of it.
Stranger Things 4 also feels more mature than before with an atmosphere closer to A Nightmare on Elm Street than E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This is partly because our younger characters have now aged into teenagers which happens to be the age group Vecna is targeting. There is also the inclusion of Robert Englund (The Nightmare Room) as Victor Creel. A casting choice that was made to help align Vecna’s murders with those of Freddy Krueger, famously portrayed by Englund. Speaking of Vecna, he is a mutilated monster that would make David Cronenberg proud. He is the first villain able to attack Hawkins without leaving the Upside Down. Also, his backstory connects to Creel and Eleven ingeniously and horrifyingly.
Overall, this is shaping up to be the most developed and interesting season of Stranger Things yet. The story is stimulating and the performances are great. I give Stranger Things 4 Vol. I a Superb 5/5. Things are more mature and fully fleshed out and I can’t wait to see how it wraps up in Vol. II. Also, great for Netflix to somewhat adapt to the times by splitting this season into two volumes. This way viewers can still enjoy the binge while also having to wait on the finale.