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Stranger Things Watch Journal (Season 4)

Read Time:9 Minute, 45 Second

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TL;DR

This is my favorite season so far. The first two episodes are really rough on the characters, but it picks up and boy does it get good. There’s not just nine episodes in this season. But nine long episodes. Toward the end of the season it’s like watching one move after another and ends with a 2h 20min finally. Buckle up! It’s a fun and dramatic ride.

S4.E1 ∙ Chapter One: The Hellfire Club

Boy, that was a rough start, especially for Eleven. But, the Duffer brothers are aware, to get the most out of your characters you first have to beat them down. It’s part of the hero’s journey. As Mike said, Eleven has saved the world twice already. And she played an instrumental role in the ending of season 3, even though she lost her powers. Now it’s time for her to struggle back to regain her powers and become more powerful than ever.

We also get to see the splintering of the group as Lucus is taking another path. This is part of the growing up process. Not every group can hang together as priorities begin to shift.

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At first I didn’t like the new character Eddie—the leader of the Hellfire Group. But maybe he’s going to be okay. The episode ending is going to put him in a strange place.

As the actor’s age it’s really becoming obvious that they’re not the same age. I looked the main cast up and got the birthdays. It looks like Will and Eleven are the youngest of the group. Lucas is the oldest, about three years older than Will.

Of the older kids. Nancy and Johnathan are about the same age. But Steve, who should be about a year older than Robin in the series is actually six years older.

Actor Character Born
Millie Bobby Brown Eleven February 19, 2004
Gaten Matarazzo Dustin September 8, 2002
Noah Schnapp Will October 3, 2004
Finn Wolfhard Mike December 23, 2002
Caleb McLaughlin Lucas October 13, 2001
Sadie Sink Max April 16, 2002
Priah Ferguson Erica October 1, 2006
Older kids    
Natalia Dyer Nancy January 13, 1995
Charlie Heaton Jonathan February 6, 1994
Joe Keery Steve April 24, 1992
Maya Hawke Robin July 8, 1998

S4.E2 ∙ Chapter Two: Vecna’s Curse

So far I’m not loving this season. First, it feels like they’re copying the theme of Nightmare on Elm Street, so we’ll have to see where this goes. It would be interesting if this is the theme and Eleven really has lost her powers for good but she can still use them in this dream state when Vecna is attacking. 

I’m getting a little tired of the character plot with Mike’s inability to say he loves Eleven. I hope this has some real implication for Eleven’s growth. And it’s time to give Will’s character something to work with. He was in the upside-down for most of the first season. Then he was possessed for most of the second season. Then he did nothing but act as the proximity detector for the Flayed in season three. He could really use a win. He’s been a third wheel for the entire series so far. It’s time to let this character of the leash.

S4.E3 ∙ Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero

Finally, an episode that ends making me want to watch another. Just about every episode for the first 3 1/2 seasons ended like this. Then the last half of season 3 and the first two episodes of this season were really hard to watch. They left me hoping for more, but not wanting to watch another episode. 

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The ending of this episode was a little deus ex machina, but it was exciting. I’ll take it.

During the show my wife and I talked about the acting by all the main characters. We started the conversation because I mentioned that I think Robin (Maya Hawke) is probably the best actor in the bunch and has a bright future. We also agree that Steve (Joe Keery) has potential, and then after that Dustin and Max could. But sorry to say that Lucas, Will, and Mike aren’t very good. At least not right now. When I see their scenes it feels like I’m watching someone act. Not so with the others. The real wildcard is Eleven. Her character is so limited that it’s hard to tell if she’s really good or not. I’m going to lean toward good, but I’m not 100% convinced. The cool thing is that we’re watching the movie Damsel as soon as we finish this season so we’ll get a chance to see Millie Brown in a more challenging role. And oh shit, I just realized that Millie is the girl in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I’m a little more impressed now. I remember liking that girl, although at the time I had no idea who she was. Now I have an excuse to go back and watch GKotM before the next Godzilla x King Kong comes out in a few weeks. 

S4.E4 ∙ Chapter Four: Dear Billy

What an outstanding episode. I love that Vacna is drawn to regret. That seems to be the theme of the season, overcoming regret and forgiving yourself and others. 

Getting Robert Englund to play Victor Creel is a stroke of genius. The Nightmare on Elm Street theme is really coming together.

Once again, Maya Hawke shows that she’s the best actor among the young cast. 

S4.E5 ∙ Chapter Five: The Nina Project

It was cool to see where they’re taking Eleven with remembering her past. The theme of regret is strong in this season. 

S4.E6 ∙ Chapter Six: The Dive

It’s interesting that episode 3 & 4 were both focused on one storyline and then episodes 5 & 6 are jumping all over the place. I think they’re doing a good job of keeping the action going as they move through stories. It’s well edited.

Occasionally there are some extraneous scenes that really don’t move the story along that much. I think they put way too much into the scene of Suzy helping Mike and the gang figure out the location of the computer. There was no need for all the wackiness going on in the house. Unless that’s going to play some sort of role in the future. 

I’ll be honest, I think the leader of the basketball team is a bigger villain than Vecna. I would love to see it end up that way at the end of the season and then maybe make that kid the super-villain of season 5. What’s scary is that there are too many people out there like that kid, full of self-righteousness and doing a heap of evil in this world.

S4.E7 ∙ Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab

Stories that have superheroes often fall into the trap of how do you challenge the superhero once you’ve established their powers. It becomes a never-ending arms race where we get the superhero’s origin story and they overcome some obstacle. Then in the following stories the stakes and obstacles must continually increase to keep our interest. At least that’s the way creators often see it. Sometimes that works out. Ironman is a good example. He’s just a regular, albeit brilliant man, who continually levels up his suits so that he can face increasingly challenging villains. We expect his suits to improve and add features. That works. 

But then a character like Thor shouldn’t see significant changes to their powers. So if they barely overcome some great challenge in one movie, it doesn’t work well for the challenge to decrease in the next movie. And so, to keep it interesting the challenges increase and yet the superhero who shouldn’t be able to increase their powers is called upon to do so, over and over, until it becomes rediculous. 

The Duffer brothers did a magnificent job of recognizing this problem early on, then leaning into it, before stripping Eleven of her powers altogether for almost an entire season. Then in the process of rediscovering her powers she discovers more about herself. This is great storytelling. 

And now learning about the origin of the villain and the connection with Eleven it’s all coming together for a fantastic showdown.

S4.E8 ∙ Chapter Eight: Papa

There is still one episode remaining, but I’m confident that this will be my favorite season of the entire series. This season has played out like an epic movie. And the last three episodes have been long enough to be movies. Episodes 1-8 average about 1h 19m, with episode 7 at 1h 38min and episode 8 at 1h 25min. Then there season finally is a whopping 2h 20min. That’s a long movie. I commented to my wife and mother that it’s nice watching shows that are filmed for things like Netflix where the length of the episode is up to the direction of the creators, and the budget, and doesn’t have to be forced into some arbitrary timeslot of predetermined length. That would ruin a show like Strange Things

For the past two or three episodes the story movies from the Russia rescue, Eleven discovering her past and rediscovering her powers, and the kids back in Hawkins figuring out the mystery of Vecna and how to fight him. Plus Mike and gang on their quest which is easily the least interesting storyline. But between the three primary storylines, I honestly don’t know which I enjoy the most. None of them are totally predictable. Especially the Russia rescue. It didn’t seem like they would be able to drag this out until the end, but they managed it quite nicely. 

This is shaping up to be a hell of an ending.

I’ve also noticed that some of the lesser talented actors have been stepping it up, just a little. Natalia Dyer (Nancy) is getting better. I don’t notice that she’s acting as much anymore.

And since the very beginning, it’s been driving me crazy that Joseph Quinn (Eddie Munson) reminds me of some actor, but I couldn’t figure out who. And then it hit me when he was alone with Steve talking. Joseph Quinn’s expressions and mannerisms, and oven some of his vocal tones, are just like a young Robert Downey Junior. It’s uncanny. Once I mentioned it my wife said that she hadn’t noticed it until I brought it up, but now that’s all she can see. 

S4.E9 ∙ Chapter Nine: The Piggyback

I can’t think of anything that I’m disappointed about with the season finally. It wasn’t as epic as episode seven from this season, but that one was exemplary. The finally was about as good as could be hoped for. Something I like, and the Duffer brothers seem to like as well, is how the characters divide into groups and each fight in their own way. Oftentimes having no idea what the other groups are up to. Like in this finally there’s the group at the pizza place on the west coast, the group in Russia, and the group in Hawkins. None of them have a clue that the others are working on stopping this evil in their own ways. Although the Russia group knows that the kids in Hawkins are probably fighting in some fashion. 

Yet everything plays out and comes to a nice crescendo. Kudos to the Duffer brothers for the best season so far. 

I was disappointed that Eddie didn’t make it, but I had a feeling that was going to happen. There always have to be loses or there will be no drama. And we don’t know what will become of Max. 

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