Stranger Things Season 4 only really works because we’ve had seasons 1-3 already
I don’t want to be the guy who flips the Monopoly board for losing, or knocks of the table during a Hellfire game of Dungeons and Dragons, but for a minute, I am going to be that guy.
Stranger Things Season 4 isn’t good. There I said it, but still, I like it.
I care about the characters, the story, and the fate of the town of Hawkins.
The Duffer Brothers do some important things this season (no real spoilers here) – they stet the stage for a cursed town and an evil capable of evolving and changing that has been a longtime part of Hawkins’s history. With these added story elements, Stranger Things can now exist indefinitely.
The first Season worked so well with a fun mix of storytelling and nostalgia. By season 3, the nostalgia had evolved into a focal point with a high level of goofiness. In season 4, the nostalgia is just plain distracting.
The hairstyles reflect more what someone thinks the 80’s looked like rather than what they really did. Also, awful hairstyles seems to be an effort to hide the age of some of the nearly 30-somethings trying to pass off as teenagers. Some of these kids just look plain old at this point. Then, there are the outfits. Similar to the hairstyles, the outfits are extreme, focusing on fringe elements to be a driving force of the story, rather than a background circumstance for the characters.
The nostalgia is in your face distracting.
Stranger Things has always robbed from other stories to tell theirs, but this season feels like an even bigger ripoff of all things 80s.
Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, and it still mostly works, but the show lacks originality. One of the reasons season 1 worked so well, was the genuine fear and worry that characters weren’t going to make it to the end of the season, however, by season 4, it’s pretty clear there is no real danger to any of the long-time leads.
The best dynamics remain with the tried and true characters. The core characters of Dustin, Mike, El, Will, Lucas, Steve, and Max still work most of the time. Where Nancy and Jonathan struggle to find their roles as the cast grows.
Much of season 4 feels like an effort to give all the leads a fair amount of screen time rather than simply focus on telling the story.
Even with its flaws and heavy-handed nostalgia, Stranger Things has built a cache of love for the characters, which make most of its faults redeemable.
I hope season 5 steers away from the nostalgia as a centerpiece and focuses more simply on good storytelling even if it means sacrificing a balance of characters.
As it stands now, this season is most likely to be remembered for its use of music rather than what actually happened on the show.
Gordon’s Grade: B