The stakes were raised - but not as much as we'd hoped. *SPOILERS FOR EPISODES EIGHT AND NINE BELOW*
As the end credits rolled on episode nine of 'Stranger Things' season four, this reviewer couldn't help but feel just a little disappointed; purely because they were expecting more. But it wasn't a disappointment at what had happened on-screen during the near four-hour final couple of episodes (for the most part), it was more so the fact that yep, that's that franchise done for another two years or so until the inevitable season five comes around.
And really, this is what a viewer should feel when watching a series come to a dramatic conclusion. Or, at least, this is how you should feel after watching a great storyline unfold.
Episodes eight and nine of 'Stranger Things' season four dropped over a month after the initial seven episodes of the season (presumedly so the GCI team could do their thing), and in doing so it created such a buzz around the season finale. Netflix, if you're reading this, please do a weekly drop for season five - it makes everything so much more fun online as viewers react in real-time instead of having to dedicate a whole weekend to the undertaking.
Anyway, back to the story at hand - as you would imagine, we pick up the action right where we left off, with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) reeling from the realisation that Vecna is actually Henry Creel/Peter/001 (Jamie Campbell Bower) and she sets out to find Papa (Matthew Modine) and get his reasoning. Meanwhile, the kids in Hawkins (played by Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Joseph Quinn and Priah Ferguson) hatch a plan in order to rid the town of Venca; Joyce and Hopper (Winona Ryder and David Harbour) initially try to escape Russia; while the Byers kids, along with Mike and Argyle (Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard and Eduardo Franco), attempt to track down the facility that Eleven is being held in a remote part of the desert.
The first seven episodes were quite sprawling, with multiple storylines vying for attention in the build-up to the finale; thankfully, with some streamlining, the final two episodes feel much more linear thanks to Eleven delving into the Upside Down via a pizza freezer, infiltrating Max's memories and eventually coming face-to-face with Vecna once again, this time in teen form.
As with Volume One, the most exciting part of the storyline comes from our gang in Hawkins, and it's fair to say that this is where the biggest moments of episodes eight and nine shine too. At one point, whereby you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat, it seems like everything is not going to turn out right for our young heroes, showing cutscenes of the various break-off groups falling at the hands of the Upside Down. While the timelines don't really match up, it's obvious this cutting of the storylines together was created to build up tension, as viewers worry about which one of the team will face the chopping block. Max comes extremely close (as does Steve, Nancy and Robin) but unfortunately it's new face Eddie who sacrifices himself, protecting a town that very much was against him all season.
There are a number of heavy scenes dotted throughout the finale which propels the season into an emotional overdrive, with Will, in particular, having a couple of moments to shine. Noah Schnapp, who felt awkward and hammy in the first part of the season, steps up to the plate, finally allowing this reviewer to say that every person on the main and secondary cast list has had their own memorable moment this season. There was also the heartwarming moment shared between Hopper and Joyce, which fans have been waiting for since SEASON ONE.
And just as the season ends on a full-circle moment with the whole cast back in Hawkins for what will surely be a huge season five, this review too will swing back around to that disappointment statement from the beginning. It's nice that the main cast has all survived this ordeal (okay, Max is in a coma and can't see), but season five is going to have to deliver on the shock value to keep us entertained. With four seasons and only minor deaths thus far (#JusticeForBarb!) and an entity hell-bent on killing teens in the town, you'd expect a higher body count from the main ensemble, right?
It's also disappointing to know that we've another long wait ahead of us for season five. Ending everything on a cliffhanger, it's the first season of 'Stranger Things' that feels somewhat incomplete, acting as the buffer before the real showdown happens. Having said that though, season four of 'Stranger Things' knocked it out of the park regarding storyline, acting and pop culture references. It really did feel like the end up until a certain point, so where does the series go from here?