I have said it before and I will say it again: I believe that Stranger Things 4 is the best season yet of Netflix’s coming-of-age fantasy hit, let alone the scariest. That being said, I also believe that the epic season finale from this year is also the best of the series so far, let alone one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had watching television.
Indeed, I encountered a dizzying variety of emotions throughout all 139 minutes of Vol. 2’s concluding episode. The following is an in-depth exploration of how I was feeling during key moments from the Stranger Things Season 4 finale, starting with a positive emotion I experienced that was brought on by an otherwise blood-curdling scene.
Out of all the returning Stranger Things cast members, the one I believe most deserves Season 4’s MVP title is Sadie Sink. Her performance as a Max Mayfield haunted by her past and in fear of her uncertain future is Emmy-worthy throughout. Yet, the moment that I would recommend submitting for the Academy’s consideration occurs in the finale.
Already on the edge of my seat as she waited for Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) to take the bait (herself) and execute the crew’s plan, I was entranced by her confession that she was relieved by the death of Billy (Dacre Montgomery) in Season 3, and her guilt has left her eager to see him to take her away. One could interpret this confession as a long-dormant truth or merely a ruse, but either way, Sink’s delivery of every word is astonishingly convincing. However, that might not even be my vote for the peak of Sink’s Season 4 performance… but we will get to that later.
Out of all the new Stranger Things cast members, the one I believe most deserves Season 4’s MVP title is Joseph Quinn. His performance as the ill-fated Eddie Munson - the Hellfire Club leader wrongfully accused of murder - was just about the heart and soul of the season. He also contributed one of the greatest musical moments from the series, in my opinion.
In order to lure the Demo-bats away from Vecna’s Upside Down hideout, Eddie breaks out his beloved axe to perform a deafening, gut-busting rendition of the 1986 thrash metal classic “Master of Puppets.” Now, speaking as someone who is not really a big fan of Metallica (I’m more of a ’60s and ’70s guy when it comes to rock), I was in pure awe and banging my head from the beginning to the end of this exhilarating sequence that Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) rightfully describes as the “most metal ever!”
On second thought, the Stranger Things Season 4 finale’s mindblowing, climatic montage is pretty damn metal, too. I am referring to the interwoven clips of a sword-wielding Jim Hopper (David Harbour) slaying a Demogorgon, Eleven (Mille Bobby Brown) besting Vecna in the Mind Lair, and Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), and Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) setting Vecna’s already damaged physical form ablaze.
The pain and suffering that Vecna had caused all season (actually, since the beginning of the show, as it turned out) made watching him suffer in three different ways - physically in the Upside Down, telepathically in the Mind Lair, and via the hive mind shared with the Demo-creatures - ineffably satisfying. Tying this epic display together in a beautiful bow is the remixed reprise of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” - which topped the charts decades after its release upon becoming the season’s de facto theme song.
Unfortunately, that satisfaction was quickly followed by devastation as we were hit with one of the most heart-wrenching character deaths in Stranger Things history and a near-death of equal impact. At the same time we saw Eddie succumb to his battle wounds from fighting the Demo-bats in the arms of a sobbing Dustin, we saw Max succumb to Vecna’s attack in the arms of a hysterical Lucas.
Both Sadie Sink and Joseph Quinn are acting their hearts out for what appears to be their characters’ final moments. While Eleven’s attempt to remotely resurrect Max does, technically, prove successful, it only revives her now comatose physical body, as we later learn her soul and mind now belong to Vecna. At least Eddie is given a worthy eulogy when Dustin speaks to his uncle (Joel Stoffer).
Stranger Things 4 also hinted at the potential death of one of the series’ most endearing romances: Nancy and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton, who is dating Natalia Dyer in real life, too). The tension brought on by their long-distance relationship, as well as Jonathan’s dishonesty and seeming lack of commitment, is only fueled in the finale by Steve’s confession that he still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend.
Apparently, there are still a lot of people who ship Steve and Nancy, even after their break-up in Season 2, but I am not one of them - particularly because I have rooted for her relationship with Jonathan from the beginning and I hate the idea of them breaking up. It seems that is what might happen in Season 5, but I personally hope I am wrong about that, even if it would, at least, mean a happy ending for Steve.
Speaking of happy endings, I do not know if I have ever felt happier watching Stranger Things than when Hopper returns to the cabin following his rescue from a grueling year in a Russian prison camp that he, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and Murray (Brett Gelman) almost did not survive. The look on Eleven’s tearful face when he walks through the door was enough to make my heart swell.
Millie Bobby Brown also makes a really good case for being this season’s MVP just in the way she tells Hop that she “kept the door open three inches” because she “never stopped believing” that he was still alive. It is a much-needed moment of bliss before putting us right back into the darkness.
It was already clear that we were not quite done with Vecna from Will Byers’ (Noah Schnapp) warning that he would not stop until “he’s taken everything and everyone.” However, it was still a shock to learn that he had succeeded in breaking the barrier between Earth and Upside Down with the ominous final shot of the episode that sees Hawkins shrouded in the dimension's dusty atmosphere, black clouds, and red lightning.
What we saw in Season 4 was just the battle leading up to the full-scale, brutal war against Vecna that I suspect will be at the center of the fifth and final season of Stranger Things. What started off as a fun, albeit dark and bizarre, slice of ‘80s nostalgia has evolved into a volatile, cutthroat, apocalyptic sci-fi epic in which no one is safe and I could not be more excited.
Currently, there is no set premiere date for Stranger Things 5 - a sentence that makes anticipation for anything else harder to come by. Perhaps I can comfort myself by revisiting the series from the beginning on Netflix, if I can bear the emotional toll, that is.
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.