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Stranger Things Season 4 Reviews Are In, And Most Critics Seem To Be In Agreement About The Netflix Horror Drama

With Netflix’s first ever new of subscriber loss sparking all manner of hyperbolic reactions across Hollywood, it’s as perfect a time as ever for the streaming service’s most zeitgeisty show to return for what’s arguably the biggest premiere on its 2022 schedule. Nearly three years since Stranger Things wrapped up its twisty third season, the horror drama is returning for a super-sized Season 4, which will be splitting its nine episodes up into two parts. (Seven for Part 1, and two for Part 2.) Those first seven extended episodes were sent out to critics ahead of their streaming debut for review purposes, and now we have a much better idea of what to expect from the penultimate season. 

For the most part, critics appear to be in agreement with the opinion that Stranger Things is back to doing what it does best, and that the new episodes will be welcomed by fans everywhere. Which isn’t to say that ALL critics feel that way, and it’s also not to say that even the critics who praised Season 4 don’t have their own legitimate gripes with this expensive AF return. But anyone fearing a completely disaster should be pleased to hear that’s almost definitely not the case. 

Over at AV Club, which gave Stranger Things Season 4 a B+, the opinion is that this first batch of episodes sets up a series of rewarding storylines that pay off down the line, at least when it comes to the show’s central mythology. 

Unwieldy pacing notwithstanding, season four’s first half begins with a spectacular few episodes. The show succeeds in diving into the dark and unintended consequences of El’s powers—the same ones she lost during “The Battle Of Starcourt”—linking it all to Hawkins’ cursed past. By tackling its origins, Stranger Things returns with a potent narrative that ties several loose ends together. It’s a labyrinthine undertaking that, for the most part, has a gradual and solid payoff. After all, the show can’t sustain itself by only giving its protagonists more monsters to battle (how many times must Eleven close a damn gate to the Upside Down?), even if it usually balances that with genuine coming-of-age stories and character interactions.

For TVLine’s review, which granted Stranger Things Season 4 an “A” rating, a lot of hype is given to the season’s larger-than-life (or death) set pieces and effects-driven sequences, which were also praised in quite a few other reviews. These sequences are presumably where a decent amount of the show’s massive budget went, with a number of all-new sets being created. 

The supernatural mystery that the EPs have set in motion is, blessed as it is with a central character about whom we care deeply, as likely to turn you inside out as, ahem, upside down. On top of that, Part 1 of Season 4 reminds us over and over again that few and far between are the series that are better (or even as good) at staging jaw-dropping set pieces. It reinforces the fact that you can drop any assortment of Stranger Things’ characters into an arc and feel like you’re witnessing chocolate being dipped in peanut butter for the first time. And we can’t fathom how, but the show keeps introducing newbies that are instantly iconic.

With its positive review (rating: B+), EW shined a light on the show’s charismatic cast, and specifically talked up one of the show’s newest characters and stars. 

Terrified townsfolk turn their suspicions to Eddie (Joseph Quinn), a shaggy-haired, heavy-metal loving leader of the Hellfire Club, the school's D&D group. Hawkins' burgeoning Satanic Panic is an ongoing theme in season 4, and Eddie — an amiable goofball in burnout's clothing — is a fine foil for the Duffer Brothers' cautionary tale of mass moralizing. . . . His initiation into the horrifying reality of living on top of an alternate dimension, marked by profanity-laced fear tantrums and gallows humor, helps reinvigorate the core cast's dynamics as they embark on yet another supernatural adventure.

One can only assume that Eddie will be an A-tier main character when Season 5 kicks off, the way this show quickly incorporates newbs into its storylines. And while new faces usually means familiar faces not showing up as much, Stranger Things’ lengthened run-times — easily the biggest headache factor amongst the majority of reviewers, even those who applauded the season as a whole — make it so that everyone gets attention. 

In its review, IGN shared positive thoughts about how the returning characters fare in the location-split storylines, from David Harbour’s Russian journey as Hopper to Millie Bobby Brown in the California sun as Eleven.

Hopper’s storyline, though, is something else entirely – in fact, there are moments where it feels like a different show altogether, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s no doubt the bleakest portion of the season, but it’s also beautifully shot and refreshingly action-heavy. Plus, it gives David Harbour some emotional moments to shine as Hopper goes through his most difficult journey yet. The best part of the California arc, meanwhile, is Millie Bobby Brown’s continually great performance as a very-much struggling Eleven and the much-awaited revelations about her past. The other parts of the California storyline, like an attempted buddy-comedy in a couple of the later episodes of Part 1, mostly feel pretty out of place in the larger scheme of things, despite their attempts at comedic relief.

To that end, Den of Geek also speaks highly of the way Stranger Things has used its charming cast to drive the action and fun, while also saying that this season is a bit too much all-around.

Like Netflix itself, Stranger Things’ fourth season is occasionally capable of breathtaking fits of creativity and sincere storytelling joy. It’s also a lumbering, overstuffed beast that can come across as too impressed with itself. . . . The separation of its characters gives the early episodes of season 4 some storytelling energy to work with. One thing that this show has always understood better than many of its contemporaries and imitators is how much its characters can and should drive its action. Stranger Things’ sprawling, talented cast remains as watchable as ever and the configurations in which the show pulls them together and apart is a big strength.

Amidst all the more glowing reviews, however, is the assessment from IndieWire, whose critic quickly took issue with the Season 4 premiere’s opening sequence (which is available to watch on YouTube now), and didn’t let up much in regards to everything that happened afterward. 

Stranger Things 4 puts all its chips on spectacle, Easter eggs, and fairly predictable twists. Aside from the premiere entry (which, after that detrimental introduction, is mostly a welcome throwback), the 100-minute seventh episode offers the best performance (from a character not-to-be-named) and most compelling scenes. But by no means is it a reasonable stopping point. The numbing duration combined with that in media res opening go a long way toward undermining its force, and viewers could nearly skip Episodes 2 through 6 altogether without feeling lost in Part 1’s finale.

One can only assume that the experience will not be seen as any more positive once the episodes are available to watch with the impending ad-friendly plan for Netflix subscriptions. Or maybe the sporadic breaks will make the horror drama feel more spaced out instead of jammed together. 

Whichever way it goes, fans will be able to find out how much they enjoy the new episodes when Stranger Things Season 4 debuts on Netflix on Friday, May 27.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.