The second half of Stranger Things Season 4 has finally dropped after more than a month long wait and after having binged it all and taken time to process, I think I can finally gather up my highlights of the most significant events from the very packed (and extra long) final two episodes. For my highlights from the first part, go here.
WARNING: The remainder of this article contains spoilers for both parts of Season 4 of Stranger Things.
- The Empire Strikes Back connections: While many people felt the clear influence of Nightmare on Elm Street in the first part, I couldn’t help but to notice some Empire Strikes Backs vibes in the final two episodes. It started with El and the way she was undergoing training to grow her powers only to discover her friends were in danger. Like Luke Skywalker, she wanted to stop her training and go out to rescue them. Dr. Brenner acted like some sort of evil Yoda insisting that she wasn’t ready and that her choice could have consequences. El goes in and tries to support Max with mixed results. Vecna still kills Max for only a minute, but El is able to revive her enough to put her in a coma rather than truly dead. Even so, El is left with a lingering guilt about whether or not she made the right choice. Max is arguable the Han Solo in carbonite of this situation. Like Han, she’s not dead, but we’re not sure what’s going to happen when and if she’s pulled out of that coma. Vecna turns out to be not truly defeated and the Upside Down is dangerously bleeding into the real world. That ending really gives a feel of the dark uncertainty The Empire Strikes Back is so famous for.
- Eddie and the Most Metal Ever Upside Down Concert: We all went in knowing this was going to be a hugely iconic scene for the series based on the trailer shot alone and Eddie Munson has now set a new standard for bards in tabletop gaming groups. His performance of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” to distract the demobats was absolutely epic. Unfortunately, it would be Eddie’s most amazing penultimate move. I had suspected that the foreshadowing of him making some sort of sacrifice play was super strong and when he had the “never change, Dustin Henderson” line. I knew it was coming. Eddie makes a hero move and is taken out by the demobats only to have an amazing death scene with a devastated Dustin at his side. If this wasn’t enough of an emotional gut punch, Dustin going to Eddie’s uncle later to tell him that Eddie was gone but had died an absolute hero certainly was.
- The Mike Myers Mask: There were still a few lighthearted moments in the final two episodes, but the Mike Myers mask Max wore on her first Halloween in Hawkins returning was absolutely one of them.
- The Jonathan/Nancy/Love Triangle: Jonathan is still not being 100% honest with Nancy about the college thing and he really needs to be at this point. Steve is certainly pulling ahead as even Nancy acknowledges that he’s grown up a lot since they dated. I was honestly worried when Steve gave Nancy his whole spiel about the Winnebago dream of traveling across the country with six kids and his wife to just go explore (that wife was also supposed to be Nancy). Bonus points to the nod about him being the “World’s Best Babysitter” when he jokes about his experience with a large group of kids. “Don’t take Steve’s Winnebago dream,” I muttered to the Netflix screen as I honestly worried that might be the nail in his coffin. Luckily for us all, Steve and his Winnebago dream are still alive.
- Will Byers: We finally got to see what Will had painted for Mike: a picture of their friend group as their D&D characters emphasizing Mike as the heart of the group as Will sees him. Will tries to credit the picture idea to El, but he gives an absolute heartfelt speech to Mike about being afraid to voice feelings and lose those that you’re close to. Will frames it as being what El is likely going through, but we all know he’s actually talking about himself. What Will is really trying to indirectly admit goes right over Mike’s head, but not Jonathan’s. After months of dealing with his own struggles by being frequently stoned, Jonathan realized just what Will has been dealing with on his own. Jonathan’s talk to Will later about how Will can come to him about anything and how he’ll always love Will had me absolutely bawling. Will’s almost “spider sense” reaction to knowing Vecna is still alive is also a big deal, along with the revelation that a young Henry drew the Mindflayer just like Will did. Noah Schnapp is absolutely allowed to shine in these episodes.
- Mike Wheeler: He may still be oblivious about what Will is struggling with, but Will’s speech gives Mike the kick he needs to put aside his own insecurities to support El and tell her how he feels when she needs it the most. If he can’t return Will’s feelings for him, I do hope he still ends up supporting Will in a way where they aren’t lost to each other. Mike’s brief bit with Hopper towards the end where even Hopper is glad to see him and hugs him almost had me bawling again.
- Lucas and Max: I really worried about how much the Duffer Brothers were trying to destroy us as the two wrote each other messages and Lucas successfully asked Max out again. I was thrilled to see one of her happiest memories involved the Snowball Dance. Sadie Sink is amazing this season at how she handles the complexities of Max’s trauma over growing up with an abusive step-father and step-brother and well as the guilt layered in at how part of her was glad Billy was gone. I bawled as a blind and injured Max pleads in Lucas’s arms that she doesn’t want to die. Caleb McLaughlin has also had some moments to really shine and bring out his best performance yet as he tells Jason that “normal’s just a ragging psychopath” and absolutely is fighting for Max’s life. Seeing him reading to Max at her hospital beside with her picture of them at the wall was another gut punch.
- Jason: Mason Dye is probably going to have to dye his hair and style it very differently if he doesn’t want to be cast as a “ragging psychopath” for the rest of his acting career because I’m going to struggle to see him as anyone but Jason from now on. Seeing him and his basketball cronies buying up weapons with ease was absolutely terrifying especially when they attacked Erica. I was honestly concerned Lucas could be the one ending up dead or in a coma as Jason tried to violently make the worst demands in a situation he knew nothing about. No one is sad that at all that he died as the Upside Down spilt open and that says everything about his character.
- Hopper and Joyce: FINALLY! I mean I knew that phone call was likely to interrupt their big emotional moment and kiss, but we still got that moment. Bonus points to Hopper for coyly justifying his dreaming about bread sticks and lasagna because of all of those months of prison food.
- El: El has some pretty significant moments these past two episodes including watching Dr. Brenner die. I honestly wanted her to tell him that Hopper was her real dad. Her reunion with Mike and Will covered for that though, and even though El is the person Mike is actually in love with, seeing Will being so relieved to recover her hit me hard in the feels. She really has become a sibling to him. Her reunion with Hopper was another right in the feels moment especially when she told him that she had kept the door three inches open like he had asked. I am truly hoping next season gives her a Luke Skywalker in Jabba’s Palace moment where she has reached her full potential.
- Robin Buckley: I think we all felt for Robin when we saw Vickie with her boyfriend and Robin started to question whether or not Vickie might have feelings for her. However, by the end of things we learn Vickie broke up with that boy and there is a sense that she might be interested in Robin after all following an adorably awkward moment between them. Honestly, we all needed some hope in the middle of all of that bleakness.
- Erica Sinclair: Erica admitting she saw almost all of those basketball games because Lucas is her brother even if 99% of the season has him warming the bench was another right in the feels punctuated with the first use of “just the facts” that wasn’t meant to be a brutal parting shot. I’m also going to admit to feeling extremely satisfied at her kicking that basketball player in the crotch and hitting him with a giant flashlight as she shouts, “CRIT HIT!”