Spoilers forward for Stranger Issues season 4.
Are you, too, shocked we made it out like this? I’ll give the Stranger Issues advertising machine its due: After weeks of teasers, trailers, interviews, theories, viral TikToks, and viral TikTok songs, it appeared the Netflix thriller would possibly lastly have reached its apex, and that the one factor ready on the downhill slide may very well be…properly, dying. (Whether or not for the characters or the sequence itself remained controversial.) And given Gaten Matarazzo’s winking tease for Teen Vogue this week, through which the actor hinted at a number of deaths within the Stranger Issues season 4 finale, I totally anticipated to be scripting this overview by way of my tears.
However the finale is, inconceivably, an train in restraint. I do know, I do know—that’s a ridiculous factor to say a couple of finale episode the size of a function movie. Stranger Issues doesn’t know the way to do restraint! There’s an excessive amount of cash on the road!! Nonetheless, it’s true: Episode 9, “Piggyback,” does extra to arrange the following, ultimate ultimate battle than to really resolve the one its season hinged upon. That dose of Marvel Syndrome would possibly irritate some viewers—even this author admits to an eye-roll earlier than the credit—however, nonetheless, there’s one thing undeniably magnetic about understanding the top stays nigh. The blood remains to be boiling. The perfect is but to come back. Like Max, maybe we aren’t but able to die.
The finale opens with our Russian crew—Hopper, Joyce, Murray, Yuri, and the One Dude Whose Title I Maintain Forgetting (proper, Dmitri!)—nonetheless landlocked in Sovietville. Whereas Yuri hugs the buttocks/windshield of his helicopter, Katinka, Joyce and Hopper pull out sleeping baggage and alter into Hulk Hogan T-shirts. Instantly, my imaginative and prescient sharpened: Are they…gonna bone? Joyce approaches a shirtless Hopper and expresses dismay at his scarred chest. “It’s not that unhealthy,” he says. “You already know, I wanted to drop some weight anyway.” Excuse me, however let’s not imbue Dad Bod Hopper with poisonous magnificence requirements, please and thanks.
Joyce mentions that a part of why she was keen to take this danger—you already know, breaking right into a Russian jail and all—is as a result of they nonetheless have a date to get to, keep in mind? “Keep in mind?” Hopper replies, dumbstruck. “I’ve been dreaming about it.” He’s gonna get two orders of breadsticks at dinner, which actually I’m shocked isn’t one thing he usually does. “You’ve been dreaming about breadsticks and lasagna?” Joyce asks, laughing. Hop stands up straighter and sidles a bit of nearer. “Ought to I’ve been dreaming about one thing else?” Why is that this attractive?!
Lastly, they lean in for the long-awaited kiss. (Somebody name Murray!) However earlier than they will get it on, the telephone rings, ostensibly with the KGB listening. On the telephone, Hop learns their youngsters are in bother: As we noticed within the penultimate episode, Dr. Brenner, a.ok.a Papa, is useless, and Eleven is “indisposed.” Joyce’s youngsters are “off the grid,” too. (Watching Winona Ryder’s not-surprised-but-nevertheless-terrified little twitch right here is completely heartbreaking.) Trapped as they’re in Russia, they understand they’ll by no means make it again in time to avoid wasting the youngsters—however they do have entry to the creatures found within the Russian jail final episode, which suggests they’ve entry to Vecna’s “hive thoughts.” It’s again to the jail we go.
In the meantime, the Surfer Boy Pizza gang—Eleven, Will, Mike, Jonathan, and Argyle—are attempting (unsuccessfully) to guide a flight by way of pay telephone. Eleven realizes that, if Vecna can hijack Max’s thoughts, so can she; she’s achieved it along with her mom and with Max’s late brother, Billy, earlier than. However for that she’ll want a sensory deprivation tank—or at the least a tub with numerous salt in it—and Argyle is aware of simply the place to get a repair. They bus over to the native Surfer Boy franchise and take over the kitchen, with the assistance of a stiff joint, and uncover the 600 kilos of salt Argyle promised. “First-ever thoughts struggle held in a pizza dough freezer,” Argyle says. Proper on.
The remaining Hawkins group—Nancy, Steve, Robin, Lucas, Max, Dustin, and Erica—devise a four-phase plan to take out Henry/Vecna/One. They agree to not deviate from the plan, it doesn’t matter what. (Guess what I believe they’re gonna do? Deviate from the plan!) Everybody however Max, Lucas, and Erica all hop by way of the Upside-Down gap in Eddie’s trailer ceiling and wind up again in Vecna territory. The latter trio, nonetheless within the “actual world,” seek out Vecna’s location utilizing lamps. Thus begins Section One.
Now, now, you didn’t neglect in regards to the Jocks, did you? Hawkins Excessive’s golden boys are rising more and more impatient, with Jason, specifically, wanting increasingly deranged in each body. Seems, they’ve bought a lead: Somebody noticed Erica operating out of the “homicide home on Morehead.” Uh oh. Seems like a showdown’s coming, and on the worst attainable time for Vecna’s would-be assassins.
Within the Upside Down, Eddie finds his electrical guitar ready for him, “like she was destined for an alternate dimension.” Whereas en path to the UD-version of the Creel home, Steve thanks Nancy for giving him a thump on the top, metaphorically talking, after which reveals his Winnebago fantasy from final episode—the street journeys, the six mini Harringtons?—consists of her. “You’re there,” he says. “You’ve at all times been there.” At this level, Steve was No. 1 on my Most More likely to Die listing.
They discover the Creel home and transfer into Section Two, which includes baiting Vecna. Max removes her headphones and shuts off Kate Bush, which is greater than I’ve been in a position to do on TikTok. However issues don’t fairly go based on plan: Even when Max isn’t operating up that hill, Vecna isn’t taking the bait. So she sits down and talks to him, virtually like she’s confiding in a detailed buddy: “I thought of what you mentioned. About how I needed my brother to die.” She admits to praying that one thing would possibly occur to Billie again when he was alive, simply so she wouldn’t must dwell along with his abuse anymore. She’s tried to forgive herself however can’t. “So now,” she says, “now once I lie in mattress at evening, I pray that one thing will occur to me…In order that’s why I’m right here. As a result of I simply need you to take me away.” There’s inevitably some reality to this monologue, which is strictly why it really works so properly. Inside seconds, Vecna’s in her head. Section Three.
In a completely unbelievable flip of occasions, Eddie and Dustin determine to lure Vecna’s military of flesh-ripping bats to them with a rendition of Metallica’s “Grasp of Puppets.” (I extremely advocate turning on subtitles for this half. Simply take my phrase for it.) Dustin grinning and head-banging alongside is a spotlight of the complete episode. However Steve, Nancy, and Robin are too busy preventing off Vecna tentacles to understand the Upside Down’s sick new playlist. Lucas has his palms full, too: Jason has arrived on the scene, and he’s pointing a gun proper at his teammate’s brow. Fortunately, Lucas has a killer proper hook, and the 2 take to rumbling.
Eleven, now emerged within the salt bathtub and linked to Max’s thoughts, begins flipping by way of Max’s reminiscences. However she’s struggling to achieve the one the place Max is (mentally) hiding from Vecna: final season’s Hawkins Center Snow Ball, which is slowly turning right into a Vecna-themed homicide occasion with bursting balloons of blood. As Hopper and Co. orchestrate a way for trapping the demo-creatures within the jail pit and lighting them on hearth, thereby weakening Vecna, Eddie and Dustin rally to wield off the remaining hell-bats. Shockingly, there’s too a lot of them, so Dustin surmises the one reply is to run again to the true world. However Eddie’s achieved sufficient operating currently. This time, he’s going to struggle.
Again in Max’s thoughts palace, Vecna is about to contort her limbs, however Eleven intervenes earlier than he can kill her. When Max asks, we get what’s going to absolutely grow to be one other iconic Eleven quote, emblazoned on Reddit graphics and T-shirts in all places: “I piggybacked by way of a pizza dough freezer.” However the good humor doesn’t final, as Vecna regains his energy and takes each Max’s unconscious physique and Eleven’s writing one to his blood-red Creel lair within the Upside Down. “Papa is useless,” Eleven tells him, making an attempt to calm his wrath. “He made you into this. He’s the monster, Henry. Not you.”
However Vecna’s bought a monologue he desires to carry out, and Eleven is ru-in-ing it! “Do you not see, Eleven?” he tells her. “He didn’t make me into this. You probably did.” Basic victim-blaming!
We be taught—once more by way of monologue—that Henry/Vecna/One “turned an explorer of a realm unspoiled by mankind” when a youthful Eleven first despatched him unwittingly to the Upside Down. There, he found “a way to appreciate my potential”: the Thoughts Flayer. However when Eleven and Co. defeated the Thoughts Flayer, Vecna seemed inward, realizing he’d have to open the 4 gates himself so as to spur the apocalypse. He would then “decide up the items” of the damaged world and remake it “into one thing…stunning.” Alright, Thanos.
In the true world, Max begins to levitate, a positive signal issues aren’t going so sizzling. Additionally, Eleven is coding within the salt bathtub, and Mike confesses his love so as to get her to stay round. He pleads along with her to struggle, and so she does: The tentacles launch from round her neck and joints. But it surely is likely to be too late. Max’s limbs have already began snapping, and blood is streaming from her eyes. Eddie is getting eaten alive by bats. A demodog is inches away from chewing by way of Hopper’s face. Are we…dropping?
After all not. Eleven finds her bottomless reserve of energy and bursts Vecna backward as Hopper and Joyce make a run for it. With the demo-beings contained within the pit, Murray rains hearth from above. As Vecna’s restrained by Eleven, his tentacles launch Nancy, Steve, and Robin (they had been, uh, suffocating for a very long time there, huh?), and the bats surrounding Eddie collapse. One demogorgon survives, and Hop takes up Excalibur—sorry, some random sword on the bottom—to struggle it.
Nancy, Steve, and Robin discover the true Vecna within the Upside Down and put together a roast. (Section 4!) However he has a warning for Eleven: “That is solely the start. The start of the top. You might have already misplaced.” The trio set him ablaze, and a now-flaming Vecna rises to stalk them. Robin throws one other Molotov whereas Nancy advances on him, shotgun-blasting at nearer and nearer vary. Steve simply stands there lookin’ cute, as is his prerogative.
Lastly, Nancy shoots Vecna by way of a window of the Creel home, leaving his ostensibly useless physique smoldering on the entrance yard. However alas. After they race downstairs, his physique is gone.
It’s now or by no means: If anybody goes to die, the time has arrived. Eddie is, after all, the primary to go; in contrast to Steve, he’s unable to resist quite a few bat bites. Though a brand new character to the Stranger Issues brigade—and thus one we’ve had much less time to develop hooked up to—Eddie’s dying is however a gut-wrenching blow, notably when Dustin begins to sob by his facet. “I didn’t run away this time, proper?” Eddie asks his buddy. No, Grasp of Puppets. You didn’t.
Again within the Creel home, Max has woke up, however she will’t see or really feel something. Her eyes have turned foggy; her limbs are shattered. Lucas screams to Erica to get an ambulance as Max blubbers, “I don’t wanna die. I’m not prepared.” Of all her emotional scenes this season, Sadie Sink’s supply right here is her finest. It’s completely horrid to look at. Lucas and Eleven each shriek with agony as 4 chimes erupt from Vecna’s grandfather clock, signaling Max has handed on—and the curtain between Hawkins and the Upside Down has fallen.
Viscous, red-hot cracks tear by way of the ground, splitting Jason in two as they carve a path of carnage. (Was that actually mandatory, after every little thing we’ve been by way of?) Buildings collapse into the observe of UD lava because the earth rumbles and moans. Mike tries to get up the true Eleven, however she’s nonetheless in Max’s head, the place she whispers, merely, “No. You’re not going.” Wait—does Eleven have resurrection powers I don’t learn about? Earlier than we will discover out, the display cuts to black, and a “Two Days Later” card alerts us to a time soar.
Because the Surfer Boy Pizza Bros. drive again into city, they arrive up towards an extended line of totally packed automobiles hightailing it out of Hawkins. Lastly house, everybody shares tender, bittersweet reunions, some extra optimistic than others: Robin sees Vickie at a makeshift reduction camp and the 2 hit it off; Dustin, weeping, provides Mr. Munson Eddie’s guitar decide and a courageous reminiscence to recollect his son by; Nancy and Jonathan attempt to suss out if their relationship is “okay” (it’s not); and Lucas reveals Max is in a coma, one from which she would possibly by no means get up. At Hopper’s cabin, father and daughter are collectively once more, and Eleven even thinks Hop’s barely emaciated look is “bitchin’.” However Will is aware of, maybe higher than anybody, that the day will not be received: Vecna remains to be alive, and Will can really feel him, “that he’s harm, he’s hurting, however he’s nonetheless alive.”
The hairs on the again of Will’s neck arise, they usually all look into the sky: A storm is coming. Snow—Upside Down snow, not actual snow—begins to fall. Collectively, they stroll to a clearing and discover the flowers have withered and died. The Upside Down and Hawkins are merging. The ultimate battle has come.
And that’s the top: A next-season set-up worthy of a Marvel post-credits scene. “Solely” one most important character died—until we’re additionally counting Max, whose destiny stays to be seen. In some methods, “Piggyback” was not the sucker-punch I used to be anticipating, although it delivers on the motion and the horror Stranger Issues is beloved for. My first intuition was a weird disappointment. All this construct up, and I didn’t also have a panic assault by the top?
It’s true that not all followers will discover “Piggyback” a very satisfying conclusion, particularly given its run time and the best way its previous episodes had been cut up into chunks. There’s not a lot we be taught right here that we didn’t already know: Vecna is Henry/One, he’s on a mission to finish the world, and it’s going to be actually laborious to cease him. All those self same issues are nonetheless true, besides now Eddie is useless, Max is in a coma, and Vecna is probably going pulling a Voldemort and therapeutic whereas the Hawkins-Upside Down merge marinates.
And but. Perhaps I showcase a bent to fall for fundamental fan-baiting, however the moments “Piggyback” needed to really feel epic did really feel epic. By the point the credit rolled, I had sufficient adrenaline pumping by way of my system to crank out this story properly into the wee hours of the morning. I don’t wish to give the Netflix sequence an excessive amount of credit score—Stranger Issues will get much more accolades than it actually deserves—however the present is likely to be on to one thing with its gradual however regular strategy. Forgive the crude analogy right here, however it’s a bit like edging—bringing us nearer and nearer to what we all know is inevitable (an enormous, gravity-defying emotional launch) however refusing to, on this case, truly twist the knife. Eddie’s dying was a precursor to what, virtually definitely, will likely be a extra controversial loss subsequent season. That may very well be Max. Or Eleven. Or—God forbid—Dustin.
Subsequent season would be the present’s final. The battle is close to. Maybe, then, Stranger Issues needed to ensure we had been prepared for the struggle.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is an affiliate editor at ELLE, the place she covers information and tradition.
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