The ending of 'Stranger Things' 4 refuses to twist the knife. Yet. (2023)

Spoilers ahead forWeird thingsSeason 4.

Are you also surprised that we left like this? I will give theWeird thingsThe Marketing Machine Beats: After weeks of teasers, trailers, interviews, theories, viral TikToks andViral TikTok Songs, it seemed that the Netflix thriller might finally have reached its peak, and that the only thing waiting on the way down might be… well, death. (Whether it's because of the characters or the series itself remains debatable.) And given Gaten Matarazzo's provocation toteen fashion this week, in which the actor hinted at several deaths inWeird thingsseason 4 finale, I was expecting to write this review through tears.

But the ending is, inconceivably, an exercise in restraint. I know, I know, it's ridiculous to say that about a final episode.the length of a feature film.Weird thingsHe doesn't know how to contain himself! There is a lot of money, a lot of ego at stake!! It's true though: Episode 9, "Piggyback," does more to set up the next one,finalfinal battle than to resolve the battle your season depended on. That dose of Marvel Syndrome might irritate some viewers—even this writer admits he rolled his eyes before the credits—but still, there's something undeniably magnetic about knowing the end is near. The blood continues to boil. The best is yet to come. Like Max, we may not be ready to die yet.

First, we have a lot of action to analyze. The finale begins with our Russian team: Hopper, Joyce, Murray, Yuri, and the guy whose name I always forget (that's right, Dmitri!), still landlocked in Sovietville. While Yuri hugs the buttocks/windshield of his helicopter named Katinka, Joyce and Hopper get sleeping bags and Hulk Hogan T-shirts. Immediately, my vision sharpened:They go... bone?Joyce approaches Hopper shirtless and expresses dismay at his scarred chest. "It's not that bad," she says. "You know, he needed to lose weight anyway." Excuse me, but let's not imbue Daddy Bod Hopper with toxic beauty standards, please and thank you.

Joyce mentions that part of the reason she was willing to take that risk, you know, breaking into a Russian prison and all, is because they still have a date, remember? "Remember?" Hopper responds, flabbergasted. "I have beenringingabout that.” He's going to order two orders of baguettes for dinner, which I'm surprised isn't something he normally does. “Have you been dreaming of baguettes and lasagna?” Joyce asks, laughing. Hop straightens up and moves a little closer “Am I supposed to be dreaming about something else?” Why is this baguette talk so sexy?!

Finally, they lean in for the long-awaited kiss. (Somebody call Murray!) But before they can start, the phone rings, apparently with the KGB eavesdropping. Over the phone, Hop discovers that his children are in trouble: as we saw in the penultimate episode, Dr. Brenner, aka Papa, is dead and Eleven is "out of it." Joyce's children are also "off the grid." (AssistingWinona RyderTwitch not surprised but terrified though here is absolutely heartbreaking). Trapped as they are in Russia, they realize they will never make it back in time to save the children, butdothey have access to the creatures discovered in the latest Russian Prison episode, which means they have access to Vecna's "hive mind". It is back to the prison that we go.

The ending of 'Stranger Things' 4 refuses to twist the knife. Yet. (1)

Meanwhile, the Surfer Boy Pizza gang, Eleven, Will, Mike, Jonathan and Argyle, try (unsuccessfully) to book a flight via a payphone. Eleven realizes that if Vecna ​​can hijack Max's mind, so can she; she has already done this to her mother and Max's late brother, Billy. But for that she'll need a sensory deprivation tank, or at least a tub full of salt, and Argyle knows exactly where to get a solution. They take the bus to the local Surfer Boy franchise and take over the kitchen, with the help of a hard joint, discovering the 600 pounds of salt Argyle promised. “The first mental fight takes place in a pizza dough freezer,” says Argyle. your bet

Hawkins' remaining team (Nancy, Steve, Robin, Lucas, Max, Dustin, and Erica) devises a four-phase plan to eliminateEnrique/Vecna/One. They agree not to deviate from the plan, no matter what. (Guess what I think they're going to do? Deviate from the plan!) Everyone but Max, Lucas, and Erica jump through the inverted hole in the roof of Eddie's trailer and end up back in Vecna ​​territory. The last trio, still in the "real world", search for Vecna's location using lamps. Thus begins Phase One.

Now, now, you haven't forgotten about the Jocks, have you? The golden boys at Hawkins High are growing impatient, with Jason in particular looking more and more distraught with each frame. Turns out they have a lead: someone saw Erica running out of the "Morehead murder house." Hey. It seems a showdown is coming, and at the worst possible time for Vecna's would-be assassins.

In the Upside Down, Eddie finds his electric guitar waiting for him, "like it's destined for an alternate dimension." On the way to the UD version of the Creel house, Steve thanks Nancy for hitting him over the head, metaphorically speaking, and then reveals his Winnebago costume from the last episode: the road trips, the six mini Harringtons? - includes her. "You're there," he says. "You were always there." By then, Steve was number 1 on my list of people most likely to die.

They find the Creel house and proceed to Phase Two, which is to lure Vecna. Max takes off his headphones and turns Kate Bush off, which is more than I've managed to do on TikTok. But things don't go as planned: even when Maxit's notclimbing that hill, Vecna ​​refuses to take the bait. So she sits down and talks to him, as if she confided to a close friend: “I thought about what you said. About how I wanted my brother to die. She admits to praying that something would happen to Billie, when he was alive, just so she wouldn't have to live with her abuse anymore. She tried to forgive herself, but she couldn't. “So now,” she says, “now when I lie in bed at night, I pray that something will happen to me… That's why I'm here. Because I just want you to take me away. Inevitably, there is some truth to that monologue, which is exactly why it works so well. Within seconds, Vecna ​​is in your head. Phase Three.

The ending of 'Stranger Things' 4 refuses to twist the knife. Yet. (2)

In a charming twist, easily one of the episode's highlights, Eddie and Dustin decide to lure Vecna's army of meat-destroying bats to them with a rendition of Metallica's "Master of Puppets." (I recommend turning on subtitles for this part. Just trust me.) Eddie strums all the chords while Dustin dances, but Steve, Nancy, and Robin are too busy fighting off Vecna's tentacles to appreciate the disgusting Upside Down playlist. Lucas also has his hands full: Jason has arrived on the scene and is pointing a gun directly at his teammate's forehead. Luckily, Lucas has a killer right hook and the two start making noise.

Eleven, now immersed in the salt bath and connected to Max's mind, begins flipping through Max's memories. But she's struggling to get to the one Max has been hiding (mentally) from Vecna's Hawkins Middle Snow Ball: Season 2, which is slowly turning into a Vecna-themed murder party with exploding balloons of blood. As Hopper and company orchestrate a method to trap the demo creatures in the prison pit and set them on fire, weakening Vecna, Eddie and Dustin regroup to wield the remaining hellbats. There are surprisingly many of them, so Dustin assumes the only answer is to run back to the real world. But Eddie has been running quite a bit lately. This time he will fight.

Back in Max's mind palace, Vecna ​​is about to contort her limbs, but Eleven intervenes before she can kill her. When Max questions how Eleven managed to sneak into his head, we get what is sure to become another iconic Eleven quote, plastered on Reddit graphics and t-shirts everywhere: "I rode a freezer of pizza dough." But the good mood doesn't last, as Vecna ​​regains her strength and carries Max's unconscious body and Eleven's writhing body back to his blood-red Creel lair in the Upside Down. “Dad is dead,” Eleven tells her, trying to calm her anger. “He turned you into this. He's the monster, Henry. You do not."

But Vecna ​​has a monologue she wants to do, and Eleven isruiningthis! "Don't you see, Eleven?" he tells her. “He didn't turn me into that. You did it." Classic blame the victim!

We learn, again through a monologue, that Henry/Vecna/One "became an explorer of a realm untouched by humanity" when a young Eleven unknowingly sent him upside down. There, he discovered "a means to develop my potential": the Mind Flayer. But when Eleven and company defeated the Mind Flayer, Vecna ​​looked inside and realized that he himself would have to open all four gates to bring about the apocalypse. He would then "pick up the pieces" of the broken world and turn it "into something beautiful". Relax, Thanos.

In the real world, Max begins to levitate, a sure sign that things aren't going so well. Also, Eleven is coding in the salt bath and Mike confesses his love for her to stay. He begs her to fight, and she does, the tentacles breaking free from her neck and joining. But it could be too late. Max's limbs have already started to break and blood is gushing from his eyes. Bats are eating Eddie alive. A demo dog is inches away from chewing up Hopper's face. We are losing?

Of course not. That isWeird things! Eleven finds his infinite reserve of power and throws Vecna ​​back as Hopper and Joyce flee. With the demo beings contained in the pit, Murray rains down fire from above. When Eleven restrains Vecna, his tentacles free Nancy, Steve, and Robin (they were, uh, suffocating for a long time in there, huh?), and the bats around Eddie collapse. A demogorgon survives and Hop picks up Excalibur, sorry, a random sword on the ground, to fight it.

Nancy, Steve, and Robin find the real Vecna ​​in the Upside Down and cook a barbecue. (Phase four!) But she has a warning for Eleven: “This is just the beginning. The beginning of the end. You've already lost." The trio set him on fire, and a now-flaming Vecna ​​emerges to pursue him. Robin fires another Molotov as Nancy charges at him, firing a shotgun ever closer. Steve just stands there looking cute, as he is his prerogative.

Finally, Nancy shoots Vecna ​​through a window of Creel's house, leaving her seemingly lifeless body ablaze in the front yard. But unfortunately. When they run down the stairs, the body is gone.

It's now or never: if someone is going to die, the time has come. Eddie is, of course, the first to go; unlike Steve, he cannot withstand multiple bat bites. Despite being a new character for theBrigada Stranger Things- and thus had less time to bond - Eddie became a fan favorite, a loyal pseudo-brother to the Hellfire Club, and a misunderstood misfit who kept his spirits up to the very end. His death is a painful blow, especially when Dustin begins to cry next to him. "I didn't run away this time, did I?" Eddy asks. No, Puppeteer. You do not.

Back at Creel's house, Max has woken up but can't see or feel anything. His eyes clouded over; your bones are broken. Lucas yells at Erica to call an ambulance while Max groans, “I don't want to die. I'm not ready." Of all her emotional scenes this season, Sadie Sink's delivery here is the best. She's absolutely horrible to watch. Lucas and Eleven scream in agony as four chimes erupt from Vecna's grandfather clock, signaling that Max has passed away - and the curtain between Hawkins and the Upside Down has fallen.

Slimy, glowing cracks tear through the ground, ripping Jason in two as they open a path of carnage. (Was that really necessary, after all we've been through?) Buildings crumble in the trail of UD lava as the earth shudders and groans. Mike tries to wake up the real Eleven, but she's still in Max's head, where she simply whispers, “No. You're not going.” Wait, Eleven has resurrection powers I don't know about? Before we know it, the screen cuts to black and a “Two Days Later” card alerts us to a time jump.

As Surfer Boy Pizza Bros. make their way back into town, they are met by a long line of packed cars leaving Hawkins. Finally home, they all share tender and bittersweet reunions, some more spirited than others: Robin spots Vickie at a makeshift campout and the two hit it off; A tearful Dustin gives Mr. Munson Eddie and a brave souvenir to remember his son; Nancy and Jonathan try to figure out if their relationship is "ok" (it's not); and Lucas reveals that Max is in a coma, from which he may never wake up. At Hopper's cabin, father and daughter get back together, with Eleven even thinking Hop's slightly gaunt appearance is "bitchy". But Will knows, perhaps better than anyone, that the day is not won: Vecna ​​is still alive, and Will can feel it, "that he's hurt, he's hurt, but he's still alive."

The hairs on the back of Will's neck stand up and they all look up at the sky: a storm is coming. Snow: snow upside down, norealsnow - begins to fall. Together they walk into a clearing and discover that the flowers have withered and died. Upside Down and Hawkins merge. The final battle has arrived.

And that's the end of it: a setup for the next season worthy of a Marvel post-credits scene. "Only" one main character has died, unless we're also counting Max, whose fate remains to be seen. Somehow, "Piggyback" didn't have the impact I hoped for, even though it offers action and horror.Weird thingsis loved by My first instinct was a strange disappointment. This all built up and I didn't even have a panic attack at the end?

Of course, not all fans will find "Piggyback" to be a particularly satisfying conclusion, especially given the runtime and the way previous episodes were broken up into parts. We don't learn much here that we didn't already know: Vecna ​​is Henry/Um, he's on a mission to end the world and he's going to be very hard to stop. All of those same things are still true, except now Eddie is dead, Max is in a coma, and Vecna ​​is probably pulling Voldemort and healing herself while the Hawkins-Upside Down fusion marinates.

And also. Perhaps I display a tendency to fall for basic fan bait, but the "Piggyback" moments were meant to feel epic.fezfeel epic. By the time the credits rolled, I had enough adrenaline pumping through my system to make this story into the wee hours of the morning. I don't want to give too much credit to the Netflix series—Weird thingsit gets a lot more praise than it honestly deserves, but the show might be on the right track with its slow-but-mighty approach. Forgive the crude analogy here, but it's a bit like sharpening: getting closer and closer to what we know is inevitable (a huge, gravity-defying emotional release), but refusing to, in this case, really twist the knife. Eddie's death was a harbinger of what is sure to be an even more controversial loss next season. It could be the best. Or eleven. Or, God forbid, Dustin.

next seasonIt will be the last show. The battle is near. maybe thenWeird thingshe wanted to make sure we were ready for the fight.

The ending of 'Stranger Things' 4 refuses to twist the knife. Yet. (5)

Lauren Puckett-Pope

culture writer

Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture writer at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television, and books. Previously, she was an associate editor at ELLE.

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