I may have had my issues with the first seven episodes of “Stranger Things” Season 4, but there is no denying that the excitement for the final two episodes was unreal. Episode 7 left viewers with some massive revelations, but equally massive cliffhangers.
When we last left our heroes, the identity of the villainous Vecna had been revealed. Joyce and Hopper were finally reunited after a deadly battle with the Russian Demogorgon, and Eleven had seemingly regained her powers all while our California crew (Mike, Will, Jonathan and Argyle) made their way to rescue her. Now in these final two episodes, our Hawkins crew make their final stand against the forces of The Upside Down, while the other crews attempt to help from their respective parts of the globe.
Now, the first thing that must be understood going into these final two episodes is you need to have four hours set aside to watch them. The finale alone is two and half hours. That being said, it’s amazing that these two episodes are able to keep up the excitement consistently throughout. At no point did I feel the runtime while watching these episodes, even if there were times that things could’ve been trimmed down, particularly the ending, but we’ll to get that in a bit.
What shined through in Volume 2 is the heart at the center of the story. Just about every character gets an emotional moment to shine. Noah Schnapp in particular finally gets a moment in the spotlight with an especially gut-wrenching scene alongside Finn Wolfhard. Other performers that stand out here are Gaten Matarazzo, Sadie Sink, Joseph Quinn, and of course Millie Bobby Brown.
The emotional moments are the strongest here, but that doesn’t mean they skimped out on the action set pieces either. While there isn’t a moment in these episodes that tops the “Running Up that Hill” moment from Episode 4, there are still some amazing sequences to be found here. As seen in most of the trailers, Eddie (Joseph Quinn) playing “Master of Puppets” in The Upside Down is amazing. All around the visuals in these final two episodes are incredibly strong. The visuals were solid in Volume 1 as well, but here the Duffer brothers pulled out all the stops, from the lighting to the effects, it all looks insanely impressive.
With all these strong elements, these last two episodes sound pretty great, which they are, but with four hours of content there are bound to be some weak spots. As mentioned in my review of Volume 1, there are multiple stories going on this season, and I argued that while all of them are entertaining, they’re not all equally as interesting. The California story in the first seven episodes was easily the weakest as it tied so little into the grander story of the season, which is thankfully made up for in these final two episodes.
Unfortunately, this means the Russian storyline must take its place. Not to say that it’s bad, far from it, it has some of my favorite moments from this season (Hopper fighting a Demogorgon with a literal sword), but it has the least to do with the story by the end.
Speaking of story, it’s clear that these episodes are laying the groundwork for Season 5. Without giving too much away, there was a clear point where I thought the episode was going to end, and if it did end there it would have made for an insanely out their cliffhanger. A true “Empire Strikes Back” kind of ending. However, the episode continues for another half hour and wraps up like all the other previous seasons. Sure, the cliffhanger is there, but certain reunions and character moments would have easily been saved for next season.
Overall, now that we have the season as a whole, it stands as the show’s biggest and most ambitious outing yet. While the longer runtimes may have led to some stretched out story beats, the Duffer brothers take full advantage and make every episode feel like an event. In Volume 2, the creators stick the landing in just about every way, with the emotional and character-driven moments elevating the show to new heights.
While the conclusion overstays its welcome a bit too much, the finale is the first time the show has me asking for another season (which I obviously know we’re going to get). The previous three seasons had their own cliffhangers, but each one felt like it could’ve been the end of the series, this season, however, concludes much like the first part of a two-parter. Thankfully though, it still ends in a way that pretty much everyone will be satisfied with, delivering on just about every promise the show has built up to at this point.