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The fourth season of the American science fiction horror drama television series Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 4, was released worldwide on the streaming service Netflix in two volumes. The first set of seven episodes was released on May 27, 2022, and the second set, of two episodes, will be released on July 1, 2022. The events of the fourth season take place eight months after the end of the third season, as strange deaths tied to the Upside Down cause paranoia among Hawkins' residents.

Stranger Things
Season 4
Stranger Things season 4.jpg
Promotional poster
Starring
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes7
Release
Original networkNetflix
Original releaseMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27) –
present (present)
Season chronology
← Previous
Season 3
List of episodes

The season was produced by the show's creators the Duffer Brothers, along with Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Iain Paterson and Curtis Gwinn. Returning as series regulars include: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, and Priah Ferguson, while Brett Gelman, Matthew Modine and Paul Reiser were promoted to series regulars. Jamie Campbell Bower, Joseph Quinn, Eduardo Franco, Cara Buono, Tom Wlaschiha, Hendrix Yancey, and Mason Dye appear in recurring roles.

The season's first seven episodes have received largely positive reviews. Critics praised the performances (particularly Bower, Brown, Quinn, and Sink), aesthetics, action sequences, and the darker, more adult tone compared to previous seasons, while some criticized it for feeling overstuffed and overlong due to the lengthier episode runtimes.[1][2][3]

Premise

Set in March 1986, eight months after events of the third season, the fourth season is split between three main plotlines.

The first plotline takes place in Hawkins, where several teenagers are killed in mysterious ways. It features Dustin, Max, Erica, Steve, Nancy, Robin, Lucas, and Eddie Munson, the leader of the Hellfire Club, a Dungeons & Dragons group that includes Dustin and his friends. Eddie becomes the prime murder suspect and is hunted down by Jason and members of the basketball team, who believe that Eddie killed Jason's girlfriend Chrissy using satanic powers. Dustin and friends investigate and discover that the murders were by an entity they dub Vecna (a D&D villain), a powerful being that lives in the Upside Down.

The second plotline involves Mike visiting Eleven, Will, and Jonathan at their new home in California. Due to the events in Hawkins and the imminent danger to her friends, Eleven goes with Dr. Brenner and Owens to a secret facility to help her regain her powers. Mike, Will, Jonathan and Jonathan's friend Argyle try to track Eleven down.

The third plotline follows Joyce and Murray who learn that Hopper may still be alive and are told to bring money to arrange for his transfer. Meanwhile, in a Russian gulag in Kamchatka, Hopper is held prisoner and is forced, alongside other inmates, to battle a Demogorgon that the Russians have captured, as a gladiator type amusement for the prison guards, and death sentence.

Cast and characters

Main

Also starring

Recurring

Guests

Episodes

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
Volume 1
261"Chapter One: The Hellfire Club"The Duffer BrothersThe Duffer BrothersMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
In a flashback to 1979, Dr. Brenner is experimenting on children possessing supernatural abilities until a mysterious incident kills all of the children except Eleven. In 1986—eight months after the events at Starcourt Mall—Joyce, Will, Jonathan, and Eleven have moved to California, where Eleven struggles with the loss of her powers and is routinely bullied by other students. Joyce receives a porcelain doll in the mail, seemingly from Russia, and finds a hidden note stating that Hopper is alive. In Hawkins, Mike and Dustin have joined their high school's "Hellfire Club," a Dungeons & Dragons club led by the eccentric Eddie Munson. As a result, they miss seeing Lucas win the basketball team's championship game. Max, who has broken up with Lucas, struggles to grieve Billy's death. Chrissy Cunningham, a student on the cheerleading team, is haunted by visions of her family and a ticking grandfather clock. While buying drugs from Eddie, Chrissy is possessed and killed by a sentient humanoid creature from her visions.
272"Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse"The Duffer BrothersThe Duffer BrothersMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
Hopper has survived the explosion underneath Starcourt Mall but was captured by Russian soldiers and sent to a prison camp in Kamchatka. Joyce and Murray call the phone number on the note she was sent and speak to "Enzo," whom they deduce is a prison guard that Hopper has bribed. Enzo has them deliver a $40,000 ransom to his contact in Alaska. Mike flies to California to visit Eleven, where he and Will witness her being bullied by her classmate Angela; Eleven eventually retaliates by striking Angela in the face with a roller skate. Max tells Dustin she saw Eddie run away the night that Chrissy died. Along with Robin and Steve, they locate the traumatized Eddie and explain the Upside Down to him. Eddie and Dustin name the entity that killed Chrissy "Vecna." Nancy and her fellow student reporter Fred investigate Chrissy's death; Eddie's uncle tells Nancy he believes the killer is Victor Creel, a Hawkins resident who was institutionalized after allegedly murdering his family in the 1950s. Fred is lured into the woods by visions of a girl he accidentally killed before Vecna murders him.
283"Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero"Shawn LevyCaitlin SchneiderhanMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
Sam Owens is visited by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Sullivan, who believes Eleven is responsible for Chrissy's death. Eleven is arrested for assaulting Angela but is taken by Owens, who explains that Hawkins is in grave danger and that he has been working on a program to help bring back Eleven's powers. Eleven agrees to go with him. Joyce and Murray fly to Alaska to deliver the ransom for Hopper. Hopper bribes a fellow inmate to break his shackles using a sledgehammer. Nancy and Robin go to the library to look up information about Victor Creel and discover that Creel blamed his family's murders on a demon, which they believe to be Vecna. Jason leads the basketball team to hunt for Eddie, believing him to have killed Chrissy, but Lucas abandons them. Max recalls that Chrissy had visited the school counselor before being killed by Vecna. She steals Chrissy and Fred's files from the counselor's office and learns they suffered from PTSD symptoms similar to hers. Max hears Vecna call her name and has a vision of a grandfather clock.
294"Chapter Four: Dear Billy"Shawn LevyPaul DichterMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
Joyce and Murray deliver the ransom payment to Enzo's contact Yuri, but he drugs them, planning to turn them (and Hopper and Enzo) over to the Russians for a larger profit. Hopper escapes the prison camp but is soon recaptured. Jonathan, Mike, and Will prepare to sneak away from Wallace and Harmon, agents sent by Owens to watch them, but armed soldiers attack the house. They escape with the help of Jonathan's friend Argyle, bringing an injured Harmon with them. Nancy and Robin interview an imprisoned Victor Creel, who recounts his family being tormented and killed by supernatural forces, although he was arrested for their deaths. Max, fearing that Vecna is about to kill her, writes letters to her friends and family and goes to the cemetery to read her letter to Billy by his gravestone. She is soon possessed by Vecna and finds herself at his altar in the Upside Down. Steve, Dustin, and Lucas learn from Nancy and Robin that playing music can break Vecna's spell, and they play Max's favorite song, "Running Up That Hill", on a cassette tape. This opens a portal through which Max escapes Vecna's control, successfully avoiding death.
305"Chapter Five: The Nina Project"Nimród AntalKate TrefryMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
Owens takes Eleven to an abandoned ICBM silo in Nevada, where he and Dr. Brenner have developed a specialized isolation tank (dubbed "NINA") that allows Eleven to access memories of her time with other children at Hawkins Lab. Eleven attempts to escape and briefly regains her powers in the process, convincing her to continue with the experiment. In California, Agent Harmon dies before giving the boys a phone number for the NINA project that connects to a modem; Mike decides to enlist the aid of Dustin's girlfriend Suzie in Salt Lake City. Hopper is imprisoned alongside Antonov ("Enzo"). While flying to Russia, Joyce and Murray subdue Yuri and crash-land in the wilderness. Max, Lucas, Steve, and Dustin regroup with Nancy and Robin and decide to investigate the Creel house; inside, they encounter flickering lights, which they trace to Vecna's movements in the Upside Down. Jason and his fellow players locate Eddie trying to escape in a boat, and Jason and his teammate Patrick swim after him. Vecna kills Patrick in front of Jason and Eddie, causing the lights in the Creel house to burst.
316"Chapter Six: The Dive"Nimród AntalCurtis GwinnMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
Eleven relives memories of befriending a lab orderly, who warns her not to trust Brenner. She also recalls being ostracized by other test subjects, leading her to believe she was responsible for the lab massacre. Suzie helps Mike's group locate the NINA project's coordinates and joins them in their quest to find it. Hopper and the other inmates are given a large feast, which Hopper warns is to prepare them to be fed to the Demogorgon. He later manages to pickpocket a lighter, recalling that the Demogorgon's weakness is fire. Joyce and Murray force Yuri to take them to a nearby town where he stores his goods and decide to have Murray pose as Yuri to infiltrate the prison. Jason galvanizes Hawkins' residents at a town hall meeting against Eddie's supposed Satanic cult. Steve's group finds Eddie; Dustin notices his compass misbehaving and realizes there must be a new gate to the Upside Down nearby. They trace the gate to Lover's Lake, where Steve dives down to inspect it before being yanked into the Upside Down by a tendril and swarmed by bat-like creatures. Nancy, Robin, and Eddie dive down after him.
327"Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab"The Duffer BrothersThe Duffer BrothersMay 27, 2022 (2022-05-27)
Joyce, Murray, and Yuri enter Kamchatka and witness Hopper and his fellow prisoners fighting the Demogorgon. Hopper holds the creature back with a flaming spear while Murray and Joyce subdue the guards and open the prison doors, allowing Hopper and Antonov to escape. Joyce and Hopper reunite. Dustin, Lucas, and Erica theorize that Vecna has spawned a gate at the site of each murder, which they communicate to Steve's group in the Upside Down. Both parties reunite inside Eddie's trailer at the gate where Chrissy died. Robin and Eddie safely exit, but Vecna possesses Nancy. She discovers that he is Victor Creel's son Henry, who killed his mother and sister with his psychokinetic powers before falling into a coma and being placed in Brenner's care. Henry became subject 001 in Brenner's experiments and later the orderly that Eleven befriended. Eleven finally remembers Henry committing the lab massacre and trying to kill her when she refused to help fulfill his murderous ambitions; Eleven overpowered Henry and sent him to the Upside Down, where he became Vecna.
Volume 2[15]
338"Chapter Eight: Papa"The Duffer BrothersThe Duffer BrothersJuly 1, 2022 (2022-07-01)
349"Chapter Nine: The Piggyback"The Duffer BrothersThe Duffer BrothersJuly 1, 2022 (2022-07-01)

Production

Development

As with seasons past, planning for the fourth season of Stranger Things began before the preceding season's release. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly that ran shortly after the third season's release, series creators Matt and Ross Duffer revealed the series' creative team had already met on several occasions to discuss the show's future.[16] On September 30, 2019, Netflix announced it had signed the Duffer Brothers for a new multi-year television and film deal that was reportedly worth nine figures.[17][18][19][20][21] To coincide with the production deal announcement, Netflix also announced the renewal of Stranger Things for a fourth season by releasing a brief, minute-long teaser on YouTube.[18][20][21][22]

Writing

Commenting on the previous season's ending, Ross Duffer divulged the process of connecting story arcs between seasons:

We don't want to write ourselves in a corner so we try to have these early discussions with the writers just to make sure that we're setting ourselves up to go in the right direction. We don't know a lot, but we do know a lot of the big broad strokes. At the end of season two, we knew about Billy. We knew that the Russians were going to come in. We didn't know the mall and stuff, but again, we know these big broad strokes. That's sort of where we are in season four. We have the big broad strokes. It's just now about filling in those lines in the details. We're pretty excited about where it's potentially going to go. Again, like we said, it's going to feel very different than this season. But I think that's the right thing to do and I think it'll be exciting.[16]

Matt Duffer indicated one of the plot's "broad strokes" is the main center of action being moved out of Hawkins, Indiana, for the majority of the season, a series first.[16] He also indicated the several loose ends left by the ending of season three, such as Hopper's perceived death and Eleven being adopted by Joyce Byers and relocating with her new family out of state, will all be explored sometime during the fourth season.[16] The Duffers later expanded on their previous comments, saying that "epic" triptych structure of the fourth season was one of the main contributing factors to its exaggerated length.[23] They likened it to the HBO series Game of Thrones in terms of its sheer scale, runtime, and newer, more mature tonal shift, as well as having split their characters across multiple distant locations.[23][24]

Another contributing factor to the show's newfound extended length was the expressed goal of the Duffers to finally provide answers to uncertainties regarding the series' long-simmering mythology, which they have been slowly revealing like "layers of [an] onion" over the past three seasons. Halfway though writing the fourth season, Matthew and Ross realized they were going to need a ninth episode to include all of their desired plot points, which Netflix in turn "quickly approved".[23] During production on the first season, the duo prepared a twenty-page document for Netflix that explained the show's universe, including what the Upside Down is, in clear detail. In turn, material from said document dictated certain plots while writing the season.[23] The Duffers wanted to spend more time within the Upside Down in this season, as the narrative of the third season gave them little opportunity to explore it further.[24]

Since the fourth season is the longest-running season produced so far, the Duffers and Netflix opted for a two-volume release plan. In a letter from the Duffer Brothers posted by Netflix, the duo revealed they wrote over 800 pages of dialogue and action across the season's nine scripts, and that the fourth season is nearly double the length of any of the previously released seasons.[25]

In an interview on the Netflix podcast Present Company With Krista Smith, Ross Duffer discussed season four's much more mature tone, which he indicated will be at least partially achieved by "[leaning] into" the horror genre:

When we pitched it to Netflix all those years ago, we pitched it as the kids are... The Goonies in E.T. That's their storyline. And the adults are in Jaws and Close Encounters [sic] and then the teens are in Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween. But, this year, we don't have the kids. We can't do The Goonies anymore. And so, suddenly, we're leaning much harder into that horror movie territory that we love. It was fun to make that change.[26]

In a May 2022 interview with Entertainment Weekly on their Around the Table series, the cast have stated that this season feels like "five movies into one", comparing it to "Scooby-Doo-meets-Zodiac-killer" while also being a "stoner action-comedy" and a "Russian prison movie".[27]

The character of Eddie Munson is based on Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three who was wrongly convicted in 1994 of the deaths of three boys due to his appearance, which residents tied to being part of a satanic cult. The writers drew from Paradise Lost, a documentary covering Echols, for Eddie's story.[28]

As they had done with the Demogorgon from the first season, the Duffers opted to use the Dungeons & Dragons character of Vecna as the basis of this season's antagonist, something that the child characters would recognize and understand the dangers due to their familarity through the role-playing game. While Vecna was not fully introduced in Dungeons & Dragons materials until 1990 through the module Vecna Lives!, and only had been alluded to in the lore prior to that, the Duffers believed that Eddie was an advanced gamemaster that was able to extrapolate how Vecna would behave for purposes of the show.[29]

Casting

By November 1, 2019, casting had begun to add four new male characters to the fourth season's lineup, with three of the roles being teenagers and one of them being an adult.[30][31] The teenaged roles were characterized as ranging "from a metalhead to an entitled jock to a character that sounds an awful lot like the twin of Fast Times at Ridgemont High stoner Jeff Spicoli", while the adult character was tied to the Russian storyline introduced during the third season.[30]

On December 3, 2019, it was confirmed by the show's writers' room that Maya Hawke's character Robin would be returning for the fourth season.[5] On February 14, 2020, Netflix confirmed David Harbour would return as Jim Hopper and that Tom Wlaschiha had been cast as a Russian malefactor.[4][32] Priah Ferguson's promotion to series regular for the fourth season was confirmed in February 2020.[7] That March, Brett Gelman's promotion to series regular was also confirmed.[6] On October 27, 2020, it was reported that Maya Hawke's brother, Levon Thurman-Hawke, was cast in an undisclosed role.[33]

On November 20, 2020, Jamie Campbell Bower, Eduardo Franco, and Joseph Quinn were cast as series regulars while Sherman Augustus, Mason Dye, Nikola Đuričko, and Robert Englund joined the cast in recurring roles for the fourth season;[10] Englund, best known for portraying Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films, had approached the Duffers for a role in Stranger Things, which fit well with the direction they wanted to take this season.[24] On June 9, 2021, Amybeth McNulty, Myles Truitt, Regina Ting Chen, and Grace Van Dien joined the cast in recurring roles for the fourth season.[34]

In the case of Bower, he was initially announced as "Peter Ballard", and credits for his role in the first six episodes were listed as "Friendly Orderly". This was to hide the reveal that his character was the grown-up Henry Creel, who was the first test subject for Dr. Brenner and thus named "One", and that he would become Vecna following his battle with Eleven.[35][36]

Filming

 
The Claremont House in Rome, Georgia was used for external shots of the Creel House.

In February 2020, it was announced in a joint statement from the Duffer Brothers and Netflix that production had officially begun on the fourth season[4] in Vilnius, Lithuania, at the recently decommissioned Lukiškės Prison.[37][38] After production wrapped in Lithuania, filming resumed in the United States in and around the Atlanta metro area, the primary production location of previous seasons.[39][40] However, after two weeks of filming, all Netflix productions, including Stranger Things, were halted on March 16, 2020, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.[41] A significant portion of filming occurred at Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico, which Netflix acquired in 2018.[42]

After several delays, filming finally resumed on September 28, 2020, in Georgia.[43] On October 1, 2020, Natalia Dyer, Sadie Sink, and Gaten Matarazzo were all spotted filming scenes at the Hawkins Middle School and Hawkins High School sets.[44] The three were also spotted filming scenes at the set for Dustin's house the following day.[45] Filming took place in late 2020 around Rome, Georgia, including exterior shots of the Claremont House, which was used as the Creel House in the show.[46]

On January 27, 2021, Matthew Modine was spotted filming scenes in Atlanta.[47] On March 15, 2021, set photos were leaked of a trailer park in Griffin, Georgia that was dressed with tendrils from the Upside Down.[48] In June 2021, David Harbour said filming was set to wrap in August.[49] The same month, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Caleb McLaughlin were spotted filming a scene that involved buying weapons from a store.[50] In September 2021, Noah Schnapp stated that filming had finally wrapped.[51]

To visually distinguish between the season's three storylines, costume designer Amy Parris revealed that each of the plot's locations will have their own distinct color palette: "It's so fun because [the production team gets] to kind of capture California versus Hawkins through color. So, Hawkins still looks very saturated. We don't have as much as the dusty, rusty brown of Seasons 1 or 2 ... And in California, we get to incorporate baby pinks, and fun teals and purples. It's way more sun-soaked and saturated as opposed to the richer colors of Hawkins."[52] American shoe company Converse designed three different styles of shoes using the Hawkins High School colors to be worn onscreen during a scene depicting a pep rally.[52]

According to Bower, for the key scenes of the massacre at the Hawkins lab, Brown herself helped to direct Martie Blair, who played the younger version of Eleven, so that the multiple filmings of Eleven's interactions with Henry in the lab, some with Brown and some with Blair, were consistent in Eleven's mannerisms.[35]

Post-production

In April 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported in an article scrutinizing Netflix's recent production expenditures that the total cost to produce season four of Stranger Things was around $270 million, which amounts to roughly $30 million per episode.[53]

Due to the season's considerable length, thousands of visual effect shots were commissioned and rendered during the two-year production and post-production processes.[25] However, the Duffers wanted to rely more on practical effects than computer-generated ones, similar to how the first season was produced. For example, the season's major threat from the Upside Down, a humanoid creature called Vecna, was "90% practical", which the Duffers found created a better presence on the set for the actors to respond to rather than a prop for later computer-generated effects.[24]

Barrie Gower, a make-up artist that had worked previously on Game of Thrones and Chernobyl, provided the look for Vecna and other creatures.[24] Vecna was loosely based on the Dungeons & Dragons villain of the same name, though the character in the universe of the show is a human "who mutated into a monster from overexposure to the Upside Down ... he's been subjected to all the environments and all the surroundings of the Upside Down basically for 20 odd years."[54] Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays the human character that is turned into Vecna, also played the role of Vecna with the use of planned prosthetics.[35]

Gower designed Bower's Vecna costume with "anemic" skin whose integration with the toxic environment of the Upside Down was apparent through the inclusion of "lot of roots and vines and very organic shapes and fibrous muscle tissue."[54] To achieve this look using mostly practical effects, Gower disclosed that he and his team took a full body cast of Bower, to later sculpt to meet their design needs:

We started off with his life cast, and to make sure everything was going to be super skin-tight, we reduced the life cast by a certain percentage all over, so once we had a plaster form of his entire body, our guys here started modeling the body in all shapes and forms in the Plasticine, which took several weeks to do that. From that, we split the body up into various sections... I think it was about 18 pieces in total, and they all went on to their own respective formers made out of either fiberglass or epoxy resin. And then we made molds of all the separate Plasticine pieces and then once we had these molds, we were able to create prosthetic appliances, and we've done them in a mixture of materials.[52]

Once the outfit was prepared, it took about seven hours of work to fit Bower into it.[35]

Music

The non-original soundtrack companion album for the season, titled Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series, Season 4, is set to be released digitally in two parts by Legacy Recordings on May 27 and July 1, respectively.[55]

Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" is featured multiple times during the season, including as part of the key scene in episode 4 with Max escaping from Vecna. The Duffers had envisioned a powerful emotional song for Max and has tasked music supervisor Nora Felder to determine which song would be used. Felder came upon "Running Up That Hill", which the Duffers agreed was a great fit for both the music itself and the theme of dealing with God. Felder knew that Bush had been cautious on music licensing before, but after contacting her, Felder learned Bush was a fan of the show, and after reviewing the script pages where the song would be used, Bush agreed to clear licensing rights to the song for the show.[56]

In a similar manner to the resurgence in popularity of the song "The NeverEnding Story" from its use in the third season, "Running Up That Hill" saw a resurgence in popularity following the release of season 4. It reached the number one position on the iTunes download chart the week of the season's release,[57][58] and saw an increase of over 8,700% on streaming charts, reaching the second-most heard song on Spotify playlists in the United States and the fourth-most song for worldwide charts.[59] This caused the song to re-enter charts in numerous countries, including in the United States, where the song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 8 on the chart dated June 11, 2022, charting higher than its original peak of number 30 in 1985.[60] It also reached the number one position on the UK Singles Chart on the week of June 17, 2022, breaking several records.[61] The popularity from Stranger Things also gave Bush her first chart-topper on the Billboard Top Alternative Albums chart on the same week for her 1985 album Hounds of Love, which contained "Running Up That Hill".[62] Bush thanked her fans on her website, stating "So many young people who love the show, discovering the song for the first time." and "The response to 'Running Up That Hill' is something that has had its own energy and volition. A direct relationship between the shows and their audience and one that has stood completely outside of the music business."[63] In a later interview, Bush said "[‘Stranger Things’] is such a great series, I thought that the track would get some attention. But I just never imagined that it would be anything like this."[64]

Other songs featured in season 4, such as Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round", Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie", and Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus", also saw increased streaming playbacks of around 1,784%.[59]

Marketing

The season's official announcement showed a ticking grandfather clock in the Upside Down and ended with the tagline "We're not in Hawkins anymore," which led many news outlets to speculate the show's setting would be relocated to Russia.[18][20][21][22] A teaser was released on February 14, 2020, showing that Hopper was still alive.[4] On October 2, 2020, the show's various social media accounts posted two photographs from different sets: A poster for a pep rally hanging in a hallway at Hawkins High, and a clapperboard in front of a grandfather clock in the Upside Down, a scene that was first depicted in the season's initial teaser trailer.[65] A second teaser was released on May 6, 2021.[66]

On August 6, 2021, a sneak peek was released featuring most of the core cast and announcing that the show would return in 2022.[67] On September 25, 2021, a third teaser was released, showcasing the house that was previously owned by the Creel family.[68] The final teaser was released on November 6, 2021, and showed inside Will's and Eleven's lives in California, with the episode titles for the season being revealed on that same day.[69]

On February 17, 2022, the social media accounts associated with Stranger Things released four teaser posters, one to coincide with the four teasers that were previously released, and a fifth poster, announcing the release date of both volumes.[70] On March 23, 2022, Netflix released various stills from the upcoming fourth season.[71] On April 12, 2022, the first official trailer was released online.[72] On May 20, 2022, the first eight minutes of the season's first episode were released online.

Release

The fourth season was released via Netflix's streaming platform in two volumes, with the first volume of seven episodes being released on May 27, 2022, and the second volume of two episodes to be released five weeks later on July 1, 2022.[73] The season will have nine episodes.[74]

Season 4's release occurred three days after a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman fatally shot 21 people. In the aftermath of the tragedy, and considering that Episode 1's cold open — a scene that had been released as an online tease one week before the premiere[75] — features graphic images of dead bodies (including those of children), Netflix added a warning card before the prior season recap that automatically plays before Episode 1. The card, which is shown only to viewers in the United States, reads thusly:

"We filmed this season of Stranger Things a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”[76]

Reception

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the fourth season holds an approval rating of 89% based on 154 reviews with an average rating of 7.85/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Darker and denser than its predecessors, Stranger Things' fourth chapter sets the stage for the show's final season in typically binge-worthy fashion.[77] On Metacritic, the fourth season has a score of 69 out of 100, based on 28 reviews, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[78]

Reviewing for The A.V. Club, Saloni Gajjar gave the season a "B+" and said, "Stranger Things still injects an enthralling backstory into its well-established universe. It’s an indication that the final two episodes of Volume 2 (dropping on July 1), despite its movie length, will only elevate season four."[79] The Guardian's Jack Seale gave it a 4 out of 5 stars and summarized it by saying, "Stranger Things is bigger, older, somewhat sadder – and as lovable as ever."[1] Tilly Pearce of Digital Spy also rated it a 4 out of 5 stars and said "Stranger Things continues to be the beautifully addictive nostalgic thrill ride we know and love. Season four is without a doubt the strongest offering to date and by far the most ambitious."[80]

Tara Bennett from Paste gave it a score of 8.1 out of 10 and wrote, "There’s a lot to love about Stranger Things Season 4, especially when it comes to some of the character progression and the change in vibe which fully embraces the tropes of the best of ‘80s horror."[81] In a mixed review, Mae Trumata of The Upcoming gave it a 3/5 stars and said "Overall, this is a fun continuation to Stranger Things. For anyone who’s well acquainted and attached to the series and the characters, this is an addition that will either be appreciated or tired of, as it offers nothing significantly new."[82] The "King of Horror", author Stephen King reviewed the season as "as good or better than the previous three", pointing out a "Carrie riff". However, King opined that the decision to produce it divided in two parts is "kind of lame".[83]

Critics praised Jamie Campbell Bower's performance as the season's villain. Patrick Caoile of Collider said "For the first time, Stranger Things gives us a villain with layers. Through Vecna, Bower explores a compelling, more complicated villain than the monsters that came before. From his traumatic childhood as Henry Creel to the abusive experiments he went through as One and finally to his role as the Mind Flayer’s top general, Vecna is the perfect villain to pit against Eleven.[84] While Vulture's Devon Ivie wrote, "[Bower] has the distinction of embodying three characters, each more unsettling than the last, as the episodes unfurl: a friendly Hawkins Laboratory orderly; Henry Creel, aka "One"; and the most significant villain of the series thus far, Vecna."[85]

Accolades

TVLine named Joseph Quinn the "Performer of the Week" for the week of May 28, 2022, for his performance in the episode "Chapter One: The Hellfire Club". The site wrote: "Quinn took the teenager in short order from curious to concerned, then from panicked to so utterly horrified that he let out the kind of shriek that other shrieks hear and go, “Whoa.” All in all, Quinn’s debut was as auspicious as they come."[86]

Sadie Sink was named as an honorable mention for the week of June 4, 2022, for her performance in the episode "Chapter Four: Dear Billy". The site wrote: "Sink [nailed the tasks of trying to put on a brave face for her friends even when Max was scared] while still maintaining the edge that her character had received upon enrollment in the school of hard knocks, she also played Max’s bittersweet monologue to her late stepbrother with a mixture of sincerity and regret that all but defined the word 'heartbreaking'."[87]

Viewership

Netflix reported that by May 30, 2022, Stranger Things 4 had been viewed more than 287 million hours, surpassing the previous first-week viewership record from season 2 of Bridgerton which had 193 million hours in its first week. Earlier seasons of Stranger Things also broke into the top 10 viewed programs in the same week as Stranger Things 4's release.[88]

References

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External links