If the previous episode of “Stranger Things 4” was the season beginning to hit its stride, then episode four is the show sprinting. This episode is overflowing with content and is easily the best one yet for me now that the season seems to have a true sense of direction and gives off the vague impression of knowing where the plotlines are going.
In a season that has just been a love letter to horror films of the 1980s, episode four fully embraces that with the addition of Nancy and Robin’s investigation and interview of Victor Creel which is incredibly reminiscent of “The Silence of the Lambs.” To make the homage even better, the old Victor Creel is played by none other than actor Robert Englund who made his claim to fame as the iconic horror villain Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. The Elm Street films have certainly been an influence for “Stranger Things 4” with Vecna’s powers and the visuals that accompany them, which we get our best look at yet in this episode due to Max.
The heart of the episode and the season for me so far is easily Sadie Sink as Max and that truly shines through this episode as during the entirety of the runtime it feels like an allegory for mental health with the notes she is writing, the goodbyes, her messages running through her head and finally the support from those who care about her. The character of Max is so well done this season and the final sequence with everything in the cemetery and in Vecna’s domain is masterfully done from a storytelling standpoint and successfully managed to make me emotional.
With all the big things happening in Hawkins it's easy to forget about the plot developments that occurred in our other locations which are by no means small. Hopper successfully escaped from his Russian captors, but then finds himself getting caught yet again after being sold out by Yuri
who was supposed to rescue him. Yuri’s betrayal also has led to the capture of Joyce and Murray so with the three of them all likely imprisoned in Russia, the future looks rather bleak for the trio. The actual escape of Hopper was great to watch though and gifted us with a fantastic fight scene and a sweet scene of a man tasting freedom, even if it did end up being short-lived.
In California, we also had what for me was a bit of redemption for the character of Mike as he and Will seem to finally be communicating and reconciling a great friendship. In a genuinely shocking turn, the military faction that had been searching for Eleven showed up to the house
and broke in guns blazing. With frantic acting and camera work, the home invasion and escape of the kids is done in a tense one-shot that I am an absolute sucker for.
With action, emotion, tension and a lot of questions beginning to be revealed about Creel and Vecna, episode four of “Stranger Things 4” is the episode that I have been waiting for. Regardless of my enjoyment of this episode, I have a feeling that the rest of the season will not be slowing down, and I am excited to see where it will go. “Stranger Things 4” has the first seven episodes available to stream now on Netflix and the final two episodes will be released July 1, 2022.