[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Stranger Things Season 4 “Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero.”]
“Everyone looks at me like I’m a monster,” an emotional Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) says to Mike (Finn Wolfhard) the day after he fell on roller skates against school bully Angela (Elodie Grace Orkin). Even though she tries to fit in, she continues to feel like an outsider. “I don’t belong,” she said. Mike tells his own story of bullying. But it’s different. Eleven sees that people are afraid of her, including Mike, who she thinks doesn’t love her anymore. “You can’t even write it down,” she declares, pointing to her cold “Mike” signatures. Mike denies this and tries to convince Eleven that she is not a monster. “You are a superhero,” he told her.
This sentiment is shared by Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser), who returns to Eleven’s life after Lt. Col. Sullivan (Sherman Augustus) visits from the US Army. The Army believes Eleven is still alive and somehow involved in the recent events at Hawkins. After playing dumbfounded in front of Sullivan, Dr. Owens travels to California to warn Eleven and recruit her for another important mission. And her interference comes just in time, as Eleven finds herself in the back of a police cruiser being transported to the jail for her attack on Angela.
Dr. Owens tells Eleven that Hawkins is in danger (when is it?) and that she is the only one who can save him. Each time the creatures of the Upside Down return, they return stronger, smarter, and deadlier. Her friends do their best to fight her, but “they can’t win this war without you,” he tells her. Of course, as Eleven points out, she doesn’t have her powers, so how useful can she really be? That’s when Dr. Owens tells her that he’s working on a way to give her powers back, even stronger than before. We knew Eleven wasn’t going to be powerless forever, but it’ll be interesting to see how the show goes about bringing them back and what changes they bring.
Hawkins needs some serious help. Public paranoia over Chrissy’s brutal death only increases after the body of Fred (Logan Riley Bruner) is discovered in similar circumstances. The football jocks roam the city, beating up every nerd they see in their continued hunt for Eddie (Joseph Quinn). Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) is caught in a crisis of conscience, caught between placating his new football buddies and protecting his old friends. And the dark wizard Vectna continues to grow stronger, seemingly able to choose which head he wants to jump into next to corrupt and kill.
The Rental Rats are on the case, enlisting Nancy (Natalia Dyer) in their quest to get to the bottom of what’s going on. This creates some exciting groupings that we haven’t seen so much in previous seasons. Max (Sadie Sink) joins the always entertaining duo Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) and, more intriguingly, Nancy is paired with Robin (Maya Hawke). The group breaks up as Max and his companions attempt to get information from school guidance counselor Mrs. Kelly (Regina Ting Chen), and Nancy and Robin search the library archives for relevant details regarding the murderer of the family locked up Victor Creel.
Robin realizes that she annoys Nancy with her nervous talkative nature and dismissive attitude towards Victor Creel’s theory. And she feels her close relationship with Steve might be causing some of the tension. Robin clarifies that she and Steve are just friends, though she doesn’t mention her sexuality. Nancy shrugs like she doesn’t care, but it’s clear she cares. And the same goes for Steve, who, in Dustin’s words, “punched” on Nancy earlier in the episode. Given that Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) is a mopey dope-head, I’m all for Nancy and Steve becoming an item again.
Nancy’s Victor Creel theory ends up having some merit. Robin comes across an old article from The weekly observer where Victor claimed that an ancient demon had killed his family. So maybe Victor was telling the truth? If so, this Dark Wizard creature has been around for a long time and is only getting more powerful. And that’s devastating news for Max, the last person infected with Vecna’s influence. After going through Mrs. Kelly’s office and discovering that Chrissy and Fred were seeing her and suffering from similar symptoms, Max realizes that she too has experienced the same thing.
Where are the adults during all this? Well, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) are off on their own adventure. After an awkward family dinner of risotto and a tense teenage side dish, Joyce invents a lie about attending a business meeting in Alaska. “That’s where the Britannicas are,” she says. But, of course, the real reason for the trip to The Last Frontier is to deliver the $40,000 in cash in exchange for Hopper’s (David Harbour) freedom.
Hopper, meanwhile, does his part in his planned escape. After “Enzo” (Tom Wlaschiha), the prison guard, informs him that he has a pilot waiting in Alaska to collect the money, Hopper barters with a fellow inmate to help break free from his chains at ankle. This means that Hopper purposely has his ankles beaten with a hammer so he can maneuver the shackles of his feet. It’s a hell of a deal. Hopper has been tested, and I’m not sure his escape plan will be as simple as a quick exchange of money.
The stakes rise with each episode, even if some storylines show signs of repetitiveness – which makes those overloaded runtimes all the more frustrating. In particular, the stories in California and Russia need a boost, which hopefully is happening with at least one of them now that Eleven returns to regain her powers.
stranger thingsSeason 4, Streaming Now, Netflix