Stranger Things Review Season 4: It’s formulaic, but who’s complaining when the formula is so fabulous?

Some shows evolve over their long runtimes; others cling to what made them hits in the first place. stranger things‘ The flashy fourth season mostly does the latter, sifting through 80’s pop culture references at a pace that makes me worry there’s nothing in the tank for the final, fifth chapter. Gone is the mall neon and Jane Fonda’s workout bands, replaced by Encyclopedia Britannica, film strips, snail mail, microfiche and satanic panic. This is the 1980’s of dying technology and the dark, preachy underbelly of Reaganism.

The series picks up about a year after the Battle of Starcourt Mall, season three’s bloody finale, and there’s not a single member of the gang who isn’t struggling for a foothold. Mike and Dustin — Finn Wolfhard, who suddenly looks very grown up, and Gaten Matarazzo, who continues to command every scene with his preternatural timing — have given up the possibility of a glow and reluctantly sat down at the Dungeons & Dragons table in Hawkins High’s cafeteria. Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) benches the college basketball team in a clumsy attempt to gain popularity through association, while Max (Sadie Sink), who has retired after her brother’s horrid demise, ignores him completely. Robin and Steve (Maya Hawke and Joe Keery) traded their part-time jobs at the demolished ice cream parlor for new dead-end jobs at the video store. At least their endearing bickering is intact.

But the world of stranger things no longer ends at the Hawkins city limits. Mourning the death of Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder) relocates with her family to California, far from the Hellmouth of Hawkins. Unfortunately sunshine doesn’t get along with them. Without Nancy’s (Natalia Dyer) diligent example, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) is renamed the stoner and Will (Noah Schnapp) is so withdrawn he might as well still be standing on his head. And nobody gets tortured more than Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) – bullied, lonely and limping without her telekinetic powers.

The sworn and adventurous gang is overwhelmed and traumatized. Instead of threatening their geeky bonhomie, the new season’s demon – which critics have been strictly instructed not to tell you anything about – reunites them. While this thoughtful reversal has an impact, it also means the first few episodes lack what always was stranger things Basic Pleasure: Watching kids being kids, like in classics ET and Back to the Future. Stupid, brave and unsupervised; just as many nostalgic viewers grew up or wished they were.

It’s bizarre that Netflix is ​​so protective of the identity of the latest big villain. What the series’ creators, the Duffer Brothers, have consistently understood is that a demon’s size and shape isn’t the source of its terror – although bigger and with more limbs always helps. With each installment, the series comes up with new terrifying but deceptively simple landscapes. Take something recognizable like a tree or a house and throw it against a nightmarishly vast red sky. Back it up with a heavy synthesizer that throbs like a heartbeat and you’ve got a moment more petrifying than any monster.

The cast of “Stranger Things”


This season doesn’t have the same disco ball shimmer as Starcourt Mall’s massive set, but it offers a thrilling soundscape that’s just as rich if not as garish. Every piece of music is perfect, including a menacing escape scene set to Musical Youth’s hilarious “Pass the Dutchie.”. There’s another music clue so hauntingly divine that Netflix considers it a violation of its spoiler policy, but you’ll know when you hear it. Rounding out the soundtrack is an evocative array of sinister audio distortions and frenzied screeches scarier than any jump scare. Plus sounds so mundane you may never have realized how jarring they can be: the cutting of secateurs, the violence of a sharpened pencil on newspaper, the ominous ch-ch-ch an egg timer.

Given the pressure Netflix is ​​under, the streamer needs stranger things season four to be a hit. It’s already been revealed via trailers that Hopper isn’t actually dead, which feels like a lame way to help the show along. And really, they don’t need to be disturbed. If you liked it stranger things before, you will like it again this time. Formulaic TV works when the formula is that good. Stranger Things Review Season 4: It’s formulaic, but who’s complaining when the formula is so fabulous?


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