The year is 1986, and the spritely geeky kids of Hawkins are children no more. A two-year hiatus has turned our favourite bunch of weirdos into lanky teenagers, experiencing what most Americans like to call the most difficult phase of their life, the highschool phase. As our heroes eagerly await the coming spring break, little do they know that Hawkins's dreadful past would come back to haunt them again, directly from the roots of terror that lurk in the upsidedown.
Clad in the funky fashion of the 80s, Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1 continues to charm its audience with its ensemble of talented, young actors as well as returning seasoned veterans. Over the whopping nine-hour runtime, the Duffer brothers deliver excellent sub-plots, interesting character development, a subversive plot twist and finally, a nuanced and developed villain in Vecna, potentially making it the best season till date.
The small group of Hawkins has now branched out and has moved away from each other on different paths. Unlike season 3, this season is less focused on the romantic relationships of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and other couples. Nonetheless, the group chemistry remains intact. The new characters Argyle (Eduardo Franco) and Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) bring a specifically peculiar tension into the mix.
The protagonist of the show Eleven has lost her powers and is mentally distressed from losing Hopper, exacerbated further by the bullies in her new high school. Will (Noah) tries his best to comfort her, but things start to snowball for the worse.
The central motive of this heavy script is to uncover the paranormal things that have been happening over the years. The audience learns soon that it's not the Mindflayer this time.
Did we say Hopper is alive? Not breaking news as it was revealed in the season 3 finale and the trailer of the latest season. Still people were eager to see exactly how.
My most favourite episode of season 4 might be 'Dear Billy' where we see an interesting character buildup of Max. From fighting with her inner emotions and guilt, she becomes a victim of Vecna. Her near death escape, backtracked to 'Running Up That Hill' by Kate Bush made it one of the most exhilarating crescendos of the season.
The story does get convoluted by the layers of different plots and twists, but it all eventually gets tied together. The strongest villain of the Stranger Things series is really well-written and Jamie Campbell does an excellent job as a menacing antagonist. Sadie Sink and Maya Hawke's performance chops have grown massively in-between seasons, whereas Finn and Noah seem to be playing their roles half-heartedly.
Millie Bobby Brown, as always is spot on in her portrayal of Eleven, as one of the series's principal protagonists goes through a difficult journey to regain her powers and in the process find her true self. By the end of Volume one, we see her coming into her own as she starts to gear up with her inevitable showdown with Vecna.
The cinematography is more harrowing this season, leaning heavily on horror atmosphere and brutal deaths. But the scenes do not feel misplaced at all, rather it ups the ante of thrills.
The teen horror fantasy has surpassed all expectations of this genre and critical response has been positive and ubiquitous. There is so much to be said about the gory sequences, fascinating sci-fi undertones or how they utilised the gap to concoct a way more daring addition to the saga, Stranger Things season 4 volume 1 is a must-binge. We can't wait for the finale episodes to drop in July.