Stranger Things experienced severe gigantism The fourth and final season, with oversized episodes and even more lengthy leads to what actually happened. That’s not to say the seven episodes premiering this week don’t have their moments, it’s just that you have to go through a lot of “weirdness” to encounter them.
After nearly three years of absence from season 3, and the kids look visibly older, thus graduating a different set of issues in a similar fashion to the maturity in “Harry Potter” — the Netflix series is in some ways a victim of its own success.Tired of expectations and apparently unfettered in terms of creative interference, producers have responded with a dizzying array of new threats while distracting their characters, in one case across the globe Suspense involving Hopper (David Harbour).
The first two episodes felt particularly bloated before the storytelling of the Duffer Brothers and company was at its best. Even so, there are some detours and subplots that are easy to jettison or trim, killing time as the show strips the latest danger from Reversal and what can be done to stop it.
The most effective aspects involve eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), he remains the emotional core of the series. Flashbacks that explore her beginnings and origin story — and the debate over whether she’s a monster or her friends think she’s a superhero — are the highlights of these episodes, though this story arc isn’t immune to the overall missteps of moving too slowly.
Of course, those who are completely obsessed with the show might think there aren’t too many good things, and Stranger Things, now in 1986, rewards them with all sorts of fresh pop culture references and tributes from “Ridgemont High” Fast Times” to “ET Alien” to “Silence of the Lambs” (yes, the movie didn’t come out until 1991, but that’s okay). There are also some new faces with genre roots, including Robert Englund, aka Freddy Krueger.
Season 4 was extravagantly produced and also seemed to up the ante on cruelty and bullying, exploiting the vulnerability of nerdy characters. At the same time, the soap opera element of the relationship has started to feel like something small is happening, or maybe just overshadowed by the dire dangers facing the kids and even the world.
In a bid to spread the hype (and user satisfaction) for longer, Netflix announced that it will keep the two climactic episodes until July, creating yet another suspense before viewers learn about everyone’s ultimate fate. As is, the seven chapters total nearly nine hours, so anyone planning a weekend binge should budget accordingly.
Nearly six years after its premiere, Stranger Things has a place in the pop culture sky that helped lift Netflix, so it’s understandable, even logical, that the service and filmmakers aren’t rushing to say goodbye.
That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to speed up “things” a bit. Because while there’s a fine line between Hawkins and Upside Down, the entryway that separates epic from overkill can be just as narrow from a narrative standpoint.
Stranger Things premieres the first part of its fourth and final season on Netflix on May 27.