Review | Volume two of ‘Stranger Things: Season 4’ could turn the series upside down

The feature-length episodes of ‘Stranger Things: Season 4, Volume 2’ did not do justice to the show’s earlier seasons — with questionable writing, a dip in the cast’s performance, and a villain that, ultimately, wasn’t that strange.


Dan MacMedan-USA TODAY

Jan 19, 2020; Los Angeles, CA, USA; From left, Cara Buono, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Priah Ferguson, and Gaten Matarazzo arrive at the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium.

Parker Jones, Arts Editor

About 10 minutes into the Stranger Things: Season 4, Volume 2 premiere, I had to pause the episode. In the moment, I chalked it up to the late-night release — midnight of July 1 — Netflix’s most popular show, and one of my personal favorites, had succumbed to poor writing.

It can happen to any show that becomes unexpectedly popular or goes on too long. The first season of Stranger Things was near-perfect, and with that success, its writers, and more likely its producers, felt the need to raise the stakes, add new characters, and cram as much emotion, action, and funky new supernatural foes into each new episode.

I saw it in the second and third seasons, and even the first volume of the fourth season, but it didn’t become so blatant until the most recent episodes. Nearly every conversation between members of the main cast, but especially between the younger actors, felt forced and awkward.

It’s unsure if this is because the second volume was rushed because of COVID-19 production delays, or if the writers are still trying to portray middle-school-aged kids when the characters, and more noticeably, their actors, have grown up.

Although they have proven their acting ability in the past, most scenes with Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers, and Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler, could have definitely used a few more takes, especially in “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback.” Wolfhard, in particular, seemed distinctly uninterested in playing Mike, at least with the forgettable position they put his character in this season.

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Their lack of energy is definitely more noticeable when compared to certain other cast members, namely Sadie Sink, who plays Max Mayfield, and Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas Sinclair in their palpably heartbreaking scenes this season. I also really enjoyed every scene between Joyce Byers, played by Winona Ryder, and Jim Hopper, played by David Harbour, who both have charming chemistry.

Most other characters are enjoyable this season, including the new fan-favorite Eddie Munson, played by Joseph Quinn. Although I didn’t get quite as attached to him as the other long-standing cast members, I could get behind his quirky humor and the real sense of anxiety he portrayed, that some of the other characters seemed too eager to push aside during tense moments.

Without spoiling every detail, the main villain of this season — Vecna, played by Jamie Campbell Bower — didn’t frighten me as much as I hoped he would. Especially during the predictable but necessary final battle that brought all the different characters together, the backstory they gave him didn’t seem to matter at all. It felt like another attempt by the writers to up the stakes by having a villain more deadly, yet more human, than the already-frightening creatures from seasons prior.

Of course, with its sky-high budget, stellar VFX, and retro aesthetic that has proven popular time and time again, Stranger Things will never be a totally bad show. However, I fear that the latest season hints at the downfall of Netflix’s biggest series.