What’s really at stake in ‘Stranger Things’ after the Season 4 finale?

If you’ve spent a lot of time in the past month, plus hypothesizing what the last two episodes of? Weird stuff Season 4, you were probably consumed with a single question: who would die?

In the meantime between the first seven episodes of the season to be released over Memorial Day weekend and the last two episodes on Friday, Weird stuff sleuths focused on the fate of Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), whose slack, reformed bad friend days many expected to be numbered after his encounter with giant bats. Were their bites poisonous? Is there rabies in the upside down? Would Steve ever get a chance to reconcile with Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer)?

Indeed, when the eighth episode aired, the Duffer brothers seemed eager to vent. Steve told Nancy about his dreams for the future, laughed at childhood memories, and thanked her for helping her make him a better person. There was Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve’s old foil, paired up with Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) instead. The stage seemed set for Steve’s heartbreaking departure.

But everyone’s favorite babysitter made it out of season 4 alive. So did the rest of the show’s core characters. The most notable deaths in the past two episodes were of Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), aka Papa, the longtime leader of Hawkins National Laboratory, who fell in a dramatic firefight between government accomplices in a helicopter and the budget per episode. from Netflix; Jason Carver (Mason Dye), this season’s terrifying antagonist who ended up on the wrong side — er, sides — of a newly opened gate to the Upside Down; and beloved Eddie, who died in Dustin’s arms after single-handedly attacking a colony of bats. (Rest in power, my man; we will always have it totally gnar rooftop Metallica solo

Eddie’s passing was the most tragic of the bunch, but it didn’t come as a shock: As a newcomer with a limited storyline, his fate seemed to be in jeopardy for the finale, just like Billy Hargrove’s (Dacre Montgomery) did in Season 3. Episode 9’s most stunning and crushing loss seemed come when the kids couldn’t save Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) from Vecna’s curse in time. As Moby’s “When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die” swells, Max shudders in Lucas Sinclair’s (Caleb McLaughlin’s) lap, her arms and legs broken and blood on her face, before finally going quiet.

Except, well, then she comes right back to life. Just two scenes after Lucas cries and screams for help over Max’s body – a feat of strength from McLaughlin in a season often plagued by the growing pains of a cast of no-longer-little kids – we see Elf (Millie Bobby Brown) work a miracle. “No,” she says, before Max’s nosebleed comes back to life. “We make our own rules.”

Herein lies the problem: When Season 4 comes out, it will no longer be clear what death means on Weird stuff† If Eleven can magically resurrect humans, what’s at stake from the show’s near-constant life-or-death situations? And if a character can come back to life at any time, how seriously should audiences take the demise of a regular series?

After all, Max is not the first Weird stuff figure to come back from behind the veil. Take Brenner among the peripheral characters; he only died in episode 8 as he reappeared in the fifth episode of this season, having previously been presumed dead since the season 1 finale. Among the headliners is Jim Hopper (David Harbour). In the Season 3 finale, he disappears amid the closing of a gate to the Upside Down, leaving his sparring partner Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) in pieces. But then Hopper reappears, seemingly alive, in a not-particularly subtle post-credits scene.

Even Eleven has pulled a similar trick, disappearing at the end of Season 1, to be mourned by Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and the gang, then showing up safe, healthy, and hungry for Eggos at the start of Season 2. . Weird stuff has used the same story device with villains as well. This season culminates in the Big Bad, Vecna, who tumbles to the floor from the attic of his home slash lair after two Molotov cocktails and a series of gunshots from Steve, Nancy and Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke)…alone he’s gone. when the trio arrives to search for his body below (itself a tribute to Michael Myers’ fall disappearance act in 1978 Halloween

What's really at stake in 'Stranger Things' after the Season 4 finale?


What stands out here is not only that Weird stuff seems reluctant to kill any of his main characters; it’s not unique in that regard, and Resurrection is a regular part of the genre. What is striking is that the series seems reluctant to even admit an audience think it would dare to lose every member of the core cast, despite the premise underlying the show.

In Hopper’s case, only 20 minutes of playtime elapses between Joyce realizing he’s gone and the post-credits scene where a Soviet prison guard points to a locked cell and says, “No, not the American” — an unmistakable hint that Hawkins’ chief of police survived. This season, the gap between Max and the moment El begins to resurrect her is only two minutes and 10 seconds.

What's really at stake in 'Stranger Things' after the Season 4 finale?


That’s not even Weird stuffshortest suspicion of death. That credit goes to Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who seems doomed when Joyce and Hopper finally reach him in Season 1’s Upside Down. How long does it take between Joyce crying “He’s not breathing!” that our mopey king sits up with a sigh? One minute and 21 seconds.

On the one hand, the showrunners clearly understand the emotional resonance that the death of a mainstay of the series would have. Time and again, the characters are shown grieving, from Lucas’ touching performance this season to Joyce finally reunited with Hopper, who told him she grieved for him during the eight months she thought he was dead. “We had a funeral‘ she says softly. On the other hand, there are only so many times that the show can play some version of the back-from-the-death card. By replaying it to close Season 4, Weird stuff raises questions about both the show’s structure and expectations for a fifth and final season.

As for the first part of it, Eleven suddenly showing she can raise the dead raises a long list of follow-up questions. Could she always do this? Is there a time limit to her powers? Even if this is a new skill she developed during her training this season in an underground bunker in Nevada, why didn’t she try to save Eddie? (She hadn’t met Eddie due to the Byers family’s move to California, but her friends from Hawkins could certainly have defended his case.) And it’s still possible that El can undo the deaths of other characters, like Billy , Bob Newby and Barb?

Still, it’s the final concern — what this portends for Season 5 — that’s more central to determining whether Weird stuff may eventually yield a satisfying series conclusion. With the barrier to the Upside Down broken and Vecna ​​revealed as the show’s ultimate villain, the motley crew of Hawkinsites will no doubt face mortal danger once again. Next season, fans will once again study the tea leaves and ponder the survival of figures like Steve, Max and Hopper. But with Weird stuff repeatedly reversing course at death, would a scene where, say, that reverse rabies variant finally kicks in, have the same stakes? When a fan favorite falls painfully, what reason is there to think it’s for good?

At this point, I know what I’ll do next time a main character seems doomed: sit back and wait a few minutes for the miracle.

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