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Stranger Things 4 ends by trusting in the season’s best and worst instincts

Although Netflix is ​​hyped Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 as its own standalone season of the nostalgic sci-fi opus from the Duffer Brothers, the two extra-long episodes are really just the final chapters of full 1‘s story about what really hunts Elf and her friends. Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 ends the introduction of Vecna ​​this season, setting the stage for his psionic hero and villain to take on even bigger roles in the future of the series. As a season finale focused on emotional payoff, Full. 2s manages to seize the opportunity and deliver, but it does so while also leaning on some of the Weird stuff’ worst instincts that have plagued the series from the get-go.

While Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 really sneaks in some hearty jokes that succinctly summarize the important bits of Full. 2, the episodes start immediately after the previous one without losing the dynamism of the story. After trying his best to make you think that Elf (Millie Bobby Brown) killed all the other child subjects in the Hawkins Lab, Stranger Things 4 revealed that her first terrifying display of power as a young girl came during a fight with Henry (Jamie Campbell Bower), the man who would become Vecna. Full. 2 begins with Elf coming to fully understand her relationship with Henry/Vecna ​​and choosing for herself how to deal with his murderous plan to escape the Upside Down.

By stripping Eleven of her powers, separating her from her friends, and introducing even more unexamined knowledge, Stranger Things 4 purposely brought the series back to its roots when both the show’s audience and characters were generally in the dark about what was going on. That change eventually brought Eleven’s decision to stand up to Dr. Martin Benner (Matthew Modine), her first – and incredibly abusive – adoptive father to return to Weird stuff with the promise of recovering her lost abilities.

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Thanks to Netflix

By first emphasizing how abuse defined the relationship between Eleven and Brenner, Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 is able to take her rebellion against him as an act of empowerment and recognition of the genuine love she was able to find after originally escaping the lab. Millie Bobby Brown has always been captivating to watch all season, but in Full. 2 her performance as Eleven has a rawness that perfectly divides the difference between a tired action hero in their latest act and a scared girl who just wants to be back with her family.

Leading up to Eleven and Henry’s final showdown, Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 matters a lot how much their overall development—both in terms of their powers and their evolving identities—started with their choosing to defy Brenner. Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 has a choice of some moments when Brenner is depicted as an even more menacing, sadistic presence than before. But Modine stands out most in scenes where his character lashes out and clearly operates from a place of fear – fear of the monster Henry has become, and how he can no longer control Eleven.

Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 This season brings almost all the characters to a close with a complexity that is impressive, but leads to both episodes feeling dense and almost overcrowded due to the size of the cast. At the same time as Eleven simultaneously takes her power back and remembers that she can use it to remotely check in with the Hawkins crew, each of their subplots kicks into high gear to make sure everyone level (short-lived) gets closure.

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Thanks to Netflix

Especially at this late stage of Henry’s—which repeatedly ridicules the show by pointing out the number of names he uses—great plan, it still baffles the mind that all children without powers think they must go upside down to fight the stuff. But Full. 2 shifts Weird stuff in the series’ familiar action-adventure rhythms with a smoothness that was conspicuously absent in Full. 1

The final two episodes rightly choose to spend a significant amount of time wrapping up Max’s storyline by delving into how deeply her encounters with Henry/Vecna ​​have changed her. Weird stuffMax’s characterization wasn’t always the most three-dimensional, but here’s where Sink gets a chance to really bend as the show revisits what her various relationships have meant to her over the seasons.

Crazy as it is, the kids’ plan to fight Vecna ​​in the upside down is what gives Weird stuff the ability to really dig into what they’ve been eating all season. Mike almost became a supporting character in the orbits of both Elf and Will (Noah Schnapp) during Stranger Things 4 Vol. 1and it’s much of the same in Full. 2 as the show reunites the three characters. Not surprising, Weird stuff slows down and takes a soft focus as it gives Eleven and Mike the space to properly process their complicated feelings about each other.

likewise, Full. 2 tries to pull you over when Will is comfortable enough to share with Mike and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) the nagging secret about himself hiding in that bowl haircut. But Will’s somewhat clunky resolution is one of the many tricky speed bumps that persist Full. 2 from reaching its full potential.

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Thanks to Netflix

While it was great to watch Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) rely on the kids to fend for themselves as they go on their own adventures in the Soviet Union, Weird stuff know that their stories are not what people tune in to. Full. 2 however, does the admirable and keeps the adults fully entertained with real things to do rather than just dropping them back into Hawkins for the occasion.

Full. 2 wisely uses his time in Russia to start alluding to Weird stuff‘ last season, but Hopper’s big Demogorgon fight is also part of how these episodes remind you how much everyone has changed over the course of the series. Like Hop, the prospect of potentially dying in battle stirs a sobering sentimentality in Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Eddie (Joseph Quinn), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), and Steve (Joe Keery), which compliments the proactive way they survive the apocalypse.

It’s a bit wild how Full. 2 chooses to interrupt the time he spends with Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max to remind you that he is also on the run from high school basketball star turned gunner, Jason Carver (Mason Dye). Now that Jason had witnessed Vecna’s wrath firsthand, he became even more of a gunshot. Full. 2 doesn’t add much to the episodes other than stressing that he was always an asshole.

In the grand scheme of psychic combat, Elf’s confrontation with Vecna ​​isn’t necessarily the most ostentatious, but it does carry an emotional charge that hasn’t always been the case with Weird stuffprevious finals. Full. 2 recontextualizes a lot of those fights with a bit of immediate harbinger of things to come, and while this season certainly felt like it was the end of Weird stuffit’s fair to say the series has a little more gas in the tank.

Stranger Things 4 Vol. 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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