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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Powers Stengel

Stranger Thinks

Eleven Hot Plot Waffles for Stranger Things Four (So Far)


RECAP/RANKING


Spoilers For: Steve's chest fur and a couple of (also hairy) demon takeovers. Maybe just watch Part One first.


I tend to agree with you, Eddie.


The only thing all of my serious boyfriends have had in common in the last six years--they all go ape with joy for Stranger Things. And for good reason. Show creators Matt and Ross Duffer combine the horror of coming-of-age with the Upside Down consequences of corrupt science fiction in small town 1980's America. The recipe is just too delicious to resist. Pair with it a sensational (and always growing) cast of characters, goonies worth fighting for, and I will chase down their demons any day.


(Ryan Murphy eat your heart out. The Duffer brothers know how to slide in a slew of new faces ORGANICALLY at the start of every season. I am never left wondering why these newbies matter, and each is tenderly incorporated into the circle of spooky trust when it is peak time to do so, and each displays unique, unexpected prowess in the face of the freaky. Mwah!)

I watched all of Glee. Who even are these characters?


Fictional Hawkins, Indiana is an effed up place. And in 1986, when season four begins, it's no different. Joyce, Eleven, Will, and Jonathan have moved to California, and our fractured crew try to live high school life free from paranormal activity. Operative word: try. Hauntings of the mind beset Hawkins and follow El and squad to Cali, with deadly and abduction-filled results. The bone-cracking danger, vivid character growth, and unexpectedly interconnected plotting has never been better. Let's feast on the eleven plot waffles that shine as I greedily, anxiously await the drop of season four part II next week.



1. Eddie Munson!


Played with Van-Halen-meets-Ozzy-Osbourne panache by the talented Joseph Quinn, I cannot get enough of drug-dealing-shit-talking-dungeon-mastering Eddie. When cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham's bones snap, crackle, and pop in Eddie's trailer during a friendly deal, she's rendered lifeless, and Eddie, helpless. He becomes the prime suspect for her murder, and his silly antics are labelled satanic. A group alliance with Eddie (already in deep with Dustin, Mike, and Lucas through their Dungeons and Dragons group, The Hellfire Club) creates a spark of spunk, metal, and mettle that vivifies the season for me. Love him. (Special shout out for his banter with the iconic Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair.)



2. The poison tongue of the golden boy.


Netflix Screenshot


Nothing like a ceaseless fomentation to violence to get the public really on your side. Joseph Goebbels knew it, and so does Hawkins bball leader and recurring antagonist, Jason (played with alpha elitist perfection by Mason Dye). Jason's two speeches, one in the series opener to amp his school crowd up for basketball season, and two, his town hall cry for action against that damned Eddie Munson, display the toxic manner in which social privilege blocks you to full truth, and helps you take everyone else along for the blind ride.



3. Nancy and Robin and Victor, oh my!


Speaking of characters you enjoy disliking, let's talk about Nancy. Call me a cantankerous critic sans respect for nuance, but I have always found Natalia Dyer's Nancy Wheeler flat, if bordering on atonal. Until season four. Put her in a room with the endlessly charming Robin Buckley (the flawless Maya Hawke), and I'll have more of Nancy please. One of the best scenes of the series so far? When Nancy and Robin infiltrate a mental hospital posing as grad students in pursuit of dirt on how to penetrate the twisted trauma prisons created by our big bad of the season, demon wizard boi Vecna. They interview Vecna's only known surviving victim, Victor (icon Robert Englund, best known for his portrayal of Freddy Krueger!). Banger scene. 11/10.



4. Max's Kate Bush odyssey.


Max (Sadie Sink) fully crushes season four. Beleaguered by visions (courtesy of Vecna) of her stepbrother Billy's death, her sanity slowly erodes and her playful personality evaporates. When her torment can last no longer, the crew determines the healing balm. Play your favorite song and your consciousness can kick Vecna out. Max's song of choice? The absolute banger by Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)." Her homeostasis slowly returns and we enjoy hearing her laugh again almost as much as Lucas (the adorable Caleb McLaughlin). Have a bad feeling Vecna's not done with Max yet though. I hate to love to anticipate seeing it.



5. Suzie saves the day!


When Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Jonathan's newcomer weirdo friend, Argyle, all lose Eleven to the grips of a hostile government abduction (again), there's only one person they can call to hack their way into a clue. The winning, if biblically inclined, genius Suzie (with Gabriella Pizzolo's charisma to burn) opens her truly wacky home, bursting with siblings, to the boys in another one of the best scenes of the series. Violent amateur filmmaking, advanced sword play, and marijuana-driven seduction color it all, and my face hurts with smiling at the mere memory.



6. Argyle


Our new phenomenal everyman doofus (played with impeccable timing by Eduardo Franco) hanging in a crew of casual supernatural warriors. He's stoned, he's scared, and his pizza delivery truck is the only safe haven I need. While I could do with a few less hackneyed soundscapes featuring "Pass the Dutchie" every time he rips, his bemused badassery is just the ticket for keeping levity on lock in the face of mayhem. Another Duffer Bros. character addition masterstroke.


7. Steeeeeeeeve!


The evolution we've been watching of Steve (the playful, heartfelt riffings of Joe Keery) speaks to why great fantasy/scifi plots work perfectly for a high school setting. When an emotionally avoidant, thoughtless teen boy is forced to become a babysitter in a hellscape, a queer advocate in the '80's, a demon fighter in Indiana, and a reformed misogynist now open to love all at once, it's not only his pectorals on display--it's his kind humor and emotional intelligence. Steve has gone from trash panda to magnificent friend, and it is the sort of progress that feels unfathomable unless the stakes are monstrous. So gratifying to watch. Just like his shirtless scenes. Wink. Fight me. (Even more so, I just love watching him spat with Dustin and ache for Nancy. Keery's acting style is so generous and he makes everyone around him better. )



8. Joyce and Hopper and a Prison Break for the Ages


When Joyce (the compelling, intense Winona Ryder) and Hopper (the crusty gold of David Harbour) reunite in a Russian prison after Hopper temporarily quells the Demogorgon reprise, they waste precious time in a tender embrace. I happily suspend my disbelief to watch these two resilient cuties croon because they have worked their asses off for the moment. Hopper, self-injured, tortured, bedraggled, and teased with fleeting mouthfuls of peanut butter, and Joyce, drugged, immersed in a performative long con with a Russian scam artist, and generally worthy of off kilter mom-of-the-year, deserve all the light they can get. Hope they don't die getting out of Russia on broken ankles.



9. (Yuri) Murray



For me Brett Gelman (Murray) can do no wrong. He is acerbic, direct, mired in strategy, and always ready to suspect the worst while summoning his demented best. From improvised black belt takedowns to a pitch perfect impersonation of a Russian smuggler mid prison break, Murray's deranged tactic list is never ending. He's spry, paranoid, passionate, and his platonic banter with Joyce is something we rarely see on tv--middle aged mixed gender friendships that show us it's never too late to come of age. Incredible work, Brett and Winona.



10. El, 001, and Meeting Your Monsters


When Eleven (the captivating Millie Bobby Brown) is taken back into the clutches of her perverse OG Pappa (Dr. Brenner, a governmental tool with mixed motives) we step into a memory prison-palace wherein she must unlock her own repressed secrets. For much of season four, we, like Eleven, are convinced that she is responsible for killing of most of the other child supernatural test subjects in their secret facility back in the day. In her memory walks, Eleven remembers her eerie bond with an overly invested orderly. While this sequence drags with doldrum and much repetition, the ultimate payout for our wait is sharp and sweet. The orderly, the true killer of the other superkids, and the trauma-hungry beastie wizard Vecna now running rampant in Hawkins are all the same dude! In Aristotelian plotting that snickers-style-satisfies, we are gobsmacked by what has been in front of us all along. Impressive and electrifying.



11. Maybe, just maybe, your friends can save the day.


What has always made Stranger Things great continues and is only buoyed by an ever-extending and only-increasingly excellent cast. When the world is shitting cosmic caca upon you, look around. Galvanize your goonies. You never know what you can survive until it's right in front of you.



What are your predictions for Part II? Sound off!

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