Hyderabad: Season 1 of the Netflix original, ‘Stranger Things’ was first released in 2016. Starring Millie Bobbie Brown, Finn Wolfhard and Noah Schnapp, among others, the show soon became critically acclaimed for bringing forth undertones of escapism. Shortly after its release, it gained a large fan base and the coming years saw the release of […]
Hyderabad: Season 1 of the Netflix original, ‘Stranger Things’ was first released in 2016. Starring Millie Bobbie Brown, Finn Wolfhard and Noah Schnapp, among others, the show soon became critically acclaimed for bringing forth undertones of escapism.
Shortly after its release, it gained a large fan base and the coming years saw the release of seasons 2 and 3. On May 27 of this year, the first part of season 4 containing seven episodes was released. An announcement was made for the release of the second part in July. This was said to have only two episodes, with a total runtime of four hours.
From the main cast growing up, to the storylines becoming more complicated, ‘Stranger Things’ has seen a lot of growth over the years. Let’s take a look at the predominant changes of this season:
Kids grow up
Back in season 1, the show had the innocent faces of 12-year-olds. One of the things that made it so enthralling was the apparent “powerlessness” of the children, and their selfless desire to retrieve their kidnapped friend, Will. Now, six years later, the cast is undeniably (and obviously) older. Of the six main cast members, five are legal adults. Noah Schnapp, the exception, will turn 18 in October later this year. Netflix has accommodated their growth through some genre-bending and adding more mature elements to the story.
Original gang splits up
One thing that disappointed many viewers was the splitting up of the main cast. At the end of season 3, Eleven, Will, Jonathan and Joyce move to California for a fresh start. The rest of their friends stay behind in Indiana. Season 4 is set a few months from this point, and the characters are in high school. Now, they face problems in their respective locations, disorienting the viewer and somewhat tarnishing the historical linkage of the characters. Of course, the unwritten law of television dictates that these characters must be reunited, which is expected to happen in the final part of season 4.
Story’s scope expands
With the growth in age and expansion in area, the scope of the show has boosted considerably. In fact, ‘Stranger Things’ not only crossed the United States with the split locations of the main cast, but also ventured into Russia, introducing a special story line for the previous antagonist, Hopper, based on the post-credits scene of Season 3. This scene showed him surviving the explosion and ending up as a prisoner in Russia. However, this also means that the show had to let go of its Midwestern narrative and ‘small-town’ aesthetic.
Addition of horror element
This was one of the most noticeable changes in the genre of the show. The filmmakers introduced elements of the ’80s horror movies, drawing their influence from slasher and body horror genre. They have turned the dial up on the gore, and have adopted iconography of the grotesque. One of the most chilling scenes was that of the Russian prison guards. Famous horror and supernatural fiction author, Stephen King tweeted on June 4 , “STRANGER THINGS: I love that slimy, slinky Russian guy, Yuri. He deserves his own show. Like BARRY, only Russian(sic).”
Length of the episodes
Lastly, the length of each episode in this season was astoundingly long. So much so that several critics complained of it being ‘unnecessarily padded’ and ‘suffering from gigantism’. The average length of each episode was more than an hour, with the finale crossing the 90-minute mark. The unreleased second part reportedly has a finale crossing two hours. Further, the odd division of season 4 into part 1 and part 2 has left viewers confused and wondering if it was done purely from a marketing perspective.
The bottom line…
All in all, for better or for worse, ‘Stranger Things’ has changed in season 4. It is important to remember that a minimal amount of change is what keeps a serial production alive and running. Nobody wants to keep watching the same story over and over again, and at the same time, viewers cannot deal with excessive detachment. The key is to keep it balanced by linking it to the past while exploring new ground. The balancing factor of ‘Stranger Things’ can only be revealed with the release of the second part of Season 4.
— Aishwarya Jain