Stranger Things: Season 4, Episodes 1-2 Breakdown
Mahnoor Imam offers a thorough breakdown of the series’ first two episodes. A must-read before jumping into Volume Two.
Hi everyone, and welcome to the first in a series of three weekly articles providing fans with a concise breakdown of Season Four Volume One in time for its final two episodes airing 1 July—not long now! From easter eggs and newbie characters to the show’s four plot-lines and wicked soundtrack, these articles include everything you need to know before going into Volume Two.
Chapter One: The Hellfire Club
This season’s premiere opens with a flashback that harkens to gruesome origins: Dr Martin Brenner’s Hawkins lab and his experimentations on young supernaturally gifted test subjects. Season Four begins on a dark note, following test number Ten, who senses the bloody scene unfolding outside the room. Dr Brenner makes his way through the lab when he meets our protagonist, Eleven, staring back furiously with blood-streamed eyes.
The series then cuts to the present day, following some familiar, beloved faces as they start their notably less-gruesome daily routine, the iconic “Californian Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas playing as they get ready for school. Super-fans will likely notice an easter egg as we peer into Eleven’s room to find her painting miniature figures of Hopper and his wooden cabin. She has notably kept the door open three inches, a detail reminding viewers of Hooper’s tear-jerking letter to Eleven that she reads in the final moments of season three after his shocking death. “But please, if you don’t mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches”. Undoubtedly, an emotional callback that could make any grown man cry!
Hopper’s red-herring death is responded to almost immediately, with Joyce receiving a suspicious package marked with a Soviet Union stamp. Inside, she finds a creepy Russian doll with a hidden message suggesting Hopper is alive and contact details for a mysterious ‘Enzo’.
Six months after the Battle at Starcourt Mall, the gang has splintered into four smaller groups, each a separate plot-line. The Hawkins storyline follows the gang, consisting now of Dustin, Lucas, Max, Nancy, Steve and Robin. Lucas has joined the basketball team, hoping to gain popularity and acceptance. Max, still grieving Billy, has become socially isolated. While, Mike and Dustin have joined the school’s D&D Hellfire club, led by one of our new characters, senior-year student Eddie. With an on-theme ’80s mullet, Eddie’s non-conformist attitude and love for rock music place him on the sidelines of the high school hierarchy while becoming an instant and beloved fan-favourite for viewers at home.
We also have another newcomer, Chrissy, who appears to be a quintessential star cheerleader with a team captain boyfriend but finds herself at the centre of a slowly unfolding sinister sub-plot. Chrissy is the first to face this season’s villain. At first, she hallucinates inside a creepy, dimly-lit high school bathroom, hearing alarming voices from the other side of the stall door. Later on, however, she experiences another hallucination inside Eddie’s caravan; this time, seeing a grandfather clock whose echoing gongs culminate in a fatal encounter with our menacing Season Four villain, Vecna. A surprisingly early and graphic death, with cracked bones, jaws, and eyes squished to a pulp.
After nearly three and a half years, the long-awaited “Is Hopper Alive?” question is finally answered in the series’ second episode
Meanwhile, in California, we see Will and Eleven struggle for acceptance in their harsh high-school setting. A favourite scene of mine, albeit a bit tear-stricken, includes Eleven’s class presentation about heroes, respectively choosing Hopper. “He was a hero for people. And he was my hero too,” an emotional comment met with scoffs and outright laughter while Will looks on encouragingly.
Throughout the episode, Jonathan’s friendship with newcomer character Argyle is the pinnacle punchline, with allusions to Purple Palm Tree Delight helping them fill the role of typical Californian stoner dudes. Argyle plays the lovable Surfer Boy Pizza employee, sparking a humorous resemblance to the surfer turtle from Finding Nemo.
Chapter Two: Vecna’s Curse
After nearly three and a half years, the long-awaited “Is Hopper Alive?” question is finally answered in the series’ second episode—beginning with a flashback to the final moment of Season Three, showing what really happened. Inside the Russian base deep below the Starcourt Mall, Hopper climbs behind a platform, narrowly avoiding the flames and explosion. The Russians then discover him, transferring and holding him hostage in prison. This development warrants our Russian plot-line, with Joyce and Murray embarking on their trip to Alaska to liaise with a Russian pilot in their quest to free Hopper.
In California, Mike now becomes a part of the Will-Eleven-Jonathan-Argyle sub-group. Upon watching the end of Episode Two, viewers would’ve noticed the precariously written note that read: “From Mike”, noticeably excluding “Love”, which El responds to with an almost-hidden glance of disappointment.
Back in Hawkins, Max discovers the police sirens steadily heading towards Eddie’s trailer, presumably the morning after Chrissy’s death. Here, viewers are introduced to another new character, Eddie’s previously mentioned uncle, Wayne Munson, who holds the key to Vecna’s dark origins. Using her investigative journalist skills, Nancy finds out that Munson believes a criminal from the 1950s named Victor Creel is behind Chrissy’s murder, highlighting the Creel storyline hinted at in the trailer. The legend goes that after Victor Creel lost his mind, he killed his family and took out their eyes, bearing a stark resemblance to Chrissy’s death.
Elsewhere, Nancy’s friend Fred now falls victim to the echoing sounds of the grandfather clock heard from the depths of the forest. The episode concludes with his death paralleling Chrissy’s: snapped jaws, cracked bones and squished eyes. Bone-chillingly graphic, if you ask me.
Join me next time as I uncover how the gang discovers the fresh, new victim and this death’s strange connections to our villain, who we currently know through the menacing chimes of a grandfather clock sitting in the abyss of a dark forest.