Stranger Things: Season 4, Episodes 3-4 Breakdown
Mahnoor Imam returns with another fantastic breakdown of episodes 3-4 and discusses her favourite series moment.
Back again, as we continue our deep dive into Stranger Things‘ most chaotic and emotionally charged season yet, with episodes 3 and 4 further exploring Vecna’s mysterious origins.
Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero
With the last episode ending with Fred’s death, becoming Vecna’s second victim alongside Chrissy, episode three follows the Hawkins gang as they attempt to unravel any connections between the two dead. The only crossover they find is their relationship with Ms Kelly, the high school’s seemingly unsuspicious guidance counsellor.
Max visits Ms Kelly’s house to uncover more information on Chrissy. While Ms Kelly rightly withholds details about Chrissy’s counselling, viewers might have noticed the significant easter egg around Ms Kelly’s neck: a key-shaped clock pendant on a gold chain. Super-fans even heard a clock’s consistent ticking in the background whilst also noticing the grandfather clock that appears in Chrissy and Fred’s hallucinations has a keyhole.
Even more so, the connection between Ms Kelly and the students she counsels raises further suspicion, with Fred and Chrissy visiting her the day they died and within 24 hours of seeing the clock. Unfortunately, Max is another of Ms Kelly’s patients who began counselling in the wake of Billy, her brother’s death––a pivotal moment from the Season Three finale. The episode then ends with Max face-to-face with the grandfather clock, the voice of Vecna whispering her name.
Meanwhile, in California, Eleven has landed in the hands of Dr Owen, who intends to take her to Brenner’s lab, where they hope she will regain her supernatural powers. Will and Mike plan to escape Agents Harmon and Wallace, hired to keep them housebound from the government, and then get to Eleven. Unfortunately, in the following episode, government agents locate Will and Mike and come in guns blazing, killing Wallace and fatally wounding Harmon. Thankfully, our loveable hero, Argyle, comes to the rescue in his Surfer Boy Pizza van.
On a colder aspect, Joyce and Murray make their way to Alaska to meet Yuri, who, unbeknownst to them, has sold them out for a better deal. Then, drugging Joyce and Murray, Yuri traps them on his plane en route to Russia. So, with the reunion’s stakes much higher than viewers initially expected and the guards rushing on and detaining Enzo, Hopper’s one chance at freedom now seems lost.
Chapter Four: Dear Billy
Moving on, the season’s impeccable and iconic fourth episode, ‘Dear Billy’, is undoubtedly an instant fan-favourite, following Max’s face-to-face encounter with Vecna in the Upside Down. Again, the writers pack this episode with action, from Max’s twenty-four-hour left to live to Nancy and Robin chasing their one lead, Victor Creel.
Played by Robert Englund, the iconic actor, most popularly associated with playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, is an easter egg hinting at Vecna’s character inspiration, taking from both Kruger and Hellraiser‘s Pinhead. Moreover, the corridor leading to his basement cell block pays direct tribute to Silence of the Lambs, with Nancy, Robin and Creel substituting the fierce Clarice Sterling and infamous Hannibal Lecter.
Creel finally tells his side of the story, describing his family’s deaths that frighteningly similar Chrissy and Fred, save for his son, Henry, who is said to have died in a coma a week later. Creel’s story also proves his innocence, tragically witnessing their deaths rather than causing them. Moreover, Robin notices Creel hum “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Doris Day, speculating that the song played during the attack somehow allowed Creel to escape Vecna’s grasp. We later find Robin to be correct in her speculation, with certain music having the ability to provide a gateway for individuals trapped with Vecna in Upside Down to the real world.
Emotional and energy-charged, episode four concludes with a universal sigh of relief, its final scene quickly becoming an instant viewer favourite
With this reveal, we come to my favourite series moment: Max’s escape from the clutches of Vecna after being trapped in the smoky-red Upside Down. With Max pinned to the wall, Vecna reaches for her with the intent to kill. But, after Dustin and the gang successfully contact Robin and learn of music’s power, they scramble for cassette tapes, click play on Max’s Walkman, pump up the volume, and pray. First, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill hurtles across the Upside Down, creating a portal to reality some distance from Max. Then, in an incredible and emotional moment, memories of Max’s friends give her the strength to fight back; she rips at Vecna’s neck, freeing herself from his grasp. Finally, she runs for her life as the music rises and debris hurtles at her from every angle. But, before we learn of Max’s fate, the screen cuts to black.
However, in what we initially assume to be an overly used and often dissatisfying cut-to-black cliffhanger, the writers throw us back into the show and give viewers the answer they want. Max returns to her body and reunites with the panic-stricken pals Dustin, Lucas and Steve.
Emotional and energy-charged, episode four concludes with a universal sigh of relief, its final scene quickly becoming an instant viewer favourite, so much so that Kate Bush’s 1985 classic has soared the charts and reentered the top ten after nearly 30 years. And rightfully so!
Join me next week as we delve further into the season with episodes five and six.