Stranger Things: Season 4 Episode 7 Breakdown
Mahnoor Imam concludes her Volume One breakdown series with its climactic mid-season finale. A must-read before Friday!
Welcome back, folks, to our final article breaking down the explosive mid-season finale, just days before the Volume Two release––I know I am excited!
Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab
This feature-length episode takes viewers on a paralysing terror-stricken journey full of twists that finally answer the series’ long-hidden mysteries and questions we have had from the show’s very beginning. But more on that later; first, let us return to…
Murray and Joyce enter the prison courtyard to find none other than Hopper. But before they can reunite, Hopper must face another, more pressing reunion with the Demogorgon, who, slowly being released from its cell, pounces on Hopper and his fellow inmates. Then, in what can only be the show’s most brutal action sequence, the Demogorgon brutally attacks the group, working through each inmate with terrifying ease, snarling as it bites heads and crushes bodies whole. In a matter of seconds, it seems only Enzo and Hopper remain. Knowing the creature’s weakness is fire, Hopper desperately struggles to light his spear with the vodka and lighter stashed in the episode previous. With the tension quickly building, we cut back to find Murray and Joyce imploring the commanding officer shoot the Demogorgon, but to no avail.
Having none of it, Murray pulls a gun on the officer and leads him into the prison control room. Inside, Joyce frantically pushes all the control pad buttons, with one successfully triggering a door for Enzo and Hopper to escape through. However, as they rush out––the door beginning to close after them––the Demogorgon rams its claws through the gap, prying it back open. However, Hopper satisfyingly throws the flaming spear directly into the Demogorgon’s wide-open and roaring mouth. Having overcome the first of likely many hurdles, Hopper and Enzo take a well-needed breather as another door quietly opens behind them. The camera slowly pans around to reveal Joyce, tear-stricken and approaching Hopper. The two embrace and are finally reunited, ending Volume One’s Russian subplot with one of the season’s most tearful moments.
On a darker note, we return to the Upside Down to find the Demobats ravaging Steve’s abdomen and attacking him from all sides. Suddenly, something brutally knocks a Demobat aside, the camera panning to reveal none other than Nancy, armed with an oar, with Robin and Eddie by her side. “Hey there,” she says casually before beating another to a convenient death. The scene unfolds into an incredible one-shot as Nancy, along with Robin and Eddie, begin to fight off the Demobats and save Steve, who, getting to his feet, grabs the tail of one of the creatures before slamming it repeatedly into the ground––what a way to open the episode!
Feeling safe to move on, the gang run to Nancy’s house and rustle through her belongings in search of her hidden guns (another of Nancy’s violent hobbies). With none to be found, something catches Nancy’s attention whilst flipping through her previous diary entries, her last entry being November 6th, 1983; no less, the day Will went missing. Supposedly, the Upside Down has been frozen in time ever since.
Amid this realisation, Steve pauses, focusing on the faint echoes of a voice around him; they hear Dustin, Lucas and Erica’s voices seemingly coming from the Wheeler kitchen on the other side. There, Dustin, Lucas and Max are being questioned by Officer Callahan. Dustin’s theorising brings another easter egg mentioned in the previous recap articles to light. With each of Vecna’s victims, there seems to be a connection with the fabric of time and space. The theory comes to fruition as Erica notices the flickering in the kitchen. Steve and everyone’s messing around with the the kitchen light particles causes the same light, in the real world, to flicker, just as Erica noticed. Serving as a means of communication, Dustin and co. informs the Upside Down gang that there is another gate in Eddie’s trailer, at the site of Chrissy’s death. A development leading to one of the show’s most iconic scenes, the two groups biking in parallel for the trailer.
There, Dustin and Lucas first help Eddie and Robin escape with a make-shift rope. However, in a clever twist––suspecting viewers assuming the Steve, choosing to go last, would be taken––it is Nancy who is taken whilst climbing the rope, Vecna having snatched her back into the Upside Down; no less, to the pool Barb died in during season one. Having witnessed the close call with Max, Steve desperately tries to shake Nancy out of her trance, but to no avail. Back in the Upside Down, Nancy explores Vecna’s mind palace. She comes face-to-face with Barb’s corpse, and, with the pool starting to fill with blood, Vecna’s voice echoeing around her, it cuts to Eleven’s storyline.
Dr Brenner throws El into her final memory at Hawkins Lab, containing a notable exchange between Eleven and the orderly over a chess game. He advises her of Papa’s hidden, cruel nature, pointing out why the security camera was conveniently cut when Two and the others attacked her. They later hatch a plan to escape. El uses the orderly’s key card, meeting him in the basement, where he reveals a chip in his neck that prevents him from leaving with her. Luckily, El uses her telekinetic powers to rip the chip out of his neck.
Despite their luck, guards burst in and begin to apprehend them. Cornered in the hallway, the orderly pauses, telling El she doesn’t have to be afraid of them anymore, before lifting his sleeve to reveal the number 001 and his identity as the first test subject at Hawkins Lab. He turns his neck and slams the guard against the wall, then tells El to wait in the closet for him. As El listens to the screams and yells coming from outside, she follows the sounds to a horrible sight that present-day El thought she had caused. 001––his once crisp white uniform now spattered with blood––sports a ravenous look in his eyes as he meets El’s horrified gaze across the room: “I was scared once, too. I know what it’s like to be different. To be alone in this world.”
We cut back to Nancy, stumbling into a carefully placed memory of the Creels arriving at their new house. The camera slyly zooms into Henry Creel, revealing how he, 001, didn’t fit in with the other children and misunderstood his emotions as a child. Viewers are left slack-jawed by one of Volume One’s biggest plot twists. Not only is the orderly the first test subject, 001, but also the presumed dead Henry Creel.
Although the mid-season finale answers many of the questions we’ve have had all season, it no less leaves us with more. What happened to our Californian gang? Is Nancy alive?
Henry/001 narrates his experience as a telekinetic child. Finding a nest of black widow spiders underneath the floorboard, he relates with the spiders: “they immobilise and feed on the weak.” He explains how he finds human beings confusing and intolerable––that they poison the world with their illogical social structures and restrictive norms––as the vision of a young Henry Creel turns back the hands of the grandfather clock with his supernatural powers. He speaks of life’s monotony (“wake up, eat, work, sleep, reproduce and die”), claims his family is guilty of supporting these inane social structures and that they are “liars”, both reasons why he murdered them. Killing them, however, temporarily overloads his powers, leading him to collapse––revealing Victor Creel’s retelling was, in fact, a red-herring. Henry/001 then wakes up in the care of Dr Brenner, who begins experimenting, intent on studying his powers.
Upon hearing this, Eleven turns to 001, horrified, telling him how he tricked her before supporting him—leading to one of the episode’s final battles, with Eleven facing off against 001. To garner more power, she remembers her most painful memories: her mother being taken away, the bullying, and the horrendous Hawkins Lab massacre. However, 001 overpowers her, lifting her and beginning to twist her limbs. Looking again at her mother, she focuses on their love. Then, with a change in outlook, her powers elevate; she launches 001 into the wall, who, screaming, disintegrates and melts into the very first Upside Down gate.
Cutting to the Upside Down, we see 001 hurtling across its hellish landscape. With lighting strike, his features change to those of Vecna. With the camera slowly panning to his wrist, emboldened with 001, the orderly, aka 001, aka Henry Creel, is actually Vecna. The episode then cuts to black, leaving millions of viewers in shock at the episode’s explosive multi-twist ending.
Although the mid-season finale answers many of the questions we’ve have had all season, it no less leaves us with more. What happened to our Californian gang? Is Nancy alive? With everyone else’s fate left unsettlingly safe, which significant deaths have we been warned about? Could it finally be Steve or, in a twist, the long ignored and neglected Will––which would bring the season to a crashing halt? Some viewers even perused the official posters and found Billy and the Russian soldier (the big Season Three deaths) in the bottom corners, leading them to scan the Season Four posters to find Murray, Jonathan and, surprisingly enough, Argyle. Here’s hoping that ending doesn’t pan out (fingers crossed!).
Feel free to theorise, guess and discuss below before tomorrow’s Volume Two release!