I have never hidden my animosity —totally unjustified, by the way— towards television series. In fact, it is not the first time that I manifest the tremendous laziness, if not vertigo, that the idea of exposing myself to a narrative extended over dozens of hours in times of avalanches of weekly releases and excesses of content both on platforms and in movie theaters.
This kind of “phobia” does not understand tastes, and the case of ‘Stranger Things’ is a good example of this. Its third season captivated me without practically a single hitch, but this was not enough to mitigate the effects of the three-year hiatus that has elapsed since our last visit to Hawkinsand that has increased my reluctance to resume production on Netflix.
After sitting down, press the button play and seeing the first chapter of ‘Stranger Things 4’ I have confirmed how unfounded my stubbornness. And it is that I have ended up swallowing in three days of heart attack its spectacular 13 hours divided into nine episodes that condense the enormous talent of the Duffer Brothers in best bow to date and in which, without a doubt, it is one of the great shows of 2022.
In the variety is the spice
Making contact with the fourth season of ‘Stranger Things’ in its remarkable ‘El club’ allows us to glimpse perfectly that the series, like its main characters, has matured; something that affects a tone that, after the progressive upsurge experienced since 2016, embraces the purest terror in which it is one of its great successes and claims.
After the Amblin-esque start of a first season with ‘The Goonies’ as a clear source of inspiration, the formula has evolved to shape a more adult, sober —up to a point— and self-aware cocktail in which cosmic horror embraces trauma and mental health issues as it redraws the foundations of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. The result, ultimately, could not be more satisfying.
However, nine such extensive episodes go a long way, and ‘Stranger Things 4’ also hits the target by boosting its choral look more than ever and separate its large group of protagonists in different scenarios. A decision that, in addition to positively influencing the narrative and the rhythm by alternating subplots when the situation requires it, allows us to explore different tonal bets and subgenres.
They say that variety is the spice and, on this occasion, in addition to the game of lovecraftian horror Echoing the Satanic Panic that sparked hysteria in 1980s America, the action leaves Hawkins to flirt with the prison thriller quintessentially, the high school teen drama and even the road movie. A tremendously varied mix that shines equally at all angles.
Ambition brought to fruition
This conceptual ambition has been perfectly resolved on a narrative and formal level thanks, in part, to the time that has elapsed since the previous season and, above all, to a multi-million dollar investment estimated at around 30 million dollars per episode. A sum that has allowed to mold one of the great recent cathode showswith absurd epic levels, sweeping setpieces and an audiovisual refinement as dazzling as its painstaking production design.
As expected if we take into account the precedents, and leaving the technical muscle aside, if there is something that has kept me nailed to the sofa without taking my eyes off the screen and wishing that the days had more hours, that has been the treatment of some round and endearing characters whom it is impossible not to adore from the first moment.
Once again, the Duffers have performed what could almost be described as a miracle not only by profiling the show’s regulars, who have gained in charisma, layers and complexity; but by incorporating new faces to the adventure that manage to outshine the veterans and steal the heart of the respectable with practically no effort – and yes, I am referring to Eddie Munson.
As a last resort, It’s the dynamics between characters that carry ‘Stranger Things 4’ on the fly and nurture your warm spirit; especially the ones involving Eddie, Dustin, Robin, Steve, Murray and the unexpectedly hilarious stoner duo of Argyle and Jonathan, who strike a much-needed comedic balance without forgetting to enhance the dramatic edge.
Although having missed an extra bit of courage when it comes to some script decisions —Mainly related to deaths—, I could not help but fall at the feet of ‘Stranger Things 4’. A jewel that alone justifies the subscription to Netflix —whose catalog is nothing to write home about— and that connects all the seasons to culminate in an exciting, unforgettable two-and-a-half-hour finale, and that will make the wait until the premiere of the fifth and final season a real ordeal.