Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 2 Review: A fitting finale to the best season till date
When the sub-plots finally converge, the final showdown makes for a visually splendid experience that will leave you with a sense of satisfaction
Just about a month ago, we reviewed the first volume of Stranger Things Season 4 and even before we could wrap our heads around why Netflix wanted to split this season into two, we now have volume two. The first volume had seven episodes, with each one clocking a hefty one hour but this volume, though just having two episodes, has a mammoth runtime of almost four hours. While for those unaccustomed to the 'strange things' that transpire in one of Netflix's biggest shows, this might look like a big deal. But given the number of characters it features and the stakes that have exponentially increased over the previous seasons, volume two does a splendid job of tying the loose ends and even leaves you wishing there was more.
If there's any actual reason if there needs to be a demarcation in the name of two volumes, it's the way the plots have been divided. While the first volume's plot involved splitting up the gang and sending the pivotal characters to different corners of the world, it's more about bringing them all together in this one. Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 2 sticks to the age-old trope of intentionally tearing up the team and reuniting them for the final shot of them staring into oblivion. But what The Duffer Brothers do with the template is make the already complex plot more twisted and when the sub-plots finally converge, the final showdown makes for a visually splendid experience that will leave you with a sense of satisfaction.
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink
Creators: The Duffer Brothers
Streaming on: Netflix
Another difference Volume 2 creates is how it gives ample screen space and arcs to characters that had very little to do in the previous one. It's as if they had used the first volume to establish Vecna and this one is for the good guys. That said, Jamie Campbell Bower's Vecna aka One aka Henry has to be one of the best villains we have seen in this form of storytelling and the actor aces the role. A small clip which became viral recently showed how he was smothered with layers of prosthetics and make-up to nail the look and using the same actor for a role that could have been done with VFX adds value to the character. Speaking about the other side, the series has already given career-defining roles to actors like Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp and Sadie Sink, and the way their arcs evolve in the final two episodes in regards to emotions like love, hate, fear and selflessness make far more intriguing than what they were already. Given the number of characters, without spoiling it for those who haven't seen the episodes, not everyone walks away alive and given how many near-death encounters the gang has had, this feels inevitable and only adds to the drama. It's not often we see younger stars steal the show when they are surrounded by talents like David Harbour and veterans like Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine.
I had mentioned in my review of Volume one about the fantastic set work, props and costumes that bring in the 80s vibe - walkmans, Hulk Hogan t-shirts and references galore. The CG in the limited time in 'upside down' is probably the best we have seen in the web-series format. Given how the final two episodes spend considerably more time in the other world, the effects are once again on point, if not better. What sets Stranger Things apart from other high-budget magnum opuses is how despite the grand scale, there's a lot of love and warmth the characters exude, making it grounded and relevant, and that's not something we often expect from a fantasy series on monsters. But let that not make you ignore the fact that the series has moved slowly but surely from fantasy thriller into horror territory and that's not a bad thing at all. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that Netflix has gone all out for the series and it shows.
If I had to nitpick, I wish we got to see the whole season as a single volume or take the road often taken by other series and get an episode each week. Given how the first volume ends with a big reveal, the final two episodes do take their time to get back to the pace they left at. It was like watching an Indian film where the first half ends with a bang and we had an intermission period of one month after which we got to see the rest of it. Also, as expected, Hopper and co reach Hawkins in one piece, but we don't know if they had gone with the original plan of using the almost-dead helicopter to reach American shores. What happened to the fellow Russians Yuri and Antonov who came to the US with Hopper, Joyce and Murray? We'll probably get answers to them in the next season which will be the fifth and final season.
For now, season four, despite its predictability factor, has proved to be the best in the series thanks to some heart-warming moments and brilliant performances, and anchors the reason why it's one of Netflix's flagship show alongside titles like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. Given how this season has not only satisfied expectations but has also surpassed them, the Duffer Brothers have left us scratching our heads on what could possibly be happening in season five. While the stakes are only going to get higher, fans can breathe a sigh of relief given how Eleven has gotten back her powers and our favourite characters are finally together. After all, if this gang cannot defeat monsters, which one can?