Every time you think you know everything there is to know about Hawkins, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friends in Stranger Things, the series flips your world Upside Down to uncover horrors lurking beneath.
The show has done so yet again in season 4 volume 1, the release date for which arrives on Netflix in a few days’ time – so you’d better get your spiked bats at the ready.
The episodes have become progressively more grotesque following the season 3 battle with the Mind Flayer, as a brand new villain – Vecna – strikes the heart of the town in Indiana, his horrifying appearance having already been revealed in the trailer.
With the gang scattered, dealing with the tribulations of high school and coping with Eleven having lost her powers, the arrival of Vecna comes when they are at their most vulnerable… but could their past dealings with creatures from the parallel dimension be their saving grace?
In the first batch of episodes released for the fourth season, Eleven is struggling to fit in at school after moving to California with Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), as she’s subjected to cruel bullying while unable to defend herself in the way she previously knew best.
They all still believe that Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is dead, unaware that after the blast in the season three finale, he wound up as a prisoner in Russia, bracing against the fierce cold while holed up with none other than a Demogorgon.
Back in Hawkins, Max (Sadie Sink) is grieving the loss of her brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), who died at the battle of Starcourt mall when he sacrificed himself to the Mind Flayer, saving the gang’s lives.
Meanwhile, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are dedicated members of the Hellfire Club at school, a group consisting of older students passionate about their Dungeons and Dragons conquests – but Lucas has other priorities on his mind after joining the basketball team.
The trailer for season four teased huge significance for Max’s character in the story arc, showing her speaking to Billy at his grave before seemingly being targeted by Vecna, with one moment depicting her levitating eerily above the ground.
Having made her Stranger Things debut in season two, Sadie is a tour de force in the latest outing, masterfully depicting the complexity of Max’s grief over her dislikable late brother as she draws herself away from those she cares about in the living world.
For anyone who has ever had to deal with the brutality of bullying in their lives, Eleven’s experiences this season may hit close to home, with school bullies proving one of her biggest and most painful adversaries so far despite her past otherworldly experiences.
The emotional toll Eleven is suffering in the wake of Hopper’s perceived death and at the hands of the savage kids at her school is devastating to watch, as without powers, she has no idea how to deal with the adversity that’s being fired in her direction.
While Hopper has been a force to be reckoned with since the start of Stranger Things, never before has he had to be as resourceful, as well as mentally and physically capable, as he is while surviving prison life in Russia.
If you thought he was tough before, just wait until you see what lies in store for the fan-favourite, whose father-daughter bond with Eleven was one of the most beloved aspects of the series before they were viciously torn apart.
As well as the returning characters– including Steve (Joe Keery), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Robin (Maya Hawke), Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Murray (Brett Gelman), who deliver stellar performances as always – season four also introduces several new faces into the mix, who make brilliant additions to the cast.
Joseph Quinn stars as Eddie Munson, the intimidating but charming leader of the Hellfire Club, with Eduardo Franco providing the comic relief as Argyle, Jonathan’s weed-loving new best friend, and Jamie Campbell Bower joining as the enigmatic Peter Ballard.
It’s been an extremely long wait for new episodes of Stranger Things, with season four coming out after a three-year hiatus packed with scares, terrifying twists and turns and a killer tracklist to boot (pun most definitely intended).
Season four is everything we hoped for and more – and we can’t express how sad we are that its release means we’re nearing the show’s fifth and final season.
Verdict on Stranger Things season 4 volume 1
After being granted access to six out of the seven episodes of season four volume one, suffice to say we’re blown away.
The introduction of a new villain means that in some ways, our heroes are effectively starting from square one as they try to get to the bottom of the evil that’s seeping into their cursed town.
While the reveal of the big bad on the show has had a slower build in the past, this doesn’t take away from Vecna’s ability to strike fear into the hearts of the characters and viewers alike.
The powerhouse performances from the cast are heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, with Stranger Things continuing to do the utmost to keep its audience on the edge of their seats, unable to predict what’s going to happen next.
The new episodes mark an incredibly strong beginning of the end, and with the final two instalments of the fourth season set to come out on July 1, we can promise that fans will be transfixed by the rollercoaster journey that awaits.
Stranger Things season 4 volume 1 drops on Friday May 27 on Netflix.