US: When it came time to wrap up season four of Strange Things, the show took the idea of long-term strategy to heart and capped it off by delivering two nearly four-hour episodes. If that’s a reward for fans or a self-indulgence by the creators, it’s hard to picture many determining that terminating things with season five counts as premature after this.
It’s taken 37 years for this season to make Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” a top-ten smash, but the episodes themselves aren’t quite “running,” more like a brisk walk with detours along the way.
Now that the show is in its last stretch, Netflix should seriously consider dropping episodes every week to fully capitalize on the media attention it’s garnered by timing it around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. This would be a major innovation in terms of scheduling.
The Duffer brothers have opened the special-effects piggy bank while allowing their characters to breathe and explore more mature teenage issues via the prism of small-town Indiana in the mid-1980s.
Still, the program doesn’t stray too far from its pop-culture roots and knowing homages, whether it’s a wink to “Halloween” or having someone say “I’ve got a horrible feeling about this” to beguile the “Star Wars” devotees.
A deeper level of resonance and a higher stakes are introduced by this season’s apparent acceptance that the extreme danger can’t be eradicated without a price.
It’s fair to say that the fourth season’s nemesis Vecna, who has a disconcerting likeness to the Crypt Keeper from Tales From… the Crypt comics, has been a major letdown. Even while returning to the Cold War was unexpectedly opportune, the cliffhanger that sent Hopper (David Harbour) behind the Iron Curtain in the third season stretched on for far too long as well.
What’s the next step for the show now? There’s nothing better than starting at the beginning, with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, who deserves an Emmy for her “looks of intense concentration”). She’s joined by the adorably geeky Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Will (Will Poulter) (Noah Schnapp).
A standout feature of this season has been the exploration of Eleven’s past, with flashbacks revealing new details about her troubled upbringing and the responsibilities she’s been forced to carry.
In the wake of Netflix’s success with “Stranger Things,” the hype surrounding the show’s final episodes is expected to be out of this world.
However, Season 4 has played like a (very) long preview of that, playing too much like a great big coming attraction for what is hopefully the more rewarding payout to come in the near future.