Stranger Things 4 part one is the best the series has ever been. The hype was strong for this season through the season getting hit with the pandemic delays as well as the announcement that it would end with the fifth season. With the season being separated into two parts, and each episode being longer than they had been previously. With the first part being seven episodes long, and each episode being about the 70ish minutes long part one feels like a full season. I do want to go ahead and praise it for not feeling like had to be stretched out to fit the episode length.
The opening had a content warning with the terrible events in Texas. There’s not anything I can say about that other than its terrible and saddening. The opening takes place before the first season. This is the first time that we’ve been shown Dr. Brenner since the first season, when he had been supposedly killed.
The characters are all in different places, both physically and emotionally. The Byers and Eleven are living in California and while the Hawkins crew have also been going through changes of their own. The kids have all started high school, which led to the Hawkins kids to have different dynamics. Lucas tries to become popular while pushing away from his nerdy past. Both Mike and Dustin join the designated D&D club, The Hellfire Club. Max has started pushing everyone away after the ending of the last season. The friendship between Steve and Robin has deepened.
That’s when the creepy stuff starts all over again. Students start to die in mysterious fashion, which leads to two things happening. The first thing is the Satanic Panic taking full hold of the more closeminded members of the community. The second thing is the people still in Hawkins teaming up to investigate what’s going on. While this is going on in Hawkins Mike is in California for spring break to visit Will and Eleven. The California crew has their own issues to deal with. Its even revealed the Hopper survived the ending of the previous season but was captured by the Russians.
Each of the groups end up on interesting adventures that tie together in surprising ways. The California crew ends up having to do with a governmental conspiracy while also trying to find Eleven, who is on a journey to get her powers back. Joyce and Murray go on a journey to rescue Hopper. Hopper has to survive in a Russian prison. The Hawkins crew learn what is going on with the killings. They’re being done by a creature from the Upside Down that’s known as Vecna. The killings are part of an unknown plan that continues the plans from previous seasons.
The introduction of new characters is fun. The new friend that Jonathan has from California is a new source of comic relief. The leader of The Hellfire Club is the only other member that becomes anything more than a bit part. There’s the new antagonists in this season. The government is Lt. Colonel Sullivan, who is the head of the governmental conspiracy. The Hawkins human antagonist is Jason Carver, a popular high school student that whips up the satanic panic fervor in the town. The main antagonist is Vecna, a powerful being from the Upside Down whose background you learn throughout the season.
The effects in this season are pretty amazing for the most part. The only effects that I have any issue with is the weird de-aging effects for the younger version of Eleven. I don’t know how it was done but they’re a little off putting. The new creatures, which I have dubbed Stirges because of the D&D connection, are interesting additions. Showing the Upside Down having more life in it than previously thought. Vecna is a combination of practical and CG effects. Vecna is the most menacing foe from the Upside Down since he interacts with multiple characters.
Stranger Things 4 part one is the beginning of the end for this series. With how the season is split I’m viewing this as a full season with the second part being movie continuations. I’m doing that not only because of the length of the final two episodes but because the split is seven and two. Plus, the first part of the season has episodes at feature length already. The fact that the story doesn’t lag or feel like it has been needlessly stretched out helps make this part of the season feel like the best yet. I also really enjoy that D&D has been made a part of the show again. Part two of the season premieres on July 1st and I’ll be watching those two movies as soon as I can. I give Stranger Things 4 part 1 10 d20s out of 10.