The Dark Herald Recommends Stranger Things 4 (Part I)The Dark Herald
“Evil is not an absence of good. It is not a choice…Evil is one of two forces in the cosmos, an agency locked in eternal struggle against its antithesis…Only good and evil exist. And not even a hair’s width of space separates them.” – Vecna
Netflix kicked open the money spigot on this one. The quality of the production is vastly superior to Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi. The cinematography is motion picture quality and each episode of this half-season is feature-length. The second half doesn’t stream until July.
Stranger Things has gotten back to its Stephen King roots this season. The show is back to being horror. In addition to the Stephen King tropes, we have strong overtones of A Nightmare on Elm Street. To include a cameo role by Robert Englund. The comedy is still present, but it’s toned down from last time. Better still the boys aren’t wandering around with their thumbs up their butts being in awe of what total badasses the girls are. They are now allowed to do heroic things again.
And the show has also gotten back to its original Dungeons and Dragons motif. They are now fighting Vecna. A very old Dungeons and Dragons villain dating from Gary Gygax’s Eldritch Wizardry module published in 1976. Vecna was once a powerful human wizard but is now a litch and the most powerful one in the world. Although, it is hilariously ironic that the very generation of players being portrayed on screen is the ones that D&D’s current owner, Wizards of the Coast, has spent so much time, attention, and money on vilifying as regressive, bigoted gatekeepers. Just to be clear WotC, we aren’t gatekeeping anything, we’ve abandoned our gate and burned the bridge you think you are guarding.
Vecna is pretty close to what 001 is in this version. 001 was the first and most powerful of the subjects at the Hawkins Secret Government Lab of Evil. He is now the Mindflayer’s most powerful servant. Vecna has started killing random high school kids at Hawkins High School. The Scooby Gang figures it out before anyone else, but they now have the problem of how to stop him since Elle has been depowered at the end of last season.
The Duffer Brothers either didn’t think things through at the end of last season (possible) or had good reason to believe that Netflix was pulling the plug and they needed to wrap the entire series up, (most likely). Either way, they are having to do some major walk backs from the end of last season. The primary subplot of this first half-season is that Elle needs to get her powers back. The tertiary is that Hopper is against all odds, alive and in a gulag (space magic just roll with it) and Joyce and the hippie have to get him out.
Another walk back appears to be Nancy and Jonathon. Nancy has been a problem character for a while. Once she smashed with Jonathon, her story arc was complete. However, this action damaged her popularity because she was still in a relationship (albeit a failing one) with Steve. This made her a branch-swinger, a girl who doesn’t let go of the guy she has a hold of until she has a firm grip on the next. That is low in any girl. Steve took his heartbreak like a man and thus boosted his own popularity. Go #TeamSteve.
But it made Nancy boring as hell. Aside from being dizzy in love with Jonathon, the only thing she did last season was be a ludicrously over-the-top #MeToo feminist empowerment caricature. She was having to “get the coffee for MEN” and was not treated as an equal. This was an intolerable burden for such a super special and talented HIGH SCHOOL INTERN. If you are an intern, then you are hopefully there to learn something and do the “here’s my shitbird jobs.” The, ‘learning something,’ is optional if you are an intern but the doing crap no one else wants to do isn’t. And you damn well won’t be treated as an equal because you ain’t.
She wasn’t just doing make-work on screen. She was doing that in the story too because she and Jonathon had no reason to be there. She and Jonathon were basically dead characters last season.
This season Nancy is having some fundamental problems with her relationship with Jonathon. She is 18 and he is 1,500 miles away, let’s face facts, girls at that age will fall in and out of love in a heartbeat even if the boy is there. And despite his “plans” to go to Emerson with her (and learn to be a truly screaming SJW). He clearly didn’t have the grades or the money because he is going to a local community college in LA and his mom is selling encyclopedias for a living. He has also has become quite the pothead.
Consequently, Nancy is now rekindling her relationship with Steve. Before breaking up with Jonathon. Of course. Go #TeamJonathon?
Part of this is due to Netflix’s last-minute command to the Duffers to make Robin a lesbian in the last season after 99% of the show had already been shot. That too is pretty obvious, Maya Hawke was playing Robin as a girl who is secretly in love and won’t admit it. The way she screamed, “no!” when Steve was being tortured said it all. Consequently, Steve needs a new love interest that won’t expand the cast and Max is a little young for him.
Elle is having the hardest time of it. She is extremely unpopular as a freshman due to her (effectively) being autistic. I sympathize. And is treated with near comic cruelty by the popular California blonde, Angela. And since Elle doesn’t have her superpowers anymore she can’t kill Angela. So, she wants them back. Understandable.
Angela is one of this season’s bully characters because Stranger Things always has bully characters. That is one of the things that always kind of bothers me about the show. Alpha resentment and extreme distaste for the “cool kids” has been and remains a hallmark of this series. Although intriguingly the Duffer Brothers seem to be aware of just how weak this is. There is usually some kind of effort to give the bully a human face. Steve, the first season bully, became one of the most popular characters in the show. This year it’s the captain of the Basketball team, Jason. He becomes a figure of fanatical menace, but the Duffers haven’t quite lost sight of the fact that he is a kid who is heartbroken and thinks he’s doing the right thing.
However, so far as the Duffers are concerned you can’t stay an Alpha and still be a good guy. Steve had to come down in the world once the audience fell in love with him.
Speaking of guys who are low on the SSH totem pole. Eddie is the local leader of Hell Fire, a D&D club with tee shirts and everything.** The Hell Fire club does have a lot of demonic imagery associated with it. I’m not quick to excuse that kind of thing. However, it was de rigueur for Eighties metalheads, which Eddie definitely is. I will state with confidence that Eddie’s love for his guitar will matter a lot in the climax of the next segment in July because music, is the only defense against Vecna. Eddie is also a minor league pot dealer. And is the prime suspect in the murders Vecna is committing. Only the Scooby gang believes his story because they know that the supernatural exists.
I don’t know for certain where the Duffers are politically. They don’t have a Twitter account. Just Instagram. They don’t make a lot of public statements and the Wokeites are constantly sniffing around Strangers Things for hints of thoughtcrime. I don’t play, Who’s the Secret Rightwinger anymore because I always lose that game. But, they may well be secret Libertarians. Which would explain the pro-gun, pro-pot, low SSH, and anti-religious themes of this season’s show.
The pacing on the shows this season is very tight. The episodes are all feature-length yet each one does its best to keep you on the edge of your seat for one reason or another the entire time.
I’ve never said that Stranger Things is for everyone but given just how low the quality of Hollywood mainstream entertainment has been for the last seven years. A show that wants to entertain its audience instead of hector them is a welcome change of pace.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm
*Steve is still driving that BMW 7 Series which no high schooler would have driven. It’s a rich grandpa’s car, even back then. A rich high schooler would have been a hot 3 Series coupe. Although in fairness a mid-eighties 7 Series is today drastically cheaper than a mid-eighties, high performance 3 Series two-door. Mostly because those were given to rich teenagers who invariably wrapped them around light poles.
**I’m sorry but no. Not only no but hell no. If you were in a high school D&D club in the 1980s, it was a deep, dark secret. You did not wear a tee shirt. You may as well have been walking down the street in Harlem dressed as a Klansman. It was that bad an idea.