“Stranger Things 4” Volume 2 Review: Depressing, daunting, delightfully dark



Maya Hawke, Natalia Dyer, Joseph Quinn, and Joe Keery in season 4 of Stranger Things.

Gone are the days of “Ghostbusters” costumes and silly mall montages, as the penultimate season of “Stranger Things” ended with startling gruesome deaths and arguably even more gruesome endings. While Volume 2, the second part of season four which released July 1 on Netflix, may have strayed away from some of its lighter-hearted elements, it thankfully did not lose any of its enjoyability, remaining one of the platform’s best series to date, breaking viewership records with Volume 1.

Since Volume 1 resolved some of the ambiguity regarding the Upside Down, namely where it came from and why it was haunting Hawkins, Volume 2 has delivered the killshot in both tying up loose ends and somehow leaving viewers with even more confusion. The plot of this season was phenomenal, purely for its ability to progress the world-building and set up future conflicts on an even grander scale. 

Regarding the satisfying aspects of this installment, there was quite a lot to keep audience members entertained amidst the characteristic sense of morbid finality. This only amped up in the last two hours with the darkest cinematography I’ve seen recently since “The Batman.” 

Costumes by Amy Parris were era-consistent and extremely detailed for each location and character. Though, the use of actual makeup prosthetics for Vecna instead of just cloaking him in computer-generated imaging (CGI) deserves a special shout out. 

The stand out stars of the season were once again Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin and Caleb McLaughlin’s Lucas, both of whom showed the most maturity in their performances. Even in the most emotional scenes of the season, the actors handled them with heart and agony without being too theatrical unlike some of their co-stars, which is ironic considering the pair’s broadway backgrounds

My only real grievances with these final episodes were its handling of the ever-looming deaths hinted at all season, even by the show’s creators. Rumors were flying more wildly than Demobats, with what felt like the entire internet speculating that our beloved Steve Harrington was going to die. Alas, no such thing happened, and only Dr. Brenner and Eddie Munson, this season’s newest addition, and Hawkin’s resident metalhead “freak,” were this season’s fatalities. For a media build-up so big it could have broken the internet, nothing ever came. This was no fault of the Duffer brothers, who never promised that someone jarring was being cut, but it was still a slight let down at the lack of emotional trauma witnessed. Logically though, Eddie’s death was enough, as tears were shed anytime Dustin was on-screen from that point onward. 

While this was at most a slight annoyance, the repeated fade-to-blacks within the last 30 minutes of “Chapter Nine: Piggyback” kept pulling me in and out of the narrative as I wondered if this was truly the end or not. There are only so many five-second cliffhangers you can throw at me before I simply give up on wondering what actually happened, yet the show’s editing was going to milk it for all it’s worth. 

“Stranger Things 4” definitely did not have the most uplifting ending, yet the Duffer brothers did a fantastic job of still making it one you want to keep going. The momentum of Volume 1 continued through Volume 2 despite the gap in releases and hooked the viewer until the bitter end. Unfortunately for all involved, we will likely be on the line until at least late 2023. This season of ‘Stranger Things” once again proved worthwhile, and with the ominous fate of Max, the town of Hawkins, and our scrappy gang of heroes, fans can only wait until the final season.