It’s certainly odd that Netflix has singled out recently The Irishman as a kind of “vanity project” that the streamer is trying to get away from as it continues to bleed money while the price per episode for stranger things Season 4 reportedly cost $30 million.
What produced this astronomical sum? A bloated seven-episode run (last two episodes out July 1st) that would have worked much better as a film.
Stranger things season 4
May 27, 2022
Matt and Ross Duffer
The Netflix series returns after three very long years and isn’t quite sure where it’s going.
Three very long years have passed since the last season of stranger things, which led to some jokes about how the kids have aged. (The events of season 4 are set to take place less than a year later.) That and the ’80s fashion looking a bit to modern, let this season’s aesthetic get a little off the beaten path. But right from the start, the Duffer brothers ramp up the blood and violence. A warning was added before the first episode in light of the Uvalde, Texas shooting, but scenes of bloodied children piled in a hallway are still harrowing, and there are other disturbing images scattered throughout.
The focus is more on Max (Sadie Sink) who mourns the loss of her brother. Kate Bush’s now-viral Running Up That Hill is her weapon against gnarly new villain Vecna, who gets a far more elaborate backstory than the Mind Flayer or Demogorgon. Vecna offers a glimpse into the story of Victor Creel, who was wrongfully imprisoned for killing his family, and putting Robert Englund in this key role is certainly a bit of fanservice, but a welcome one. stranger things has never been afraid to openly wear his horror influences. Creating a new character was a smart move, and Vecna has already become a TikTok icon.
There’s also a deeper dive into Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) experiments with memory and a little more backstory about her time at Hawkins Lab, though it feels like even that is taking far too long to unravel.
The biggest problem with this season is that there are simply too many locations and thus too many competing storylines that never quite align. The USSR subplot is one of the biggest mistakes; Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) take a road trip to try and rescue the newly-ribbed Hopper (David Harbour) from the Gulag, but it’s a lot of rushing and waiting. There’s no reason for an episode of this show to run over an hour and be mostly full of exposure.
The final two episodes of Season 4 will debut in July, ostensibly as Netflix tries to attract new subscribers. stranger things is one of streamers’ most coveted titles for good reason, but it’s finally reached the point where it feels like it’s just parodying itself now.
*Initial publication: June 6, 2022 at 7:00 am CDT
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, focusing on streaming, comedy and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch and the Village Voice. She lives in Austin, Texas.
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