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Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1

Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1

The first part of Netflix's supernatural series is almost here. We've seen it and are impressed by what it is serving up.

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Netflix hasn't really been hiding the fact that it is doubling, nay tripling down on Stranger Things for the show's final two seasons. We've known for a while that this penultimate season in particular has a far longer runtime, thanks to much beefier episodes, than anything before, and likewise have seen reports that the series has a leviathan-sized budget to boot. But what does this really mean for the beloved sci-fi show? Well, from my experience watching the first part of the fourth season, it clearly means higher production value, better effects, and a storyline that is so broad and spanning that if anything it sometimes stumbles upon its own weight.

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First things first, I'd like to make it fundamentally clear that while Stranger Things has had its ups and downs, the series in general has been a triumph. The original story, the fantastic cast, and the twists and turns over the years have made this show one of Netflix's staples. So, it's worth noting that while Season 4 does clearly display a step up in its production value, due to this extra degree of support, this fourth season is not necessarily better or worse than what came before it.

And the reason why I believe this is due to the narrative itself. The season basically can be split into three sections, each revolving around a selection of the crew. You have the mystery that is once again unravelling in Hawkins, and the native crew that resides there (including the likes of Joe Keery's Steve, Gaten Matarazzo's Dustin, Natalia Dyer's Nancy, Sadie Sink's Max, Caleb McLaughlin's Lucas, Maya Hawke's Robin, and some new faces). Then, you also have the story based on the West Coast of America, where Millie Bobby Brown's Eleven, Noah Schnapp's Will, and Charlie Heaton's Jonathan all live now, and where Finn Wolfhard's Mike is visiting for Spring Break. And if all of this isn't enough to follow, you also have the events taking place in Russia, where we find David Harbour's Hopper trapped in a gulag, with Winona Ryder's Joyce and Brett Gelman's Murray looking to break the former sheriff out of his captivity.

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It's a lot to take in, and the storyline often suffers from switching between these different arcs too frequently, and failing to convey any important narrative before doing so. Hence how it stumbles upon its own weight a lot of the time. It's clearly a design choice that is aiming to eventually set up that Avengers Assemble moment, where the split cast come together to ultimately fight back against the new major villain that has been terrorising the small rural town.

Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1

But just because the plot isn't flawless, something that Stranger Things has often suffered from over the years, that doesn't change the fact that this series is still brilliantly presented. The show feels more mature, and has genuinely terrifying beats to it, moments that will make your skin crawl and leave you fearful of turning off the lights. The new major villain - who I will refrain from talking about too much to prevent spoilers - might just be the best villain Stranger Things has ever had. That's thanks to the nature of the show and the mystery of what is genuinely happening. For so long the series has been about the Mind Flayer and setting up the clash between good and evil, that now, with the Starcourt Mall fight over and the Mind Flayer put into its place, this new villain and its sadistic motivations feels like a fresh and far more sinister threat, one that the crew may not quite be ready for.

Speaking about the crew, while the cast is clearly ageing, and to say that some of the stars still look like young high schoolers is a stretch, the added maturity is coming out in their performances. Keery is still truly fantastic as Steve, as is Dyer as the wonderful Nancy. But it's the younger crew that really catches your attention, particularly Sink, who is really coming into her own as Max, and over the season gives a brilliant performance as an emotional-complex, broken young person that is facing an unimaginably terrifying situation.

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Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1
Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1

And to me this is the biggest point worth taking from Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1: the fact that as these young people are maturing, so is the nature of the show. This isn't a mostly science-fiction series based in an 80s backdrop anymore, there's a far darker horror tone to the season, a tone that truly tries to make you as the viewer see the level of inevitably of what is to come, and it's this design that will have you on the edge of your seat and make you need to keep watching episode after episode. It's just a shame that it takes this fourth season such a long time to reach any meaningful conclusions, and it does frequently feel as though the added runtime hampers the ability of the season to have a fulfilling pacing, as there's a noticeable amount of treading water at times.

But this doesn't change the fact, as I mentioned earlier, that Season 4 - Part 1 is still a must watch for Netflix subscribers. This show is still a triumph of storytelling and while it's not perfect in any sense, it's a grossly entertaining product that will at the end of it all, make you itch at the thought of having to wait over a month for the conclusion of this penultimate season. Is it the best show on Netflix? No. But, is it the best that Stranger Things has offered yet? There's a very real chance.

08 Gamereactor UK
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Stranger Things Season 4 - Part 1

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SERIES. Written by Ben Lyons

The first part of Netflix's supernatural series is almost here. We've seen it and are impressed by what it is serving up.



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