After a month’s wait, Volume 2 of Stranger Things Season 4 has finally landed on Netflix. With 2 episodes boasting an inflated total run time of nearly 4 hours, the action picks up right where the excellent volume 1 left off. But after all of the wait and hype, volume 2 is rather more filler than killer. Beware, spoilers ahead!
At the end of volume 1, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) had just rediscovered her powers thanks to Dr Brenner (Matthew Modine) and Dr Owens (Paul Reiser) with Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Argyle (Eduardo Franco) heading out to save her. Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) had finally been reunited with Hopper (David Harbour) after a close call in the Russian gulag. While in Hawkins, Max (Sadie Sink), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) were in the process of rescuing Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Eddie (Joseph Quinn) from the Upside Down when Nancy’s mind was taken over by Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower).
Volume 2 picks up these storylines straight away, with Hopper, Joyce and Murray attempting to escape the prison with the help of Dmitri (Tom Wlaschiha) and Yuri (Nikola Djuricko). Meanwhile, after Nancy sees what Vecna has in store, the gang in Hawkins are plotting to take him down by themselves, with Eleven determined to find a way to get back and help them.
Volume 1 was fantastic and when it ended, I was incredibly disappointed that there wasn’t more, so my hopes were high for this final part. However, I think the tactic to split this season into two parts with a month’s break has actually done volume 2 a disservice. Volume 1 built up an incredible amount of momentum with a great ending, but then lost it all with the break in between. Volume 2 almost feels like we’re starting the season again from scratch and it doesn’t help that there is a lot of filler in these final two episodes. In all fairness, there is a lot of heart thrown into this filler with plenty of touching moments for all characters, although Will’s and Dustin’s especially stand out.
But despite these moments, there is far too much filler here and the inflated run times of both episodes don’t help. In episode 8, it didn’t really feel like a lot happened until the final 10 minutes. Both episodes just feel incredibly drawn out and the run times are just ridiculous. For me this volume would have worked much better had the episodes been split into normal-length versions – it would’ve made the slower pace much more palatable.
What Stranger Things has done well in previous seasons is its ability to juggle many characters across multiple related storylines. And while this continued to work well in volume 1, the multiple storylines in volume 2 felt far too disjointed and tenuous and they don’t connect very well with each other even in the finale. The Russian storyline especially felt like it had been abandoned after Joyce found Hopper with only weak links to the goings on back in Hawkins.
The plot also seems to go back to questionable and clichéd directions which was a bit of an issue in volume 1 but feels more so here because of the run time. The whole Nancy and Steve thing was irritating in volume 1 and has become even more so here. Eleven’s ability to constantly underestimate her Papa’s deviousness, while we viewers know exactly what he’s up to, has become rather tedious too and the resolution to Brenner’s storyline just isn’t satisfying enough and not nearly the comeuppance he so deserves. And while I think the use of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill in volume 1 was fantastic, in volume 2 it feels very overused.
My biggest issue with volume 2 however is the same issue I had with volume 1, and that’s the lack of any real threat or deaths. Before the release of this volume, the Duffer Brothers had promised episode 9 would have a body count, and admittedly it does, but not nearly the body count we wanted or needed right now. Of the dozen or so central characters this season, only 1 of them dies by the end. Another one clinically dies but is brought back to life by Eleven with some miraculous and unbelievable powers we didn’t know she had. With a villain that’s as threatening and powerful as Vecna is revealed to be in this volume, these minimal deaths just aren’t enough. While I’m not expecting Stranger Things to go all Game of Thrones and start killing off everyone, it needs to raise the stakes even higher. As I’ve said before, as a show that’s influenced by the horror genre, it’s surprisingly lacking in true peril and terror.
While Volume 2 is still really good, it just doesn’t live up to the brilliance created by volume 1. And overall the ending has just made this entire season feel like filler as a build-up to the final fifth season, which is rather frustrating.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!