As the plot thickens and the reality becomes even darker, the characters of “Stranger Things” Season 4 tread on uncharted territory, and in the process, explore the hidden truths and find themselves in a battle with not only the demonic creatures from the Upside Down but also with themselves and their past. So let’s excavate these gruesome details and witness a dramatic turn of events that took place in the spring of 1986 for the people of Hawkins, Indiana.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Episode 1: The Inception Of The Era Of Darkness
People say that a person’s past never forsakes him. Yes, you might choose to overlook it. You might learn to deal with it. But the strains of a traumatic past always stay. The first episode of “Stranger Things” Season 4 takes us back to September 8th, 1979, to the dreaded Hawkins National Laboratory, where Eleven was once kept. Dr. Martin Brenner was seen with his specimens, trying to mold them and help them develop their psychic power. Just then, he hears screams coming from the other rooms. He moves out to find that each and every resident was killed except for one little girl who was smeared in blood. It was none other than Eleven, and the event was the infamous massacre at Hawkins Lab.
The year was 1986, and Eleven had moved to Lenora, California, and was trying hard to build her new life. But no matter how hard she tried, she was mocked and often subjected to bullying by her colleagues. Angela, a fellow classmate, had become Eleven’s nightmare. She used to find reasons to publicly humiliate Eleven and make sure that she had an extremely hard time coping with the new environment. One fine day, Joyce Byers got a package that had a Russian folk doll in it. She thought about the probabilities but couldn’t unravel the secrets. Unable to think of anybody to confide in, she calls Murray Bauman. She knew that he might be able to crack the code and reveal who might have sent it. She breaks open the doll and finds a secret letter inside it, which reads: Hop is Alive!
Back in Hawkins, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin had joined a Dungeons and Dragons group, called the Hellfire Club. Max had stopped hanging out with the group and mostly stayed aloof. She was still dealing with the trauma of the past year. Things were not great at home, and the traumatizing image of Billy being smeared by the Mind Flayer still haunted her day and night. Her friends tried to talk to her, especially Lucas, but she always evaded the conversation and kept to herself. Lucas was trying to revamp his image. He wanted to get rid of the tag of “nerd.” He had joined the basketball team, as he thought it was the quickest and most effective way of becoming a part of the cool gang. The problem arose when the most important event for the Hellfire club clashed with the finals of the basketball tournament. The three tried to convince Lucas to not miss out on the final showdown, as a year of adventures had led them to the grand finale, The Cult of Vecna. But Lucas was stubborn. He knew that if he wanted to be a part of the popular gang, the basketball finale was of utmost importance. Erica Sinclair, Lucas’ sister, joins as a substitute for Lucas in the Hellfire club. On one hand, Lucas Sinclair, after sitting on the bench for the whole season, gets a chance to play in the finals and scores the penultimate point, whereas his sister throws the dice and wins the fantasy game for the whole team.
Chrissy Cunningham, a student of Hawkins High, met with Eddie Munson, who was the leader of the Hellfire Club and also a part-time dealer. The two strike a chord, and Chrissy decides to go to his place and do drugs. She had been wanting to escape her reality for quite some time. She wanted to escape the nightmares that had become the cause of her state of unrest. But before Chrissy could do anything, she finds herself once again in a gory nightmare, in another dimension. She sees this humanoid creature who tells her that it was about time and her suffering would end. Eddie finds Chrissy in an epileptic state, and all of a sudden, she rises in the air. Her limbs and jaw twist and get dismantled horrifically, and her eyes pop out completely. Chrissy falls on the ground, dead, kickstarting a string of events that would decide the fate of Hawkins, Indiana.
Episode 2: A Lore Of The Undead
Murray Bauman reaches Lenora, California, to meet Joyce and decode the Russian message. They figured that the only way of knowing whether Jim Hopper was still alive or not was to call the phone number that was given in that letter. They call and talk to a guy named Enzo, who was one of the prison guards where Hopper was held in captivity. He asks Joyce to bring 40 thousand American dollars and meet a smuggler named Yuri in Alaska. He also tells Joyce that Jim Hopper was still alive and was looking for an opportune moment to escape the Russian prison.
Mike had come from Hawkins to spend some time with Eleven, who hadn’t told him anything about the issues she was facing in her school. In fact, she had fabricated the whole story and told him that she was having a gala time and had a huge friend circle with whom she often socialized. Mike, Eleven, and Will go to a skating arcade, and that’s where the truth is revealed. Angela happened to be at the same arcade as Eleven, and, seeing the latter, she did not want to miss the opportunity to belittle her. Eleven was ruthlessly mocked and bullied by a group of students, and she wanted to hang her head in shame. Her Tinseltown, made of lies, was shattering in front of her own eyes, and she was beyond embarrassed to realize that Mike would come to know of her miserable condition. Mike and Will also had a lot of complaints from each other. Eleven, soaked in agony and frustration, decides to put an end to her misery and hold Angela accountable for her wrongdoings. She furiously walks to her and hits her hard with a skating boot, thereby breaking her nose.
Nancy, with her colleague named Fred, decides to go to the neighborhood where Chrissy was killed. She meets Wayne Munson, uncle of Eddie, and he tells her with a lot of certainty that his nephew didn’t do the things that he was being accused of. He tells Nancy about a man named Victor Creel. It was said that Victor lost his mind and took the lives of his family. The dead bodies of his children and wife were found in the exact same manner as Chrissy’s. Wayne knew for sure that Victor had to do something with the killing but the only contradiction to this theory was that Victor was imprisoned in a mental asylum from the time he had committed the offense. Meanwhile, Fred is almost led into the forest by an unknown force, and finds himself in a similar state as Chrissy. He encounters the same humanoid creature and meets a fateful end.
Jason Carver, who was Chrissy’s boyfriend, was on the hunt, as he, along with the whole town, had reasons to believe that Eddie Munson was behind the gruesome murder of her partner. On the other hand, Dustin was convinced that Eddie could never do such a thing. Max and Dustin get together and go to Robin and Steve to use the database of the video center in which they used to work, and locate Eddie and henceforth solve the mystery. They speculate that Eddie might be hiding in the house of a drug dealer named Reefer Ricks, and get his address from the video center database. Luckily they do find him there. Eddie reveals the eerie events of that night. He tells the group that it felt like she was under a spell. Dustin is quick to make a hypothesis according to which Chrissy could very well be cursed by Vecna, an undead creature and one of the greatest villains in the game, Dungeons, and Dragons, only this time she existed in reality and not in a game.
Episode 3: A Reckoning From The Past
Lt. Colonel Sullivan was called to the scene by the police chief, and, seeing the nature of the crime, he instantly knew that this was not the act of any ordinary killer. He suspected that Eleven was behind the murders. Sullivan belonged to that faction of the government, who perceived Eleven as a threat to the State and thought that she was being trained by Dr. Martin Brenner to provide aid to the Soviet Union. Sullivan goes to Sam Owens and threatens him to reveal where Eleven was hiding. Owens knew there and then that he had to get to Eleven and move her to a safe house before the government put her behind bars.
Mike’s vacation was not going exactly as he had planned. Eleven was not talking to him, and there were rifts between him and Will too. The two best friends hadn’t stayed in touch, and the lack of communication had become a source of a lot of misunderstandings. Angela had complained to the police, and Eleven was taken into custody by them. Her name was put in the system, and she was being transferred to the juvenile correction home. Though Eleven was using her birth name, Jane, in Lenora, there was a possibility that Sullivan might find out about her through the records. While Eleven was being transported, a caravan of cars appeared out of nowhere and made the police vehicle stop. The anonymous people tell the police officers that they have the orders to take Eleven into their custody. Eleven senses foul play and tries to run, but she is captured and taken by those strangers, posing as government officials. It was Sam Owens who had orchestrated the whole thing as he wanted to take Eleven to a safe place.
Joyce and Bauman had planned to go to Alaska and meet his smuggler, Yuri, who was going to help them rescue Jim. Jonathan, Mike, and Will were left at home after Eleven was taken in by the police. They were trying to reach Joyce, as they didn’t know what was happening with Eleven and what they should do. Back at Hawkins, Dustin and his group split into two. While Nancy and Robin go to the library to find information about Victor Creel from the archives, Dustin and Steve accompany Max, who goes to meet the counselor who was handling Chrissy’s and Fred’s case in the hope that she would get to know something about the mental state of the victims. Robin and Nancy come up with an alternate theory: what if Victor Creel was actually saying the truth and that Vecna was responsible for murdering his family, and he was put behind bars due to a lack of a logical and prudent explanation?
Max steals the keys to the counselor’s office, and they go through the records of Chrissy and Fred. Max noticed that they had the same symptoms that she had been experiencing for quite some time now. She is scared and presumes the worst, but doesn’t disclose anything to her group.
Episode 4: The Legend Of Victor Creel
Agents named Harmon and Wallace were placed by Sam Owens at the Byers residence, for their safety. They feared that Lt. Colonel Sullivan might come for the kids as he desperately wanted to get hold of Eleven. Jonathan makes a plan to escape from their house and go to Hawkins. Will and Mike both agree with him as there was no point sitting in the house while the whole drama was unfolding in Hawkins. They called for pizza from a place where Argyle, Jonathan’s friend, used to work. They had thought that they would escape in his delivery van. But some uninvited guests bring about a change in their plan. LT. Sullivan’s men attack their house. Wallace gets severely injured while Harmon makes a run for his life, taking all three boys with him. Argyle arrives just in time, and they escape in his van.
Max had realized that Vecna was coming for her next. She knew that she had limited time, and they had to figure out a solution. Nancy and Robin come up with a plan. They plan to pose as psychology students from the University of Notre Dame, go to the facility where Victor Creel was kept and ask the director to let them meet him. That was the only way that they could get any information about Vecna, because apparently, Victor was the only victim who had survived the wrath of the humanoid. The girls are able to meet Victor, who narrates to them his story. He tells them how he had moved to a new house in the 50s with his family after he had returned from the war. He felt that now that the war was over, everything would be back to normal. But strange events started happening in their lives. They started finding dead animals in and around their residence, and before he could understand the situation, Vecna had taken over the charge. It killed his wife and children, but somehow he got saved. He was taken into a mental asylum where he tried to kill himself, but was saved by the director, Mr. Hatch. Before the girls could ask him anything more, their cover is busted, and Director Hatch comes to the scene fuming with anger. Nancy and Robin somehow escape from the mental asylum. They had noticed one thing that Victor had mentioned that music was being played in the background when Vecna attacked him and his family. They speculated that what if the music was the reason that he got saved and the others didn’t?
Meanwhile, Vecna had possessed Max, and Steve, Dustin, and Lucas had no clue how to bring her back from what seemed like an epileptic stroke. They manage to get in touch with Robin and Nancy, who tell them to play music. Max’s favorite music is played, and miraculously she is brought back to the real world alive.
At the Russian facility, Hopper was planning on escaping with the help of Enzo. The smuggler Yuri was supposed to deliver, but he backstages them and sabotages their whole escape mission. Hopper and Enzo are taken into custody, while Joyce and Bauman are intoxicated by Yuri, who plans on giving them to the KGB, the Russian intelligence agency.
Episode 5: A Forgotten Menace
In ‘Stranger Things Season 4, Episode 5, Sam Owens takes Eleven to his safehouse in Ruth, Nevada. There was an abandoned storage facility for an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile). It hadn’t been used for a long time, and Owens was using it as his base. They had a machine named Nina that was being used for a very specific purpose. All the efforts were being put into helping Eleven get her powers back. But to her horror, she meets Dr. Brenner at the facility. He had been there all along, devising a way to bring her powers back. Dr. Brenner knew that he had to take some harsh steps, even if it meant recreating the situations that had been the cause of all of the nightmares that she had to face after she ran from the Hawkins Lab for the very first time. Eleven is made to relive the gruesome events that happened once in her life, while she was staying at Hawkins Lab. She is subjected to a lot of stressful situations, in the hope that it might trigger her and bring back her power. The doctors knew that if they wanted to win the inevitable war, then Eleven had to be brought back to her original state. Eleven tries to resist at first, but soon realizes that firstly Dr. Brenner was actually on her side and she had no option other than to face the demons’ of her past life.
Hopper, after being caught for the second time, had lost the will to live. He bore the guilt of putting Joyce and Bauman in danger. He had lost all hope and was ready to meet his fateful end. Though Enzo still was trying his level best to strike a deal and somehow escape the prison. Max was being kept under strict supervision. The others didn’t want her to get traumatized by yet another episode. She had been making a lot of drawings of the other dimension since she had come back after facing Vecna. Nancy realized that all those paintings made by Max were actually bits and pieces that, if put together, resembled Victor Creel’s villa. The group knew that they had to visit his house, and that they might find some valuable information there. While they were inside the Creel villa, doing their investigation, Jason Caver found Eddie’s hideout. Eddie tries to escape via the lake. Jason chases him and almost gets hold of him when his friend Patrick, who was just behind him, goes missing. Suddenly, Patrick rises in the air, and his limbs twist in a similar fashion to that of the other victims. Vecna had finally got its third victim, all of them belonging to Hawkins High.
Episode 6: The Search For A Gateway
Mike had found a secret note, hidden inside the pen that the dying agent, who rescued them from their house, gave him. It had a number which he had told, would tell them about the whereabouts of their friend, Eleven. The only problem was that the number was not that of a human being but of a computer. They needed somebody to hack into the computer through the number and then find its location, which would eventually lead them to the Nina Project.
Hopper knew that the Russians were eventually going to feed them to the Demogorgon, the one they were hiding in their facility. Hopper managed to bring some vodka and a lighter from the dining area, as he knew that if they wanted to give themselves a chance against the Demogorgon, then they needed to light a fire. Yuri brings Joyce and Bauman to the same facility where Hopper had come after escaping the prison. Against the wishes of Yuri, they strategize a plan where Bauman has to pretend that he was Yuri and vice versa. And then he would turn them in as prisoners to the Russian prison wardens.
Eleven is told by a boy working in the Hawkins Lab that there was a specimen named Number One also, contrary to what Dr. Brenner had told her. Her strife to get her powers back continued, and she went through all those psychic exercises that once Dr. Brenner had made her do it in the Hawkins lab. Eleven was torturing herself by revisiting all those moments that had left a scar on her subconscious. Time and again, she found herself stuck in that gory loop, where she thought that she had killed each and every resident of the Hawkins lab.
Jason Caver had seen what had happened to Patrick. He was convinced that Eddie was just a vessel, and Satan was making him do things. He sabotages the public meeting that was being conducted by the police chief and tells the people of Hawkins that a satanic cult was casting spells on innocent people and was eventually killing them brutally. He held the Hellfire Club, in which Lucas, Mike, and Dustin were active participants, responsible for all the killings. Erica, who was present at the meeting, urges the prudence of the people and tells them that it is just a fantasy game called Dungeons and Dragons and nothing else, but the people were blindfolded by rage and wanted to put the blame on somebody.
Dustin and the others meet Eddie, who has been hiding all this while. Dustin was amused at his compass not working properly. He tries hard to figure out the rationale behind it and once again comes up with a very intriguing theory. He speculated that there would be a gate to the Upside Down somewhere nearby, and that was causing his compass to point in that direction. They follow the directions of the compass and reach the Lover’s lake. They realize that the gate might be inside the water body. Eddie, Steve, Robin, and Nancy take the boat, while Dustin, Lucas, and Max wait for their signal on the shore. All the speculation that Dustin had made became a fact as soon as Steve jumped into the lake. He found the gate, but before he could come aboard, he was pulled inside by a creature. Nancy, Robin, and Eddie, too, jump inside to save him. They all find themselves eventually stuck in the Upside Down.
Episode 7 – The Great Revelation
In “Stranger Things,” Season 4, Episode 7, Enzo was branded as a traitor as he had helped Hopper escape. They had developed a sort of comradeship. Hopper knew that they needed a miracle to get out of the Russian facility. Bauman poses as Yuri and is able to enter the prison. The Russians went ahead with their plan and put Hopper, Enzo, and others in the arena where they had to face the Demogorgon. Bauman, at gunpoint, takes control of the machines and opens the door for Enzo and Hopper to escape. Finally, Hopper meets Joyce and breathes a sigh of relief.
Steve, Nancy, Robin, and Eddie get attacked by flying predators in the Upside Down. The thing with the Upside Down was that it looked exactly the same as compared to its corresponding real world, and the only difference was that it was inhabited by monsters that lurked in the darkness. Nancy told the group that she had guns in her house, and if they could somehow manage to get there, then they might have a better chance of fighting Vecna and the other creatures. Dustin, all this while, was not entertaining the possibility that the others would have gone to the ‘Upside Down’ without any kind of preparation. He, Lucas, and Max were caught by the police and were subjected to a thorough interrogation.
As soon as Nancy reaches her home in the Upside Down, she’s hoping to get the guns, but she doesn’t find them. It was strange as things in the Upside Down were always identical to the real world. She reads her diary and realizes that it was still 1983 in the Upside Down, whereas in the real world the year was 1986. Steve could hear Dustin’s voice coming from far away. They contact him through SOS, and Dustin tells them that there would be a gate at every murder site. So if they were not able to come out of the Watergate, as it was heavily guarded, they needed to find another. They reach the place where Chrissy had died and, to their utter delight, find Dustin on the other side. Maybe they had never felt so elated in their entire life as they felt at that moment. One by one, everyone went to the other side, but when Nancy tried to escape, she fell back into the Upside-Down, possessed by Vecna, and found herself stranded in Victor Creel’s home.
Sam Owens knew that they were running out of time and that at any given moment, their facility would be infiltrated by Lt. Sullivan and his men. Dr. Brenner said Eleven was traumatized, and instead of making progress, she was going backward. She was terribly frightened by what she saw in her subconscious state and assumed that she was no less than a monster. Dr. Brenner tells her that she can’t always run away from the truth, and to get her powers back, she needs to face them head-on. Dr. Brenner was jumping timelines and recreating the most potent moments that he felt would aid in bringing back Eleven. He had to follow a timeline, but considering the lack of time, he wasn’t left with much of a choice. In the subconscious recreation, Dr. Brenner goes back to that day when Eleven had gotten a concussion as she was beaten by “Two” and others. Dr. Brenner takes severe punitive action, so much so that “Two” had to be sent to the infirmary. Eleven is warned, by the same boy who worked there, that once “Two” comes out of the infirmary, he would definitely plan an attack on her, and Dr. Brenner would allow that, as it was all a part of his scheme. This boy leads and guides Eleven on many occasions and somewhere Eleven starts to feel that they both are the victims of an evil science experiment. She plans to escape the facility with him, as he tells her that her life is in great danger. Eleven realizes that he was no ordinary worker, but in reality; he was “One”, the first child to be taken into the facility by Dr. Brenner, who kickstarted this whole scientific research and exploration.
Conclusion – The Dichotomy Of Power
“One” had told Eleven to stay in the room. But Eleven went out to find that everybody had been mercilessly killed in the Hawkins Lab. She realizes that the massacre she had been blaming herself for, the guilt that burdened her shoulders for years, and the grief that she carried with her, was all because of “One.” He was the son of Victor Creel, and before he was named “One” by Dr. Brenner, he went by the name Henry Creel. He had killed his mother and sister, while his father was taken to a mental asylum and found guilty of the murders. “One” despised the human race and didn’t find them worthy of living. Eleven goes in front of him, and they enter into combat. “One” had immense power, and Eleven was no match for him. But suddenly, Eleven remembered something. “One” had told her to visit an event from her past that made her sad and also angry at the same time, and then maybe she could reach her full potential. Eleven does that and pushes “One”, with her newfound strength, against the wall. “One” shivers in pain. The Upside Down crack opens, and “One” is pushed inside it. He eventually becomes Vecna, the humanoid that was preying upon the people of Hawkins. People who were mentally not so resilient and were struggling with some kind of guilt and pain, became his target.
In ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4, Episode 7, we see the massacre of Hawkins Lab being revisited by Eleven in her subconscious state, and it gives a lot of hope to Dr. Brenner that she will regain her powers once again and save the world from the wrath of the horrific creatures. Nancy is still stuck in the Upside Down and Hopper is yet to devise a way of coming out of Russia, alive, with Bauman, Joyce, and his new Russian friend Enzo. The upcoming episodes of ‘Stranger Things Season 4 would decide the fate of Hawkins and let us know whether peace and tranquility would once again prevail in the town or not.