Stranger Things Season 4: Unanswered questions after the Volume 1 finale
Bigger, longer, darker, scarier. Stranger Things’ fourth season has been a long time in the offing but it hasn’t disappointed after such a wait, managing to balance scope and scale with chilling creature horror and an impressive amount of character development.
There’s been Se7en-style detective thrills, as Nancy investigates a supernatural serial killer known as Vecna. There’s been a heart-wrenching exploration of grief and trauma, as Max (MVP Sadie Sink) tries to come to terms with the death of Billy – giving us an iconic and emotional escape sequence from the Upside Down set to Kate Bush’s Running up That Hill. There’s even been humour from the introduction of Joseph Quinn as Eddie, the leader of D&D group Hellfire Club, which opened up windows for new dynamics between Mike, Dustin and Lucas. Meanwhile, there’s been brutal action and tension as Hopper (David Harbour) has fought to survive in a Russian prison – helped, eventually, by a rescue mission formed by Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman). And then there’s the small matter of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) undergoing a new wave of tests to try and find her strength again.
The result is a stuffed first half of a season, warranting the seven episodes aired so far to be cordoned off as their own standalone chapter. But with two final, feature-length outings to round off this penultimate season, there’s a lot to wrap up in Volume 2 – so we’re here to sum things up in an easy-to-grasp bundle, including all the questions that we want to be answered. (Watch the trailer for Volume 2 here.)
Are Eleven’s powers back now?
Eleven’s agonisingly lonely existence in her new home and high school was all the more poignant because her powers had disappeared, leaving her unable to stand up in her usual way to the bullies tormenting her. That led to a journey of rediscovery with Dr Brenner, which gave us an insight into her previously unseen backstory – thanks to flashbacks that showed us Hawkins Lab in 1979, when Eleven appeared to slaughter everyone else there. Excerpt, we learnt, it was actually Peter (Jamie Campbell Bower), the orderly tasked with monitoring the young kids being experimented upon. He was One, aka patient zero, in the facility, with Dr Brenner wanting to replicate his telekinetic powers in other kids – but unleashed to his full potential, Peter ended up killing everyone there. Eleven fought back and ended up sending him into another dimension – the first opening of a link between the real world and the Upside Down. One, it turned out, became Vecna. In the present day, meanwhile, Eleven seemed to have regained her abilities as she took down several guards while running through the new facility she’s in. But will she be strong enough to take on Vecna once and for all?
What is Vecna’s plan?
Before he became Peter/One, we discovered that Vecna was once a normal-seeming boy called Henry Creel (son of Victor Creel) and his powers seem to have been present ever since his young age. Where those powers came from initially, though, is not yet clear, and that’s perhaps key to whatever his plan is. Otherwise, we’ve learnt that he likes to torture victims, that he feeds on their guilt or fears, a bit like a tentacled Freddy Krueger, and that he appears to get stronger every time he absorbs someone else’s soul. But does he just want to wipe out the world? Is he killing people to open gates to the Upside Down with every burst of energy? And why didn’t he strike until several years after his initial banishment to the Upside Down?
What’s the Mind Flayer got to do with it?
With the show reaching its final chapter, the critters and ghoulies from the Upside Down are all starting to form one big picture, with Vecna seemingly at its heart. Dustin suggests at one point that he might be the general leading the foot soldiers (the demgorgons of previous seasons) in service of the Mind Flayer that we saw in Season 3. But is that really what’s going on? Is Vecna actually the one who created all the gribblies, including the Mind Flayer, to begin with?
Why is the Upside Down frozen in time?
One small tidbit that we discovered when Steve (Joe Keery), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Robin (Maya Hawke) and Eddie ventured into the Upside Down was that it’s apparently frozen in time – specifically, 6th November 1983, the day when Will (Noah Schnapp) first when missing back in Season 1. Could Netflix’s attempts to dub that “Stranger Things Day” turn out to be more important than mere marketing? Either way, the outing gave us a fun chance for some welcome levity, as Dustin communicated with the rest of the gang through some cute, warm fairy lights.
Will Max and Lucas get back together?
Part of Max’s moving arc this season has been her inability to open up to Lucas – while he’s had his own thoughtful arc involving his struggles to work out his identity at high school. But the two have gradually reconnected, not least because Lucas was the one to use Running Up That Hill to help break the psychic hold Vecna had upon Max. Will they finally patch things up for good by the time the season’s out?
What are the Russians up to?
Part of Season 4’s strength has been the way it’s rooted its fears in the isolation of each group of characters, with the youngsters without the strength and support of adults as well as their friends. That’s meant that Hopper’s story in Russia hasn’t always been the most cohesive with everything else, but his reunion with Joyce was wonderfully heartfelt – and his subplot also revealed that the Russians holding Hopper had a demogorgon in their back pocket to attack their prisoners. How did they get it to Russia? Weren’t the demogorgons all meant to be dead after Season 3’s finale? Or will that also somehow tie in with Vecna’s plans?
Will Will ever come out?
Perhaps the biggest unanswered question is the one that’s lingered in the background for a while now, and it feels like more of a writer’s question than a character’s one – because so far the Duffer brothers have apparently resisted audience demand to clarify Will’s romantic interests. During Volume 1, it’s become increasingly clear that he appears to have feelings for Mike. But will he ever be allowed to act on them or at least vocalise them out loud?
Will Steve save Nancy?
From a slow-burn question to a more urgent, pressing crisis: Season 4’s midseason finale ended with our troupe escaping from the Upside Down, after Nancy was determined to go in and rescue Steve. Before we could start rooting for the two to get back together, though, Episode 7 concluded with Nancy being captured by Vecna after everyone else had got out ahead of her. Tormented by her guilt over the death of Barb in Season 1, Nancy’s negative emotional buttons are promptly pressed by Vecna, seeming to seal her fate – but will she be able to escape from his hold alive, like Max? And will the person who saves her be Steve, reciprocating her caring concern for him?