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The last two episodes of Stranger Things Season 4 which dropped today were epic in length (running approximately 4 hours long) and storyline, as the battle against Vecna came to a head in 1986 and in the Upside Down. The disparate plots finally came together as Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder), and Murray (Brett Gelman) in the U.S.S.R. found a way to remotely help the kids back in Hawkins, while Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) used her newly returned powers to also assist from afar.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers below for Stranger Things Season 4, Vol. 2!**
Per usual with the series, The Duffer brothers and their writers brought some story threads and characters to a close. But they also left a whole lot of things open for future resolution in the pending fifth and final season of the series. While we tip our electric guitars to Hellfire Club founder Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) for his heroism, and boo heavily at Jason (Mason Dye) the jock bully, we can't help but exhale that the core cast really dodged some bullets in terms of the expected season ending body count. But with Vecna licking his wounds, maybe Season 5 won't be so judicious?
In the meantime, while we not-so-patiently wait for Season 5, we're left to ponder what might come next in the war for Hawkins, and humanity...
How are Vecna and the Mindflayer connected?
In "Chapter Nine: The Piggyback," Vecna/One finally revealed to Eleven that when she opened the rift to the Upside Down and it swallowed him, that he discovered the Mind Flayer and the Demogorgon. Less certain is the exact balance of power there? As One stared in awe at the Mind Flayer in all its glory, the exact merging of their goals and ambitions remains hazy. Is Vecna the outcome of an already massively powerful One piggybacking power from the Mind Flayer to take over the world, or is Vecna a minion of the Mind Flayer's diabolical ambitions? It's unclear in the Season 4 finale, but as Vecna heals and the gates in Hawkins are now open, Eleven and her circle are certainly going to find out in their near future.
Where is Max?
Eleven pulled off a new power set by laying hands on a one-minute dead Max (Sadie Sink) and doing something to get her heart beating again. What she discovers upon returning to Hawkins is that Max is alive, massively broken, and in a coma. Even more concerning is that Eleven can't find Max's presence in the liminal place she goes when she meditates. What could that mean? Is Max with Vecna now because she did die (even for a minute), or is she just the empty shell of who Max once was, never to be revived? The latter option seems too morbid even for Stranger Things, which means there's a good chance she's going to be a player at least in the mental plane.
What is Sullivan and the government’s position with Hawkins?
Season 4 introduced Lt. Colonel Jack Sullivan (Sherman Augustus) as the metaphorical Terminator of military operatives. Positive that Eleven is a deadly threat to humanity, he makes it his sole purpose to wipe her off the face of the Earth. Luckily, he's always one step behind when it comes to nabbing her. Despite Eleven wiping out all of his vehicles in the Nevada desert in "Chapter Eight: Papa" and leaving them stranded, there's no way he's not heading back to Hawkins. The question is will the destruction in the town be the proof that there's something bigger than Eleven to battle, or will he triple down on capturing Eleven? But then, there might be more behind Sullivan's orders and who is actually behind them. The Russians had their own alternative interest in the Upside Down, so certain secret factions of the U.S. military might have their own reasons to collect Eleven too.
Is Owens alive?
Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) certainly had us guessing about whether he's truly a good guy or a bad guy over three seasons. Season 4 left us thinking "good guy" again as he frantically negotiated with Sullivan to let Eleven go. Could he be playing the long game? Sure! But the last we saw him, Owens was still handcuffed inside the bunker and no one else seemed to be alive. That's a pretty bleak way to go, but Sullivan could have easily gone back into the bunker to call for support and retrieve Owens, since Brenner (Matthew Modine) is no longer alive.
What does Eleven still have to learn?
One of Brenner's arguments about why Eleven should not go back to Hawkins was that she wasn't ready yet. As the keenest observer of Eleven's powers over the years, he is most likely to have the best idea of her exact potential. He also may have seen hints of new skillsets percolating inside of her, which he intended to foster in the bunker. Brenner could also have been lying but, we doubt it. What could still be hiding within Eleven? And is it the power needed to stop Vecna forever?
The Steve, Nancy, and Jonathan love triangle
It was clear from the very first episode of Season 4 that living 2000 miles apart wasn't helping the relationship between Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). As she continued on her Type A, overachiever track, Jonathan was languishing in California smoking weed and spinning his wheels. Having to jump back into Hawkins' mysteries put Nancy together with Steve (Joe Keery) once more and she found a new appreciation for her ex. Harrington was able to admit to her that his immaturity helped break them up, and that he deeply regrets it to this day. That's certainly not a small thing to hear from your first love. But Jonathan returns to Hawkins in the finale and the two seem to want to work themselves out. However, this triangle is clearly not resolved.
Does Hopper’s arm injury allude to a deeper wound?
Before Hopper and Joyce's big kiss in the Russian bunker, the camera lingered on Hopper's significant claw wound on his arm. He wrapped it before she could see how bad it was, or question what that might mean for his healing. Is it just an owie or could it be a significant way for Hopper to be compromised by Vecna and the Mind Flayer?
If Hawkins falls, does everything fall?
The news story in the final minutes of the finale episode expressed that in the wake of the "earthquake" that the town was now experiencing a mass exodus and those who were staying were heading for the churches to counter the death cult curse rumors swirling. Both portend ugly paths for the residents who were already in full blown hysteria throughout Season 4. And the particles falling on the town like snow beg the question of the range of impact the rift is having. Is it just within the city limits? Based on the cars screeching out of town, it seems to be contained right now. However, if Hawkins falls, does the town get swallowed and that's it? Or is the whole planet going to get subsumed by Vecna?
What does Season 5 look like?
The Duffers described Season 4 as their homage to '80s horror, and they did that quite well with a bounty of visual allusions to classic films from Aliens to A Nightmare on Elm Street. Season 5 could shift to another genre just so they don't repeat themselves. As we watched the Hawkins crew go into battle at Vecna's mansion and in the Upside Down, their outfits were giving us serious Red Dawn (1984) vibes. Could the finale season go full renegade, war movie as the town lays devastated around them? The military is certainly still in play, and maybe Russia might be angry enough to try and replenish their Demogorgon toys too?
Stranger Things Season 4 Vol. I and Vol. II is available now on Netflix.