On the 12th of April, Netflix released the first official trailer for the latest season of its hit television show Stranger Things.
The trailer still showcased the glitzy 80’s-fuelled nostalgia which characterises the show while adopting a darker, more mature tone. This seems to reflect the growth the characters have experienced throughout the shows first three seasons, particularly the devastation wrought at the end of the last season, which lead to the separation of the core group of Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, Eleven, and Max.
While it is slightly disconcerting to see actors such as Finn Wolfhard playing a role he now looks far too old to play, I must admit, this trailer has me excited for the new season. Previously, I wasn’t sure, as the show’s second and third seasons failed to live up to the magic the original created in many key aspects, most notably its lack of understanding of how to bridge the intimate scale story of its premiere season and the larger scale opus the Duffer Brothers clearly wanted to tell in later seasons.
However, this season seems – at least from the trailer – to finally understand what scale and tonal balance it wants to strike with its penultimate season, which is to be split into two parts of five longer than normal episodes. This trailer promises a more horror-filled season in comparison to previous ones, leaning heavily into the Upside Down for unsettling images such as clocks growing out of walls in the Hawkins Public High School, and shots of a young Eleven – or possibly another test subject similar to Linnea Berthelsen’s Kali in the much-maligned Season 2 episode ‘The Lost Sister’? – wreaking havoc in a medical facility while bleeding from the eyes. The villain of the series – today confirmed by the Duffer Brothers to be D&D’s Arch-Lich and big bad of Critical Role’s first campaign, Vecna – looks deliciously gruesome once we get a proper glimpse of it at the end of the trailer, where it states ‘You have lost’. The introduction of a more humanoid villain from the Upside Down capable of speaking English provides an interesting departure from the monstrous Demogorgons, Demodogs, and Mind Flayer of previous seasons and provides an interesting set of possibilities going into Season 4.
This season also promises a more diverse set of character arcs for the cast of characters before drawing them into the house at the centre of the storm in the trailer. While I believe Hopper should have stayed dead after the end of the last season, the images of the Demogorgon being released into a locked Russian prison and the uprising there seems promising, and the shots of Max floating over Billy’s grave – either from having developed her own powers, possession, or being lifted by someone such as Eleven – sets up a much needed a character arc for Max now out of the shadow of her brother.
Hopefully the new season of Stranger Things understands how to balance the tone, expanding scope of its story, handling the character arcs of its main cast, and delivering an emotionally satisfying penultimate arc to the series. I remain tentatively hopeful. Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1 premieres May 27th exclusively on Netflix.