When Volume 1 came out, I criticized the show for not killing off important characters when their time was up. Now it seems with the season’s end the tide has turned with me. If the main characters do not die there are no stakes and therefore no one is in any real danger. Despite what is hinted at, it seems The Duffer Brothers are still making the same show they were in season one and fans have evolved. What keeps the show successful is its expanding scope, colourful characters and interactions, and some key performances. The trouble is that 34 episodes in, many of these characters have outstayed their welcome.
David Harbour is a good actor and reminds us of it during this season, but the development of his character is complete, his plot wreaks havoc on the pacing, and all the show can do for him and almost every other character is to repeat what we’ve seen before. Out of all the new character additions, only Eddie played by Robert Downey Jr. clone Joseph Quinn holds any sort of significance to the plot and yet even to a certain degree is redundant.
You could eliminate the Nevada plot (Jonathan, Argyle, Will, and Mike) and the Russian plot (Joyce, Hopper and Murray) from this season of Stranger Things and it wouldn’t make a difference. Further, you could eliminate this entire season from the series aside from a climactic earthquake and it wouldn’t make a difference. Eleven has outgrown her romance with Mike, as has Max with Lucas. A more ambitious show would put these two together and cut out their romantic counterparts.
Minor spoilers ahead
There are also a whole lot of dropped elements and plot armour. Max survives wounds that have killed every other character. Steve gets two gaping stomach wounds and aside from some loving bandaging by Nancy is in desperate need of medical attention that he walks off. Nancy gets captured despite not fitting the profile of someone suffering from a tragedy in their past and is set free to send a message to Eleven, someone with whom she has no relationship and doesn’t end up delivering or needing to deliver some form of message. This despite Vecna, a.k.a. One a.k.a. Henry Creel needing to kill only one more person to enact his evil plan of turning the world of Hawkins Upside Down. Further, there is an unresolved plot with a military Colonel who wants to capture Eleven that goes nowhere. And it seems the local police are useless without Hopper as they do not move forward in their investigation beyond day one.
After 3 great seasons, the formula of splitting the group up and getting them back together in Stranger Things 4 leaves a lot of missed opportunities. Although it expands the world and history of Hawkins, none of the existing characters we’ve come to know and love are deepened at all. And normal stuff for Stranger Things is bad business for Netflix.
- Paul Reiser (Dr. Owens) manages to outact Matthew Modine (Dr. Brenner) to a severe degree.
- Why does the military allow the kids to get away?
- With some minor story changes, you could cut out Will, Jonathan, Argyle, Joyce, Murray, Hopper and even Mike’s plot entirely. (Giving the emotional denouement to Max instead and killing her in Lucas’s arms).