Season 4 of Stranger Things had a darker and more horror feel to it than any of the previous seasons of the show, which I appreciated. There were allusions to Stephen King and Nightmare on Elm Street—even going so far as bringing in Robert Englund to play one of the roles in the Max possession episode, which I thought was the best episode of the season. That horror feel was something that was pervasive throughout the season and enjoyable.
One thing that didn’t work so well was the flood of new characters that they brought into the season. Of course, many of them served as cannon fodder so that they could be killed off. Through four seasons, the show has exhibited a pattern of only willing to be kill off newly introduced characters, and not any of the bigger characters, which I think is a shortcoming of the show. They teased the death of Hopper last season and Max this season, but they won’t take that kind of risk.
Another thing that didn’t work for me was the lack of believability of some of the more ordinary parts of the show. I’m perfectly fine stretching disbelief about the upside down, people with superpowers, and any of the supernatural elements of the show, but this season, a government agency going into a California neighborhood and shooting it up with machine guns, rival government agents killing each other and torturing other members, and that entire scene when Mike and company went to Utah to see Dustin’s girlfriend was a bridge too far and really hurt the season.
But mostly this was a really good season. I would probably rank it behind season 1. There were three separate story lines that coalesced in the end. The season had great tension and cool moments. As the child actors have grown, they have become less interesting, but the strength in the characters are with the older characters, in particular Steve, Robin, and Murray really shined this season. I would have liked this season to be the last for Stranger Things before they wear out their welcome, but clearly the ending set up for a season 5.