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Stranger Things 4 part 2 review: A barnstorming end to an epic season

Two epic blockbuster-length episodes provide a satisfying pay-off ahead of Stranger Things’ fifth and final outing.

STRANGER THINGS. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
Published: Friday, 1st July 2022 at 8:01 am
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*contains mild spoilers for Stranger Things season 4, volume 2*

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A star rating of 4 out of 5.

If there’s one thing that has bubbled up around the discourse about Stranger Things 4 (apart from endless Kate Bush remixes) it’s that it’s long. Good, but long.

In fact, the length of episodes in this new season of Stranger Things have sometimes felt like being drowned in engaging TV – like being smothered to death with delicious cake, crushed with endless hugs. There’s so much good stuff – and there’s so much of it – that inevitably it’s felt richer and more epic than the seasons that came before, with deeper character development and a wider sweep.

Now, the final two episodes of the split season have debuted, and they definitely continue in this tradition. While the first seven chapters more or less all topped over an hour, these episodes take things further with a combined runtime longer than Lawrence of Arabia. The final instalment alone is about 20 minutes longer than your average Marvel movie.

It’s quite a time commitment, but it is largely worth it. Picking up where we left off, Stranger Things 4 part 2 sees our heroes gear up and take the fight to Vecna on multiple fronts, in-person, in the Upside-Down, in Max’s (Sadie Sink) mind and (oddly) in Russia. There’s a lot of prep time, a lot of characters having pre-battle heart to hearts and then a smorgasbord of (not hugely kinetic, but still entertaining) action.

As before, Sink’s Max is the MVP this season, and she gets plenty of moments to shine in these finale episodes. Plumbing the depths of Max’s despair and going to some very dark places, it’s a sign of her versatility that (hopefully) bodes well for any material they might give her in Stranger Things 5.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington and Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington and Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 Netflix

Other characters also get their moments. Joseph Quinn’s fan-favourite newcomer Eddie has some moments of blazing glory that may prove controversial, while Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin ditches the humour for some real tearjerking moments. Will (Noah Schapp) opens up at last, Hopper (David Harbour) gets physical with a Demogorgon, and even stoner Argyle (Eduardo Franco) has a moment of triumph where his particular set of skills become essential.

And as ever, Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven is at the centre of it all. Never have we seen a character quite so literally tackle her demons, whether in the form of her father/abuser Dr Brenner (Matthew Modine) or Vecna (Jamis Campbell Bower) himself. She gets the biggest punch-the-air moments of the series, as well as the biggest emotional catharsis.

It’s not perfect. As with the earlier episodes, there’s a slight whiff of bloat to some parts of these supersized episodes, and a few plotlines feel like they could have been left on the cutting room floor. Personally, I could have done without the Riverdale-style vigilantes or the Evil General at this point in the story, while Hopper’s Russian antics felt largely like an attempt to keep those characters busy until they could bring them back into the fold later on.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

There’s also a few laboured attempts to tie together the mythos of the series as a whole that feel a little unnecessary at this point – but we won’t say more, at risk of spoilers. Come back here in three and a half hours or so and just fill in what you’d imagine we’d say (but much wittier, of course).

Still, overall it’s a barnstorming end to what’s been an immensely popular, crowd-pleasing season (and with a cliffhanger hint at even bigger things to come). It’s an emotional, warm-hearted continuation of a series that already had a lot to offer, and is sure to satisfy its loyal audience. It's cheesy, but treacly lines I'd cringe at in another show slide right past me in this one, because the work to get the characters to say them is so well laid.

Basically, if you liked Stranger Things 4 part 1, you’re bound to like this – it’s more of the same on an even larger canvas. And if you didn’t like it, well, there might be a few things you could do with the time instead. Anyone for Lawrence of Arabia on repeat?

Stranger Things 4 is now streaming in its entirety on Netflix. Check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide and visit our Sci-fi hub for more news, interviews and features.

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