New to Netflix Summer 2022: Stranger Things Season 4


Illustration by Sophia Evans

Harry Tarses

The first thing you have to remember when watching “Stranger Things” is that there has never before been a “Stranger Things. Sure, it’s coming at a time when vast television epics are more commonplace than blockbuster movies, and of course, almost every shot of it references some film or show more than 30 years its elder, but “Stranger Things” still manages to be something entirely unique with every passing scene. In no other place can you find a story so meticulously crafted, so continuously surprising or so purposefully planned as this.

It came in strong with Season One, offering a nail-biting sci-fi thriller that could somehow make you nostalgic for a time you’d never even lived in, and from there it has only grown. Now, three seasons later, it’s an all-out action blockbuster. The nine new episodes feature characters and storylines almost incomprehensibly disconnected from the show’s origin, yet it still maintains the feel of an entirely singular world, one we can escape into shamelessly and completely whenever our heart desires. I don’t know what it says about our modern world that we as a people are so obsessively inclined to look backward, but whatever that wanting is, “Stranger Things” offers the solution.

I should slow down the praise train for just a minute here to address an important fact: “Stranger Things,” while mind-blowing, is not anywhere close to a perfect show. For all its awe-inspiring ambition and clear emotional compass, there are almost countless occasions when the show does not execute to its full potential. There were numerous times throughout Season Four where I’d pause and scoff at the ridiculousness of a set piece, the zaniness of an acting choice, or the complete unbelievability of a line. This show — especially now, with all the pressures of continuing an already massive story — can be colossally, stupidly dumb. At its very worst, the show creates a darker secondary feeling of nostalgia, not for the long-gone 1980s, but for its own recently-deceased beginnings, when the worst thing that could happen was a kid going missing, not a multi-dimensional apocalypse.

For all that negativity, though, I can recognize that this over-inflation of stakes and story is simply the price paid for success and scale, and however often the show doesn’t stick the landing, it ultimately makes up for it with its very existence. Think about a person from the real-life 80s, and how blown away they would be by this show. There’s something comforting, and really, really beautiful, l think, about knowing just how expansively stories can now be told.