The thrilling conclusion to Stranger Things was recently released. Who exists? Who passes away? Can Max escape the curse? Can Hopper leave the USSR and return? Eddie, will you rock the upside-down? Can Eleven or anyone else thwart Vecna’s monstrous attack?
On July 1, two extra-long finale episodes debuted on Netflix (although Netflix crashed for some early viewers). Papa, the eighth episode, was already covered. To recap the pivotal plot points, Easter eggs, and character arcs from the two-hour-long Episode 9, The Piggyback, read on. Along with numerous spoilers
In the 1980s Indiana setting of Stranger Things, a young person with strong psychic abilities escapes a creepy government facility. In order to fight demogorgons, the Mind Flayer, and other monsters, including the terrifyingly calculating Dr Brenner, Eleven teams up with local nerds Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will.
Brenner passed away in the desert dust at the end of episode 8, but he left a lot of trouble in his wake: Henry Creel, a troubled youngster, was zapped by Eleven into the Upside Down years ago as a result of his experiments on psychic children. Vecna, a demonic villain from season 4, was created there.
Meanwhile, with the aid of scheming former guard Antonov (also known as Enzo) and merry smuggler Yuri, Sheriff Jim Hopper, Joyce, and Murray attempt to flee a harsh Russian gulag. Jim and Joyce are presented with the same challenge as Eleven, Will, Mike, Jonathan, and Surfer Boy brochacho Argyle in the first scene of episode 9: they need to return to Hawkins before Vecna kills once more and unlocks a fourth gate to the dark dimension. Lucas and Erica enter the eerie Creel mansion to offer Max as bait while Steve, Nancy, Robin, Dustin, and Eddie Munson gear up to infiltrate the Upside Down and stake Vecna in his coffin. Only the Hawkins children (and Kate Bush) can save the world in the series finale.
As he pretends to work on his helicopter Katinka in Russia, Yuri keeps stalling (literally). Joyce and Hopper undress nearby, exposing the physical damage Hopper’s time in the harsh gulag has done to his body. Although David Harbour is bruised, bloodied, malnourished, and has had his head shaved, he may not have ever been hotter. Hopper, who had come to the conclusion that he was a curse on anyone who cared about him, still saw hope in his dreams of lasagna and breadsticks from Enzo, as well as in kissing Joyce (in a Hulk Hogan T-shirt).
Nancy and the crew are getting ready for their Upside Down commando raid in Hawkins. Right, it sounds so easy. The moment someone says “We are no heroes,” you just know Dustin and Eddie are playing decoys and will pull off some pretty heroic stunts before the end credits.
Phase one starts as Erica, Lucas, and Max investigate the eerie Creel house. Unless a passing motorist notices Erica, who directs Jason and his newly acquired handgun to the Morehead murder house.
Eleven sees a billboard on the highway that shows a content family, and memories of her mother Terry come flooding back. She realizes she can follow into Max’s mind and confront Vecna if she can enter the minds of her mother or Billy from earlier seasons. It simply entails devouring a Surfer Boy pizza. Fortunately, Purple Palm Tree Delight is available.
The battle of the minds is ongoing.
Hopper connects with Owens’ assistant, who informs them of the threat in Hawkins. Hopper and Joyce realize they can join the fight from where they are because of their matching parkas. It simply entails breaking back into the Soviet prison. Fortunately, they possess a flamethrower.
Are you prepared for the world’s most metal concert ever? Eddie finds a demonic replica of his ax in the Upside Down and rips into Metallica’s Master of Puppets to summon a swarm of demonic bats across a terrifyingly dark dimension. I like how the fight involves more than just Eleven using her superpowers. The distinctive personalities of everyday people are essential, as seen in how Argyle’s pizza-making and Eddie’s shredding also contribute to saving the world.
Given that Jonathan has spent the majority of this season in the background of a show with so many characters, you could be excused for forgetting he was there. But he re-connects with Will in one of the most touchingly private moments of the season. Steve’s speech about kids in episode 8 was followed by a vulnerable heart-to-heart with Nancy in this episode, which is a further poignant moment. Oh no, he really is going to pass away.
Continuing to ascend hills
Max and Lucas exchange sweet notes as she listens to her go-to weapon, Kate Bush. She then deactivates her Walkman.
Start of phase two.
But it’s ineffective. Max is visible to Eleven, but the honored guest is not present. By acknowledging her most troubling memories of her late brother Billy, Max delves deeper into the teasing Vecna directed at her and confronts her own emotional demons. She also acknowledges that rather than being noble, her bravery and potential sacrifice are motivated by self-loathing. Vecna then cruelly assumes the identities of Billy and Lucas to finally assert his dominance. Eleven is already imagining herself at the Creel home while simultaneously projecting herself further into Max’s mind as she finds herself in the middle of a skateboarding memory of Max.
Phase three has arrived.
The Police’s 1983 smash hit Every Breath You Take is playing as Max finds herself at the Hawkins Middle School Snow Ball of 1984, exactly as it did when Lucas and Max shared their first kiss at the conclusion of season 2. After that, a startling scene of balloons popping in a shower of blood occurs as the school dance transforms into something more sinister to the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald’s Dream a Little Dream of Me, the song that was playing on the radio when Henry Creel killed his family.
As Eddie and Dustin engage in combat in the Upside Down, Robin, Steve, and Nancy are all ensnared by choking tentacles. Battle, anyone? Eddie returns to the Upside Down to engage in a sword battle with a horde of demon bats in order to aid Dustin in escaping. See? Hero sh*t phoned it!
11 cuts are made.
In spite of Max’s musical lifeline being destroyed by his fight with Jason, Lucas realizes he never wanted to be popular and normal. Thankfully, Eleven arrives at the dance floor just in time to confront the demon she unintentionally summoned.
Max is raised up to serve as the ultimate sacrifice as the creature formerly known as Henry Creel reclaims the upper hand, crucifying Eleven against the murder house’s now recognizable door. Eleven uses her empathy for Henry instead of her telekinetic abilities. Unfortunately, Henry doesn’t hold Brenner responsible for making him into Vecna, so the argument falls flat. He accuses Eleven.
In a flashback, Vecna/Henry/One is shown exploring the Upside Down, which he perceives as a place unspoiled by people. With the help of the horrifying Mind Flayer, he transforms into “the predator he was always meant to be.” When Eleven thinks back to earlier seasons when the Mind Flayer had Billy’s form, she sobs, “It was always you. It was Vecna trying to open the gates from the Upside Down.
Max was able to escape Vecna with the aid of ’80s music, but Mike’s words are now music to Eleven’s ears as he finally declares his love for her. She is his superhero, power or no power. It’s noteworthy that this season is focused on how families and friends can stay connected even when they are separated. When characters stop talking, bad things happen, like Jonathan and Nancy breaking up, Lucas rejecting the Hellfire Club, or even Henry Creel turning against his family. However, there are numerous instances of people proclaiming their love for one another and refusing to let their relationship deteriorate, including Mike and El’s love letters, Hopper’s fantasy of a date night, Max’s notes, and Mike calling Eleven as she in turn reaches out to Max.
Eleven blasts Vecna with her signature move as Running Up That Hill builds to an epic climax that will undoubtedly have everyone cheering. Steve and Robin throw Molotov cocktails as Joyce and Jim defeat the last of the demogorgons. Nancy, too? She never misses.
However, the victory is tainted by Eddie passing away in Dustin’s arms. Even though Eddie, who is no longer metal, drifts away to the sounds of Moby, the scene is still sad.
Max then passes away in Lucas’ arms after becoming broken and blind, bringing Vecna’s kill total to four. Ahead of the fifth and final season, the seemingly vanquished villain’s words continue to echo in our ears.
Eleven is informed by Henry/Vecna that “this is just the beginning.” “the start of the end. You’ve already fallen short.” A terrifyingly large gate rips open the town of Hawkins as the clock strikes. What a conclusion! Despite the villain’s defeat, a greater danger still exists. What an abrupt end!
Except that there are still 30 minutes to go.
He will not cease.
The gang emotionally reunifies amidst the fallout in the last thirty minutes, which is full of emotional payoffs. Two days later, the town was rocked by a “7.4-magnitude earthquake,” which left dozens of people dead and injured. Even worse, satanic activities are attributed to the brave Eddie Munson and the decent Hellfire Club. Dustin can at least tell Eddie’s uncle the truth, though (mostly).
The gang offers its assistance to the relief effort after already saving the world. When Robin’s crush, Vickie, joins her for PB&J duty, it appears that romance might actually be in the cards. Eleven searches a dark and empty mindscape for Max, who it turns out is alive but in a coma, and Hopper and Joyce have a tearful reunion.
Unsettlingly, even after being possessed by Vecna/Henry/One in season 2, Will still feels a connection to them. And he is aware that the terrifying demon is still alive but wounded. As clouds gather and strange particles begin to fall on the residents of Hawkins, poisoning plants and revealing a terrifying portal, the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Similar to the scene where Will saw the Mind Flayer in a vision before it took control of him in season 2 episode 1, only this time everyone can see it because it’s actually happening.
The scene is now ready for Stranger Things season 5!
Steve stays alive!
The Surfer Boy Pizza brochachos treat us to an epic tooling-up scene à la The A-Team, plus pizza.
It seems absurd that, in the midst of demonic intrigue and government cover-ups, a jerk in a varsity jacket is almost responsible for the world’s doom. However, the attractive, well-liked douchebag is one of the most common movie tropes from the 1980s, so it only makes sense that he would have a major role in this show that is so obsessed with the decade.
Since Max and Vecna are fighting in a mental realm, it begs the question of why their abilities are constrained to match those of the physical world.
As the adults smuggle themselves back into jail, Murray quotes Star Wars (“I got a bad feeling about this”), and Robin’s post-tentacle remark (“I don’t believe in a higher power or divine intervention, but that was a miracle”) is reminiscent of the famous scene starring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.
By mentioning his time at Damansky during the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969, Antonov (aka Enzo) tries to appeal to Yuri’s better nature.
Pizza with pineapples is a favorite of eleven. Before you say no, try.
Joyce recalls the passing of Sean Astin’s character, Bob Newby, who was her boyfriend in season 2.
Lucas reads The Talisman, a 1984 fantasy book by Stephen King and Peter Straub, by Max’s bedside. Intriguingly, the novel also tells the tale of a parallel dimension that experiences an earthquake before revealing other parallel worlds.
Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Spellbound serves as the final song during the credits. Why doesn’t anyone put a Walkman on the unconscious Max?