Stranger Things 4 review: Levels rise in horror, not in character

balanced Dungeons & Dragons A party is an essential part of creating an enjoyable gaming experience. Yes, you want to make sure you have strong fighters who can cast a variety of combat or long range attacks, some magical users, and definitely at least one person who has a healing spell. You want a set of stats for the non-battle parts so that conversations with hoteliers can go smoothly and potential dangers and traps can be spotted from a glance around the room. Most importantly, you want a group that will be cheerful Together, they may work together unexpectedly to succeed in their ultimate quest, whatever that may be.

The The first season from Weird things – which was based more on dungeons and dragons than the next two – was a well-balanced party. The core group of kids played great at playing with each other (and the official in-game character sheets definitely highlighted a well-calibrated party). Regardless of how the characters were divided, there were some great moments and great chemistry. But every successive season of Weird things He’s strayed from the D&D side – and also far from that perfect party.

While the Dover Brothers brought back Dungeons and Dragons Stranger Things 4Group dynamics are weaker than ever. Even if the horror comes in full swing, the charm of the characters fades completely, replaced by bonds that don’t work well together but somehow have to.

[Ed. note: This review contains some slight spoilers for the first half of the fourth season of Stranger Things.]

Joseph Quinn as Eddie Monson in Stranger Things.

Photo: Netflix

season 4 of Weird things It starts with our usual parties split across the world, and their relationships are fraught at best. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and her sons Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) move to California, with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) with them. Hopper (David Harbor) is Trapped in a Russian prison. The children at Hawkins keep the fortress indoors, but different interests have separated the usual core group of friends from one another. Dustin (Gatien Matarazzo) and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) are still fully committed to D&D, but Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) joins the basketball team in addition to his office interests.

Meanwhile, Max (Sadi Sink) is still dealing with the death of her half-sister and isolating herself from her friends, listening moodily to Kate Bush on her Walkman. Hawkins’ older teens are all hard at work, as Steve (Joe Kerry) and Robin (Maya Hawk) work together again, now at the local video store, while Nancy (Natalia Dyer) works as the editor of the #girlboss school newspaper. And to add some fun to the mix, there are two new characters: Stoner Argyle (Eduardo Franco), who’s Jonathan’s new BFF (and maybe the first?), and Metalhead Eddy (Joseph Quinn), head of the high school Hellfire Club (aka Dungeons & Dragons Club) .

All seems calm on the monster’s forehead until a brutally murdered teen is found. While the police are quick to point the finger, a gang of brave heroes (rightly) suspect that things might move in the Upside Down. In fact, a monster somehow awakens and haunts its victims by giving them terrifying hallucinations and exploiting their worst fears and memories. The Children of Dungeons and Dragons call it Vecna, a reference to one of the game’s most terrifying villains. If the last season Melting meat didn’t get youThen perhaps the gruesome death of this season will tickle your imagination.

creepy vecna in upside down what will he do

Photo: Netflix

every season Weird things It definitely heightened the brutality, giving the characters an even more terrifying threat to contend with. But the show doesn’t seem to raise the level of personal connections as much. After Marvel’s first season, each successive season faltered a bit, although there were some characters who ended up sparking unexpected bonds. Steve takes over as a babysitter in season 2for example, or his adventure in the mall with Robin, Dustin, and Erica in Season 3, were two of the most notable events of the past. But Steve’s infectious charisma seems to be the exception rather than the rule this time. While his friendship with Robin is a little light in a dark tunnel, it’s not enough to get everyone out of the doldrums.

In a season built on physical distance, groups seem to connect randomly, motivated by the need to get people to be in the same place at the same time. Characters don’t need that Like each other to make a powerful story. But at least they must have some kind of on-screen chemistry. Instead, everyone feels they treat each other reluctantly, and are bound to band together even though their stats probably make them the least perfect mix of characters for a major task together.

There is magic in returning to these familiar characters. We’ve seen them grow up, after all, and even if nothing matches the novelty of Season 1, it’s fun to see them all again and see where they ended up – although, admittedly, that fades pretty quickly as I start acting in seemingly inappropriate ways. Intuitive to everything we know about them. Max, whose half-brother made her, now thinks he was really cool. Lucas is now a basketball player, which is great! But Mike and Dustin treat him so miserably about it, that they even ask him to skip the major tournament game so he can play Dungeons & Dragons with them. Yes, friendships develop as people get older, but these kids have been through some bullshit together. I was hoping they were more sympathetic.

In Stranger Things Season 4, the Hawkins gang looks towards the camera in a haunted house

Photo: Netflix

The Duffers seem to take the “show, don’t tell” principle to an extreme. It’s not enough that Eleven is having a hard time at a new school and doesn’t have her powers; We have to see multiple scenes of her being brutally bullied by famous kids and trying (and failing) to use her psychological power against them. Not only do we see Jonathan and Nancy have far-reaching problems, but we have to hear many painful and confusing conversations about how things don’t work out even though they still love each other, really, deep down. Even with each episode running for over an hour, it feels like the episodes are crammed, but it’s almost the same thing over and over again.

To say the least, horror is fun, Based on some pretty terrifying sequences And evil murder. mechanics new monster It’s delightfully bizarre as it plunges its victims into nightmarish hallucinations, but it also suffers from terribly vulgar dialogue. This is the downside to owning a human-like monster – what scary things would you say that haven’t been said a million times before? And new characters add a touch of flavor. Argyle in particular gives Jonathan some much-needed zest outside of his family obligations and a strained romantic relationship. Eddie is also a disguised mess of contradictions, a bad boy who takes a bunch of misfit kids under his wing, even if he’s still kind of a dick for them. But they are just two small working parts and unfortunately the rest of their sets can’t be salvaged.

This season’s groups of adventurers have been grouped haphazardly in ways that might make sense in theory, but fall apart once they’re all together. For every fun and exciting element that is offered, there is an overwhelmingly soft gray pile of hits to wade into. There are a few glimmers of hope amid the mush – a few good dice rolls that help the party with at least shocking stats. But overall, the party’s horrible calibration makes those moments few and far between. With a promising season with movie-length episodes and a runtime of “almost twice as long as season three,” this is a huge burden. It is possible that they will at least be able to defeat the monster in the second part, but will they tell an interesting and interesting story? The jury is still out on that.

first part of Weird things Season four arrives on Netflix on May 27 with seven episodes.