Stranger Things 4: The Hellfire Club

Season 4. Episode 1.

Well. I covered the very first episode of Stranger Things back in July 2016 on the day that the first season was released. I took a chance on the Duffer Brothers’ creation based on one review in the A.V. Club and I’ve been covering it ever since. This is the only show that I have written about from start to finish, so I would like to begin by thanking everyone that has come on this journey with me. We’re nearly there…

Stranger Things 3 was uneven, but ultimately satisfying. This latest season needed to come racing out of the traps though, and by God, does it succeed in that remit. From the cold open that seems to suggest that Eleven (I will be ignoring her Sunday name of ‘Jane’ for now) killed a bunch of people in the Institute. It is clear from this sequence that this season of Stranger Things will be a different beast. Darker. More horrifying.

Elsewhere, there is some conflict between Lucas and the rest of the gang as he is torn between being a jock and a nerd, Nancy and Jonathan seem distant in more ways than one, Steve Harrington and his beautiful hair continue their search for love and Joyce Byers forms part of a wonderful team up with Murray (albeit over the phone) to get to the bottom of a mysterious porcelain doll sent all the way from Russia. There is a lot of catching up in this episode. What sets The Hellfire Club aside from other season openers is not just the tonal shift, but also the successful integration of a series of new characters. Namely:

Eddie Munson – Local D & D enthusiast who initially seems to be a stand in for the recently departed and similarly coiffed Billy Hargrove, but ends up being a fully formed character in his own right, mostly because Joseph Quinn does a great job in bringing a fairly stock character to life.

Chrissy Cunningham – Not just a nod to Friday the 13th creator Chris Cunningham, but also an intriguingly vague mashup of small town cheerleader and victim of Freddy Krueger. Her daydream nightmares are lifted straight out of the Elm Street playbook but it remains to be seen if we will ever hear from her again after this episode’s grisly conclusion.

Vickie: Robyn’s potential love interest and fellow bandmate doesn’t have much to do and we haven’t yet established why Robyn is so into her. Expect more from her in future episodes.

Angela: Just an archetypal bully or something more? Stranger Things is unrivalled in its ability to provide a redemption arc, but her treatment of Eleven here just seems irredeemably cruel.

Much to ponder then, but this is undoubtedly a great start for what is now the biggest show left on TV following the departure of Game of Thrones. It’s great to be back.