Stranger Things 4: The Piggyback

Season finale

Well that was some finale. Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, The Piggyback had a lot of discussion points. I won’t remember them all here. I can only apologise, dear reader, and try to do better in the future.

The episode began with Hopper’s escapades in Russia and the nagging feeling that this storyline really has trudged on for too long. Amusingly, Yuri continues to be a thorn in the side of all who encounter him – at least until his glorious redemption later in the episode. Joyce and Hopper share a romantic moment that is interrupted by Dmitri.

The Steve Harrington Collective march off to the upside down and Vecna’s house respectively in order to get shit done while Eleven and her ragtag bunch figure out a way to protect Max without schlepping all the way to Hawkins. Despite being side-lined a little in season four, it is Erica who eventually finds Vecna – surely the start of a more prominent role for everyone’s favourite little sister.

Back in Russia, Hopper comes up with the novel idea of breaking back into prison. It’s a bold strategy that thankfully works out in the end, but not before Hopper, Joyce and Murray are forced to band together to defeat the last remaining Demagorgon in the prison.

Back in Hawkins, Dustin’s plan is executed to perfection… kind of. Eddie Munson performs the most iconic guitar solo since Slash in the ‘November Rain’ video. But suddenly, everything starts to go wrong. Steve, Nancy and Robyn are trapped by the terrible tentacles of Vecna, Eleven and Max are strung up (the latter in a Jesus Christ pose) and Hopper begins to lose his battle with the Demagorgon. By combining all of these events together, the Duffer brothers mine a rich seam of tension that only dissipates when Eleven once again plumbs the depths of her power and manages to save the day (along with some help from Murray and his flamethrower).

And so begins the only major misstep of this episode. For the third time, a character (Max, on this occasion) is ‘killed off’ only to be revived again. The problem with this is that it every time Stranger Things pulls this trick, it becomes less and less powerful. The next time a beloved major character is presumed dead, they must stay dead.

The episode ends with an emotional reunion nine episodes in the making and a particularly gruelling scene in which Dustin returns Eddie Munson’s dog tags back to his uncle. I appear to have something in my eye…

Stray Observations

  • Yuri says he knows how to please a woman and who am I to argue? And he goddamn pulls through in the end with his crazy helicopter. An unsung hero.
  • Joyce to Hopper: “So… you’ve been dreaming about bread-sticks and lasagne” – she knows him too well.
  • Robyn: ‘What does he want us to do? Applaud?”. Yes Robyn. Show some respect to Steve Harrington and applaud him goddammit.
  • On the subject of Robyn. I guess she is wearing a beret now. Good for her.
  • Argyle’s bathtub joke was the best thing that character has provided all season.
  • I didn’t like how the other Surfer Boy Pizza guy talks like Argyle. One cliche stoner character is enough.
  • Murray’s little conflation of Star Wars and Star Trek with the line ‘I dunno, Jim, I’ve got a bad feeling about this” was a treat.
  • Yuri lost his way to ‘drink and cards’. What a guy.
  • It’s been so long since Will and Jonathan Byers interacted that I’d actually forgotten they were brothers. The Lego-guy-up-the-nose story was a good way to remind the audience of their bond.
  • On the subject of the Byers family, has Joyce mentioned or even thought about either of her children in this whole run? This feels like a hard pivot for a character who was so determined to keep Will safe in seasons 1 and 2.
  • Max’s dramatic monologue about Billy was beautifully performed by Sadie Sink.
  • Eddie: “This is for you, Chrissy” before breaking into the riff from Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ is one of the coolest things to ever happen on any TV show ever. Dustin and Eddie’s celebratory reaction afterwards was fully deserved and, indeed, metal AF.
  • This concluding episode shared a lot of DNA with the Stephen King universe. Jason interrupting Dustin’s masterplan is very similar to Henry Bowers, the local bully, chasing the Losers Club into the sewers at the end of IT, the concept of the upside down is very similar to the deadlights and even the balloons filling up with blood could have come straight from the twisted mind of Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
  • Hopper: “I’m gonna die someday… but not today.” Just an incredible character.
  • Ok, so I’ve been shitting on Mike Wheeler this whole series, but I will admit that Finn Wolfhard did a good job during that climatic scene with Eleven that turned everything around. Maybe he can stick around a little longer.
  • Hopper chopping off the Demagorgon’s head with a sword. I will be thinking about this moment at least once a month for the rest of my life.
  • Rest in Peace Jason the jock. You were a dick, my friend. A real dick.
  • Rest in peace Eddie Munson. The most metal character Stranger Things ever did see.
  • That’s all folks. See you next time for the fifth and final chapter!