Guess who’s back, back again. Wrong decade of reference here, but man, it’s been a long time since we stepped into the domain of the Upside Down. For some necessary context, it’s been three years since the last season aired on Netflix, Summer 2019 to be precise, so of course fans are excited for Season 4 of hit series Stranger Things.
The sci-fi thriller’s penultimate season, with the tagline “every ending has a beginning”, will debut this Friday, faster than you can say ‘demogorgon’. This upcoming season will also be released in two separate volumes — Vol. 1 will premiere on 27 May, while part two will be air on 1 July 2022.
The story picks up six months after the Battle of Starcourt, which brought major calamity to small town Hawkins, and looks at the aftermath of the incident. On top of the supernatural twists and turns, this journey is set for some emotional turmoil too, since it marks the first time we see our favourite bunch of ride-or-die friends separated; they’re off “navigating the complexities of high school” while, at the same time, dealing with loss and the rise of a new supernatural threat.
In case you need a quick refresher, here’s one where the cast recaps all the events up till Season 4:
If you’re pressed for time though, here’s a summary of the big questions we were left with after the last season’s finale episode — is Hopper alive, and if so, where in the wintry wasteland is he? What happens to Eleven’s powers, does she lose it for good or will she get it back? Where are Eleven and the Byers family moving to, and how will our crew deal with this much separation anxiety?
And then there’s everything new we saw from the series’ teasers and official trailer too, including word of a Hellfire Club, and a brief cameo from Robert Englund, the actor who plays Freddy Krueger on Nightmare on Elm Street.
Before our brains spiral out of control, we’ve got answers — well, some anyway. Fresh off the Stranger Things APAC Press Conference, we hear from the young ensemble cast, who help answer some key questions we have about the new season.
Darker, bigger, and more terrifying — that’s what we’ve been told. How is this season different from the ones before?
From the dawn of a new big bad, to just the general horror that is high school, the Duffer brothers and the cast alike have been going on about how Season 4 is Stranger Things at its most, well, scary, which should thrill those who love their 80s horror classics.
“It’s a lot darker, yeah. It’s crazy, I just watched the first two episodes, and it shocked me how crazy and scary it is,” said Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers. “Every season when we do this press I say ‘it’s so much darker, it’s so much bigger’, and it’s like the classic thing you say with Stranger Things, but this season, when I was watching I was terrified for some of the parts, so it was definitely scarier.”
Maya Hawke, who plays Robin Buckley, also adds: “It’s darker, but I think it’s also so much bigger in terms of the relationships and dynamics. There’s just so many storylines and interconnected details that it feels like the scope is huge.”
There’s a six months time jump between the Battle of Starcourt, and the first time we meet the characters again in Episode 1. What do you think happened in between?
“It’s always fun to have a bit of a time jump with each season, there’s always a good chunk of time that we don’t get to see as audience members but you figure out a lot about it in the early episodes of the show,” said Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin Henderson.
“I think primarily what we’re going through, especially for the kids, is that we’re starting high school — without a good chunk of our friend group. We miss them very much, obviously, and it’s also a very transitional time for us as we’re dealing with regular things like fitting in a new social climate, but also trying to cope with everything that has gone on.
Now that the town knows that something is up, that there was a big tragedy, with the mall burning down, these have taken a toll on people, especially those who knew what really happened, which affects some characters more than most considering who they lose and what they lose. It’s really cool to see how that unfolds through classic good old Stranger Things storytelling and dialogue!”
What is the Hellfire Club, and what do we know about new character Eddie Munson?
There’s no definite answer as of yet as to how significant this detail is, but we see those words on a t-shirt worn by Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), while, good to know, it’s also the title of the series’ first episode. What we do know is that the ‘Hellfire Club’ is the badass name of Hawkins High’s D&D club, and run by a new character called Eddie Munson, played by British actor Joseph Quinn.
At the press conference, Joseph also shares a hilarious take on his character, and how the screenwriters do their part in establishing each of the new characters. “They brilliantly take this new energy and throw it in this dense character broth, which is working and alive, and there’s something new in there,” he said. “[Eddie] is quite chaotic, he’s kind of cayenne pepper in the broth, a little bit spicy, a little bit… do I want that in there? Divisive, I guess!”
How will the show further develop fan-favourite character Erica Sinclair?
Erica Sinclair is one cool girl. The precocious kid and Lucas’ little sister, played by Priah Ferguson, delighted fans with her savvy investigative skills, and sassy comebacks — the kinds that inspire memes — so we’ll be sure to watch (and learn) from her as she progresses through the season.
“I definitely think you see Erica’s character progress, and in this season really understand her personality,” said Priah. “In season two, we kinda saw a little clip of her personality, in season three you saw that she was quick-witted and resourceful, good at math, which today some would classify as a simgirl, and in season four you really understand her personality and what she contributes to the team.”
Who, or what, is new antagonist Vecna?
The cast have been rather tight-lipped with the specifics on this one, so again, here’s what we know. It’s set to be the big bad in Hawkins, a new demo-monster that’s probably more formidable than previous Stranger Things antagonists, The Mind Flayer and the Demogorgon.
From Dungeons & Dragons lore, which the show heavily borrows from, Vecna is the name of one of the fantasy role-playing game’s most powerful and evil wizard-turned-lich. How is he linked to the Upside Down, and how will he further wreck havoc? Stay tuned to find out.
Who does horror legend Robert Englund play?
This casting choice certainly got horror fans excited — especially since we’re talking about the actor who plays the Freddy Krueger, a horror icon that’s been immortalised in countless media and Halloween costumes. In the upcoming season, Robert Englund takes on the role of Victor Creel, a new character described as “a disturbed and intimidating man who is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for a gruesome murder in the 1950s”. Ooh. Foe, or unexpected friend? We’re not quite sure about this one.
Still, Maya Hawke was keen to share on her experience working with Englund: “For me, it came at a moment where I needed to be re-grounded in the show. He came in with such integrity, and investment, and care, and had done such beautiful work in his monologue, I loved to watch him act. It was a real inspiration, and made me hope that some day when I’m older and when I’m acting, I can come in with that amount of integrity and care.”
Bonus: What was it like growing up with the series?
Much like the Harry Potter franchise, we’ve seen actors such as Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp grow from awkward tweens to slightly less awkward teenagers and young adults. So, of course, the lighthearted question was posed so we get to hear how they feel about that unique experience.
“We’ve all gone through this crazy trajectory together throughout every season, and having someone that’s kind of going through the same things really helps,” says Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan Byers.
“It’s crazy seeing the whole gang grow up on the show,” added Gaten. “What I don’t like is seeing videos and interviews of us at that age, because it’s just a plethora of cringe!”
STRANGER THINGS Season 4 will air on netflix. Vol. 1 will premiere on 27 May, and Vol. 2 will premiere on 1 July 2022.
all images, Courtesy of Netflix © 2022.