It’s the show everybody’s talking about – the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1 debuted on Netflix back in May to a barnstorming reception, amassing over 883 million hours viewed in its first 24 days, according to Netflix, and making it the platform’s most-watched English-language show ever.
A long time coming, the fourth season was worth the wait, delivering more supernatural shocks, compelling character moments and sinister twists than ever before. With the release of Volume 2 just a week away, we have some questions that we’re hoping the two remaining (feature-length!) episodes will provide answers to. Spoiler warning for Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1.
What’s going on with Will?
Despite being a pivotal part of the plot in Seasons One and Two, the two most recent runs of episodes have seen poor, often-kidnapped-or-possessed Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) somewhat relegated to the sidelines of Stranger Things’ ever-growing ensemble.
In the third season, we mostly saw him struggling to deal with his friends’ increased interest in the opposite sex, and his desire to go back to the good old days of playing D&D together. In Season 4 Volume 1, he, again, didn’t get too much to do – during the big introductory catch-up montage, all we learned was that he’s been painting, and that El (Millie Bobby Brown) suspects there’s “someone he likes”. When Mike (Finn Wolfhard) comes to visit, Will ends up a third wheel between him and El, even driving a wedge between them when coming clean to Mike about how much El is being bullied, and has been lying to him about her social life).
Just before Will, Mike and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) escape from their home after the authorities break in looking for El, Mike and Will have a lovely moment, rekindling their best friendship which has dulled in the time they’ve been apart – and, importantly, we see Will put his painting in the backpack he takes with him. Could the painting reveal who it is Will likes, and why he’s been so quiet lately? Could that person be Mike? There have been hints throughout the show’s history that Will is queer – and the latest trailer for Volume 2 shows a heartfelt hug between them that could be a snippet of some kind of coming-out scene. Whatever it is, we’re hoping for much more Noah Schnapp in the episodes still to come.
How is the Russian’s Demogorgon alive?
Though it took a little while to reveal itself, Hopper’s (David Harbour) thread so far in Season 4 does have more of a connection to the rest of the show than it first appeared to. After being found at the site where the Russians’ gate to the Upside Down was destroyed in the Season 3 finale, he’s been held prisoner in a grim, snowy gulag, from which Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) have finally set him free.
As it turns out, the prisoners were being used as food for a mysterious “monster from America”, which is, in fact, a Demogorgon – the many-teeth-for-a-face foe from the first season. But wait, we hear you cry! Didn’t all the Demogorgons (and Demodogs) die when the gate to their dimension was closed, just like the Mind Flayer, to which they were all connected? Yep, that’s what we thought too – until now. Clearly, this Demogorgon was captured by the Russians and they’ve been keeping it alive ever since, but how? Has Vecna opening more gates given it strength? Are the Russians hiding something else? Hopper, Joyce and Murray are sure to find out in Volume 2.
Will Steve and Nancy get back together?
Given the intensity of Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan’s relationship over the past few seasons, it might feel odd to remember that it was actually Nancy and Steve (Joe Keery) who were a couple when the show first started. This was back when Steve was somewhat of an antagonist, the most popular boy in school, and had nowhere near as good hair.
With Jonathan all the way in California and Nancy still in Hawkins, it seems that absence has not made their hearts grow fonder, with neither making the effort to visit each other over spring break. Instead, several lingering, longing looks at comments from other characters imply that a rekindling of Steve and Nancy’s relationship could be on the cards. After all, as Eddie (Joseph Quinn) told Steve, she did jump into Lover’s Lake to save him without a moment’s thought – and it would be a solution to his dating woes.
How is Vecna connected to the Mind Flayer?
In the grand reveal of Volume 1 Episode 7, we learned that big baddie Vecna, who has been brutally killing youngsters throughout Hawkins, is in fact One (Jamie Campbell Bower), Dr Brenner’s (Matthew Modine) very first test subject at Hawkins Lab whom Eleven banished to the Upside Down after he massacred the other kids. After years spent in that dark, corrupting, poisonous dimension, he has become the fleshy, fearsome Vecna that the gang are currently trying to defeat.
So, if he’s been in the Upside Down all this time, he must be related somehow to that big, all-consuming villainous monster from previous seasons, the Mind Flayer. The Flayer invaded people’s minds and melted them down in order to grow in size during Season 3, sending its creepy vines all across Hawkins – much like the stringy attachments that Vecna creates each time he kills someone. Could those strings be connecting him to the Mind Flayer, or, maybe, the other way around?
Dustin (Gaten Materazzo) theorizes that Vecna could be working for the Mind Flayer – its “five-star general” in comparison to the “foot soldier” Demogorgon, suggesting a hierarchy of power in the Upside Down. What sets Vecna apart is that he actively creates gates between the dimensions with every murder he commits, and we’ve only seen those be formed from the Right Side Up until now. This could be because Vecna (aka One) is originally from the ‘real’, Mind Flayer-free dimension, and so has an increased ability to create portals between the two – but, given that he has psychic powers similar to Eleven, who has opened (and closed) gates in the past, perhaps he’s just finally putting those to use. The big question (we know we’ve asked a lot already) is – why, after several years in the Upside Down, has he only just started causing havoc?
Will everybody make it?
As morbid as it is to suggest death awaits one of Stranger Things’ incredibly charming cast of characters, we have to wonder – as they prepare for battle against Vecna, will all of them make it out alive? Though they have figured out a way to save those under Vecna’s curse (anyone else still not over that climactic ending of Episode Four, and obsessed with ‘Running Up That Hill’?), he’s surely their most powerful adversary yet, and listening to their favourite tune (no matter how much of a banger it might be) may not be enough to save everyone.
We already know that Max (Sadie Sink) is vulnerable to Vecna’s spell, and Volume 1 ended with Nancy under it too. Given she’s in the Volume 2 trailer, it’s safe to assume Nancy got free – but, as Robin (Maya Hawke) says in that teaser, “I have a terrible feeling it might not work out for us this time”. As sad as it would be to say goodbye to any one of the gang, with a cast list bursting at the seams and the need for increasingly disparate story threads to use them all, losing someone might just give Stranger Things more gravitas, stakes, and emotional impact than ever before going into its fifth and final season.
Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 2 is streaming on Netflix from 1 July.