In the finale for season 4, a four-phase plan is put in place to defeat Vecna, and while unexpected people join to help, things still go awry.


Aired (Netflix) 7/1/2022
Director(s) The Duffer Brothers
Writer(s) The Duffer Brothers

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Summary

It all started in a way that would make you think our heroes would win. Hopper, Joyce, and Murray were able to take down the Demogorgons in Russia. El found a way to get into Max’s mind and join her in the fight against Vecna. Also, as Steve, Nancy, and Robin were successful in sneaking their way to Vecna’s home, Dustin and Eddie seemed to have a handle on the bats.

However, alongside Jason, Vecna being part of the Hive mind messed up the plan. Starting with Jason, he finds Erica and Lucas, and while one of his minions handles Erica, he decides to threaten Lucas with a gun as Max draws out Vecna to distract him. With Jason thinking Lucas is doing something satanic to Max, he threatens Lucas and tries to force him to wake Max, but Lucas refuses. Because of this, Lucas is not only beaten up, but Max’s cassette player is broken, thus making it impossible, at the time, to get her out of the Upside Down.

But, while Lucas is getting his ass whipped by Jason, everyone else is by Vecna or other monsters in the Upside Down. The bats overwhelm Dustin and Eddie, and Eddie has to sacrifice himself to keep the bats from chasing after Dustin or going after Steve, Nancy, and Robin. But, despite Eddie’s sacrifice, those three get restrained and aren’t able to fight, and then there is El.

Eddie seeking validation from Dustin, as he is dying
“Eddie seeking validation from Dustin, as he is dying,” The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine The Piggyback” 2022.

Thanks to Argyle, El is able to have an ideal condition to project herself, and she is lucky enough to reach Max just before Vecna can use her to open the barrier between the Upside Down and our world. However, while El gets an early win due to surprising Vecna, it’s all downhill from there. He bests her and makes it clear she is the reason he is the monster. She killed him and banished him to this world. She reopened the portal, and everything bad that is happening is all because she made it possible.

As you can imagine, this hits El in her heart because she has tried to shift all blame for who she is and Vecna, on Brenner, but Vecna pushes her to take responsibility. However, while feeling sorry for herself, she hears from Mike what she has longed for. Not only does he love her, but has loved her since they met, whether she has powers or not. Hearing this leads to El gaining the strength needed to stop Vecna right before he takes Max’s life.

Well, he still takes her life long enough to break the barrier, but El figures a way to bring her back so that she at least has a heartbeat. As for defeating him? Steve, Nancy, and Robin are freed when El saves Max, thus breaking his focus and allowing them to set Vecna on fire and use a sawed-off shotgun to blow him out of a window. However, this doesn’t defeat him. It just leaves him heavily weakened.

This leads to a time jump of two days where we learn El might have saved Max from dying, but Max’s arms and legs were still broken, and with her being clinically dead for a minute, she is in a coma. Alongside that bit of sadness, we also learn there is a bit of an exodus in Hawkins after what the news says was a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that killed 22 people. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be anyone we know, and as for deaths, only Eddie died.

Robin realizing Vickie is just like her as she rambles and talks a mile a minute
“Robin realizing Vickie is just like her as she rambles and talks a mile a minute,” The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine The Piggyback” 2022.

Which leads to the silver lining. Robin, who helps with relief efforts, learns Vickie is single, and those two finally have a conversation that reveals Vickie is damn near Robin’s twin – hence the attraction. Jonathan and Nancy reunite, and despite Steve noting his regrets about how his relationship ended with Nancy and how close they got, Jonathan and Nancy are still together. Mind you, still avoiding all the hard conversations that are overdue but still together. Lastly, Joyce, Hopper, and their kids reunite, alongside Mike and Hopper having a moment.

As for what is coming next? Well, it seems Will might move back to the forefront of the show since it’s revealed that he can feel Vecna is alive and this likely connects to him having a connection to the Upside Down in past seasons. Also, in the distance, you can see a storm coming, which rains something capable of killing plants, and it seems clear that the reprieve everyone is getting might be short-lived.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What happened to Sullivan? Why hasn’t he shown up, considering Argyle’s truck isn’t that hard to find or see?
  2. Is Dr. Owens still in the bunker, cuffed and left to die?
  3. Did El snatch Max’s soul and put it back in her body? Can she do that for Eddie even though it has been two days? After all, his body is still in the Upside Down, and it isn’t clear how bad his injuries were.
  4. Is the only reason various monsters haven’t left the Upside Down due to Vecna being injured?
  5. In the episode, we’re shown Vecna exploring the Upside Down before it was a mirror image of Hawkins, so does that mean he crafted all of the Upside Down? Also, the Mind Flayer was just a whirl of energy and dust previously, so did he make the Mind Flayer into what we know today? Is he a general, a soldier of the Mind Flayer, or an architect who came to realize what he was crafting was much bigger than him?
  6. What did Jason tell everyone after what happened to Max? Shouldn’t Lucas be on the run instead of reading to Max at her bedside?
  7. How will Hopper explain to everyone in Hawkins not being dead, or will he remain in hiding with El?
  8. Can they get Eddie’s body back from the Upside Down?
  9. Considering how Dustin injured his leg, how did he get back from the Upside Down? Did he just find another portal?
  10. Is Vickie bi?
  11. So is Will going to come out in season 5, or are people just assuming/ projecting that he is gay because he reads that way?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Nancy breaking up with Jonathan and, maybe after college, getting with Steve
  2. Max getting out of a coma
  3. Jason still being a pain in the behind
  4. Sullivan making another appearance
  5. Joyce and Hopper not getting to have a peaceful date because something comes up
  6. Hopefully, Dustin and his girlfriend getting to go to a dance or having a date in person
  7. Max and Lucas having their movie date and getting back together
  8. Will not coming out. Instead, it will just be understood that he is different, but him not labeling it
  9. Vickie and Robin sharing a kiss
  10. Hawkins looking like a war zone when all is said and done

Review

Highlights

More Vecna Backstory

The existence of the Upside Down is still quite puzzling. It is shown demogorgons existed before Henry/One became Vecna. The only thing that changed seems to be that when he merged with the Mind Flayer and enhanced the Hive’s mental capacity, they became a stronger and more dangerous unit. And with Vecna pushing, it is all El’s fault, and not in a way to get in her head, but to tell her the truth; it should be interesting to see how that guilt develops. Especially considering Max’s state.

Dustin Gave Multiple Emotional Moments

Before this season, if someone was to say Will is gay, bi, or somewhere on the non-hetero spectrum, I would be confused and have a lot of questions. However, between the longing looks and Will making it seem Mike is the group lead, never mind the heart? That’s how I know Will has a crush on Mike and maybe could have feelings for boys, in general.

Dustin talking to Eddie's uncle and letting him know someone doesn't see him as a monster, but a hero
“Dustin talking to Eddie’s uncle and letting him know someone doesn’t see him as a monster, but a hero,” The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine The Piggyback” 2022.

Why? Because Mike is not the heart. Mike’s focus has mainly been on El for a very long time now, and the actual heart has, and may always be, Dustin. He is the only one who has made a real effort to keep the friend group connected, add new people, make folks feel loved, validated, and have a purpose, and it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or girl.

Dustin doesn’t have to date you for you to get attention and any form of consistent interaction. Will was basically forgotten by Mike once he moved. Lucas was ready to move on to become one of the popular kids. Max was deep in her depression, but who still would say something to people and check on them? Dustin. Hence why him losing Eddie was so emotional, and even talking to Eddie’s uncle.

For as much as there are times where you can submit Dustin is stuck in the past and is fighting to keep things how they were, especially in terms of the friend group, this season showed that isn’t true. Dustin is just aware of all these people enough to know, if left to their own devices, they will blend in like Lucas, become absorbed in someone else’s life and world like Mike, or crawl back into their shell-like Max and Will. Which, if he can help it, he’ll either keep them from doing that or remind them they will always have the opportunity to come back into the fold once they’re ready to.

Low Points

Jonathan and Nancy

These two are on borrowed time. Steve has been getting Nancy to smile, giggle, and look at him as a changed man for the entire season, and Jonathan? He’s stagnant. Sweet, but someone who may have just been a cleanse from the way Steve used to be. Not a long-term partner.

Which isn’t to say Steve is the one, and his dreams of half a dozen kids with Nancy will come to pass. But it seems that Nancy is at that point where maybe she is used to being in a relationship more than needing one.

On The Fence

Putting Max In A Coma Felt Like A Cop-Out

Killing off Eddie was easy, for he is a new character, but killing off Max would have been major, especially after all that happened in the first half of the season. So the implementation of a Jon Snow-level cop-out to keep her alive? It creates a bad taste in our mouths.

On the one hand, Max delivers the best performance out of any character this season. But, with that in mind, how can they follow that up? By having Lucas feed off of that as he shows a love for her that will easily surpass Mike and El? Maybe get her mom involved or have her, since she isn’t of this world currently, fight Vecna in the next major battle?

It’s understood killing off a major character is not an easy decision, but teasing it, then throwing in a last-minute save comes off as disrespectful.

Starting To Feel Like They’re Stretching This Out

Hawkins after Vecna opened up four gates to the Upside Down, and now parts of the town are on fire
“Hawkins after Vecna opened up four gates to the Upside Down, and now parts of the town are on fire,” The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things, “Chapter Nine The Piggyback” 2022.

Two and a half hours is an epically long episode. One that, granted, handled the Russia plot, Vecna’s defeat, and introduced the state of Hawkins after Vecna, at least, started what he calls the beginning of the end. However, after that amount of time, is it wrong to feel like we should have gotten something more final?

Vecna being alive after all of that made the ending of the season feel anti-climatic. Max not dying, only Eddie, undercut the emotional toll of all that happened. And while, yes, it was nice for those who are alive to be reunited and Robin and Vickie to have a moment, but it didn’t feel end-of-season worthy.

I’d even add that Will sensing Vecna being alive and viewers seeing snow fall, plants die, and parts of Hawkins still burning, it didn’t leave that drive to want what’s next. It more so pushed the idea that “Stranger Things” is getting to the point of overstaying its welcome, and knowing the next season should be its last is a blessing so that it could perhaps end while it has some luster remaining.

Stranger Things Directory

Network(s) Netflix
Created or Developed By The Duffer Brothers
First Aired 7/15/2016

Character Guide

Not Created

Season Reviews

Not Created

Title Card for Chapter Nine: The Piggyback
Stranger Things: Season 4/ Episode 9 “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” [Finale] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Overall
The finale of season 4 reminds you why editing is an artform in media. As shown with “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback,” more isn’t always good, and as much as there is a need to push boundaries, having episodes rarely go beyond an hour is a standard for a reason. For otherwise, the product delivered can and will feel bloated.
Highlights
Dustin Gave Multiple Emotional Moments
More Vecna Backstory
Disputable
Starting To Feel Like They’re Stretching This Out
Putting Max In A Coma Felt Like A Cop-Out
Jonathan and Nancy
78


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Avatar of Amari

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

2 Comments

    • Avatar of Amari

      I just rewatched the scene, and that was such an anti-climatic death for a secondary villain lol. He got ripped apart just for laying down in the wrong place.

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