Welcome back to our weekly look at Stranger Things season four, today we’re looking at:
“Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero”
Written by Caitlin Schneiderhan
Directed by Shawn Levy
Lt. Colonel Sullivan (Sherman Augustus), the military officer assigned to investigate Vecna’s attacks, tells Dr. Sam Owens he’s convinced Eleven is alive, and that she’s responsible. Joyce and Bauman fly to Alaska to meet Anton’s contact Yuri, while El is arrested for attacking Angela. In Hawkins, Nancy joins up with Steve, Robin, Dustin and Max to uncover a connection between the murders, while Lucas becomes alienated from his teammates after they attack Eddie’s friends.
1. Sam Runs a Tight Ship
At 64 mins, this is the shortest episode of the season, and a large part of that has to do with Sam Owens driving the plot here: on learning there’s a new monster in Hawkins, his instinct is to concoct a way to return Eleven to the town and help her regain her powers as soon as possible, even if it requires a bit of subterfuge, and unnecessary stress and sorrow for her and her friends. The ending is an extended voiceover of Sam explaining what’s going on to El, and asking if she wants to try to recover her abilities, tying everything together via a single montage. There’s no dawdling, and certainly no time for waffles: it’s very satisfying.
2. Joyce Draws the Short Straw
Before all that, El, Will, Jonathan, Mike and Argyle return home from the skater rink, where they’re greeted by a cheerful Bauman cooking dinner for all of them. No one wants to tell Joyce what happened, and neither adult wants to tell the kids the real reason for her last-minute trip to Alaska. El storms off when Mike makes a veiled criticism of her outburst, but Joyce does not go check on her, which is pretty disappointing: I was keen on seeing them as a mother and daughter this season, but we didn’t get that at all — sure, she had to pack for Alaska, but couldn’t a scene like that have been written in instead of the unnecessary comedy on the airplane? The episode is 64 mins, so there could’ve been space for that and El’s emotional argument with Mike in her bedroom.
3. Passing the Bechdel Test
In contrast, Nancy and Robin develop a great rapport venturing into the library to learn about the Creel murders from the ’50s. Now, while I want to be clear Alison Bechdel’s test — which asks you to consider whether a story has two female characters have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around a man or not — is not the be-all and end-all of good writing (as a furore this past week just demonstrated), the two do talk a lot about the nature of Robin’s “capital-P platonic” relationship with Steve. However, it’s great to see the show continue to spotlight its female characters, given how few there originally were, and especially while laying out something as important as Victor Creel’s backstory — it’s a win-win for everyone.
4. Robin Has Changed
In season three, Robin was the cool, collected straight man (no pun intended) to Steve and Dustin’s hopeless duo: in season four, she’s an awkward motormouth, the comedic counterpart to Nancy. Maybe coming out to Steve meant she became far less guarded between seasons, or perhaps Maya Hawke’s offscreen personality just seeped into the way her character was written; either way it’s a noticeable shift, but this isn’t a complaint, just an observation — it certainly helped further distinguish her from Nance during their scenes together.
5. Who’s Next?
We see Vecna choosing his next victim, Lucas’s teammate Patrick McKinney (Myles Truitt), entering his mind and giving him a mild nosebleed early on in the episode, making it seem like the main cast will be safe for now. But when Max, Dustin and Steve break into the school to uncover a connection between Vecna’s victims in counselor Ms. Kelley (Regina Ting Chen)’s files, Max realizes from all the symptoms they shared — headaches, nosebleeds, nightmares, and past trauma — that she’s next. I think it’s interesting how the reveal plays on the iconography of the nose bleed on the show: it was always a sign of Eleven using her awesome powers, that she will save someone’s life, but now… it’s a death knell.Continued below
– For the record, “Eskimo” is a slur among Inuit peoples, and Argyle using the phrase is an ’80s flourish the show could’ve done without.
– Lucas misleading his teammates to Eddie’s “location” at Hopper’s abandoned cabin was a neat way to keep that set around.
– I don’t have any real thoughts on Hopper’s wince-inducing storyline here, but at least we got to see him in the present this time.
See you all next week for the episode everyone couldn’t stop talking about, “Chapter Four: Dear Billy.”