WBack in 2016, when Stranger Things first hit Netflix, the world was a different place. The streaming service itself costs $8, and if you weren’t thrilled at the prospect of endless content, albeit of widely varying quality, there was the little matter of Stranger Things to convince you to hit the subscription button. It had ’80s nostalgia in abundance, a better soundtrack than most John Hughes movies, and somehow seemed to be a better fit for Stephen King than the writer himself, or at least those filmmakers and showrunners who have tried to bring the work of the master of terror to the screen. .

Fast-forward six years and Stranger Thing returns after a three-year hiatus (presumably interrupted by Covid). Now Netflix is ​​no longer the bright young man of the streaming revolution, but a squeaky behemoth that costs up to three times what it used to, especially if you’re watching in UHD, and has 6 million competitors. It has lost 200,000 subscribers and is expected to lose 2 million more. The stock’s valuation has fallen more than 25% and there is even talk of a cheaper ad-driven version of the service, something Netflix said it would never do.

Meanwhile, critically acclaimed Netflix-produced shows like Archive 81 and The Baby-Sitters Club are being axed before they’ve really had a chance to shine, and there’s just around the corner the little matter of most massive summer season of TV streaming in memory. , with the likes of Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ms Marvel, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings and HBO’s Westworld all set to muddy the waters. In truth, the Demodogs are at the door, and if they haven’t gotten in yet, it’s probably just a matter of time.

All of this means the service needs its biggest beast to win back subscribers harder than Elle (Eleven) ever needed to break out of Hawkins National Laboratory, especially with Ozark recently completing its four-season run. To put things in perspective, the third season of Stranger Things was Netflix’s most-watched show of all time when it hit screens in October 2019, with over 64 million views in its first four weeks and over 582 million views. million to date. Since then, he’s been overtaken by Bridgerton seasons one and two, but is almost guaranteed to reclaim his crown with season four.

Thankfully, the first part of season four is a tour de force unlike anything seen on television before, its appearance after all this time is like discovering a fabulous batch of late blooming rogue rhododendrons that you swear you never planted in your garden (even if you are fully aware that this evil but charming shrub will probably turn out to be at least a part of the Venus flytrap when you get your hands near it).

It apparently takes place six months after the events of the third season, although some characters seemed to have aged about 10 years at the time, there is a new central villain to replace the Mindflayer, or perhaps sit next to him. He is a terrifying undead wizard known as Vecna, who (like all the monsters in Stranger Things) literally jumped right out of the Dungeons and Dragons game box.

We meet Hawkins’ new hero, lovable, somewhat cowardly metal-headed and incorrigible dungeon master Eddie, who finds himself framed for the murders Vecna ​​is actually committing (with bone-shattering unbearable horror) in reverse. There’s even Elle’s trip back to Hawkins’ lab, because we all know she’ll never be allowed to live a normal, happy teenage existence. Meanwhile, Winona Ryder’s Joyce and Brett Gelman’s Murray Bauman find themselves wandering Siberia in a desperate effort to find long-lost Hopper (David Harbour), who, if you’ll remember, was last seen disappearing into Hell. with some Soviet scoundrels.

Millie Bobby Brown. Photograph: Courtesy of Netflix

The cast seems to have expanded exponentially beyond the initial four horsemen of the apocalypse in reverse: Dustin, Lucas, Will, and Mike, who we met in the first season. Maya Hawke’s Robin Buckley is now a full-fledged member of the anti-Mindflayer team, and Sadie Sink’s wonderful Max is still dealing with the psychological and supernatural fallout from the death of her cocky brother Billy in season three. But if there’s so much more story to tell, it doesn’t really matter because most episodes now run around 80 minutes, making the first part of the season not just an epic TV experience like no other, but a glorious one. collection of seven sprawling, interconnected mini-films that should run around 500 minutes or more. And that’s before the final two episodes debut in July. Take that, streaming rivals! This season makes HBO Max’s four-plus hour version of Justice League look like an episode of Friends.

So will Stranger Things get Netflix back on its feet, win back lost subscribers, and let the men in suits breathe a sigh of relief? With this evidence, the show’s return certainly won’t do any harm to subscriber numbers, and pulling the plug before July’s two-part finale would be about as smart as trying to French kiss a Demogorgon. Longer term, it remains to be seen if the streaming service can continue to break new ground, but it just rolled the equivalent of 20 on one of those many-sided D&D dice. Just stop raising the price now, please.

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