Gaten Matarazzo and Finn Wolfhard in Stranger Things.

While Disney+ has shit the bed with the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Stranger Things is better than ever in its fourth, extremely dark season.

This season sees the Hawkins crew dealing with a new threat that is something akin to Freddy Krueger—a monster that puts kids in a trance-like state before graphically twisting them toward a bone-cracking, pretzel-like death. The Duffer Brothers are definitely leaning hard into retro horror with this one—and it’s scary and extremely well done.

The returning cast is as strong as ever, with Maya Hawke evolving into nice comic relief as Robin; Millie Bobby Brown going through all kinds of new tribulations as Eleven; and Sadie Sink rising to the occasion as Max, who has a particularly rough storyline this time out. The boys, led by Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Joe Keery, are as goofy and charming as ever.

Winona Ryder’s Joyce and Brett Gelman’s Murray hold up a mostly comedic plot thread as they try to rescue Hopper (David Harbour) from a Russian prison, while Brown and Matthew Modine hold down a dark plot thread that shows a little more about the sad history of Eleven.

There are a lot of balls in the air this season; hats off to the writers and editors, who have delivered a well-structured, nicely paced, competently edited season—these episodes look great, as ’70s and ’80s references abound. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Silence of the Lambs, Carrie, “Acid King” teen murderer Ricky Kasso, Evil Dead, The NeverEnding Story, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Altered States, WarGames and Ghostbusters get obvious nods, just name a few.

The final two episodes of this fourth season will be released July 1; after that, Stranger Things will conclude with its fifth season. If these seven episodes of Season Four are any indication, the show is heading toward a solid and memorable finale.

Stranger Things: Season Four, Vol. 1 is now streaming on Netflix.

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