Kate Bush, Dungeons and Dragons, 1980s slasher movies – even by Stranger Things standards, this latest season of Netflix’s biggest blockbuster has brimmed with retro references and heart-in-mouth action. And in the final two episodes – cumulatively clocking in at a stonking four hours – Eleven and the gang receive a send-off to remember.
Netflix has warned against spoilers, on threat of immediate banishment to the Upside Down. But suffice to say a double-whammy conclusion will have fans hooked, floored and clutching their D20s in suspense.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) cranks it all the way up to … whatever number comes after ten, having had her power restored in Dr Brenner’s little flotation tank of horrors. Back in Hawkins, Dustin, Steve, Lucas, Max and the gang take the fight to Vecna – the undead sorcerer haunting the dreams and claiming the souls of their home’s most traumatised denizens.
This yields lashings of top-drawer tension. And provides an opportunity for small town metaller Eddie – a character you could have found sitting on a wall outside a snooker hall anywhere in Ireland in the mid-1980s – to demonstrate his love of Metallica. It’s a hugely contrived set-piece and which I won’t spoil by going into details. Let’s just say you’ll never listen to Master of Puppets the same way again.
Stranger Things is like a jack in the box where the jack is Steven Spielberg’s early filmography. Nonetheless, it’s the human moments that make it work. And, as we wend our way towards the finish line, some of our favourite characters are in need of a shoulders to cry on.
Your heart will break for Will, his feelings for best friend Mike doomed to go unreciprocated. Likewise struggling with being different is Robin – who crosses paths once again with crush Vickie (played by Letterkenny actress Amybeth McNulty).
There are a few twists along the way – and at least one significant death. And you have to hand it to Vecna: he’s the series’s best villain yet. But you don’t watch Stranger Things for the destination; it’s all about the journey, and this is the rollercoaster ride audiences have yearned for after speed-bingeing the previous seven instalments.
There’s more Vecna in his house on the hill, more Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) tangling with the Demogorgon in Russia,more of Eleven twisting metal and pulling machines from the sky.
Could Stranger Things fans ask for anything else? Well, yes – one more season. And don’t worry – that has already been confirmed. In the meantime, this finale runs up the hill of hype and delivers a multitude of pay-offs to savour.