SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers through the end of Season 4, Volume 2 of “Stranger Things,” currently streaming on Netflix.
The fourth and penultimate season of “Stranger Things” is filled with multiple worlds, numerous deaths and a pineapple pizza. Picking up directly after the events of Episode 7, the final two episodes — four hours in total — that make up “Stranger Things” Season 4, Vol. 2 answer many burning questions while presenting even more ahead of the final season.
Here, Variety breaks down just a few of the highlights.
Will’s Sexuality + Painting
At the start of Episode 8, Will’s (Noah Schnapp) painting is finally revealed. When Mike (Finn Wolfhard) tells Will he’s worried Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) will no longer need him, Will explains that she always will and reminds Mike he’s “the heart” of the group by showing him his painting. The canvas reveals the gang defeating a monster, with Mike leading the pack. He claims Eleven told him what to draw, but, as Eleven told Mike in a letter during the first episode of “Stranger Things” Season 4, she doesn’t know what the painting is.
Will tells Mike that Eleven has been “lost” without Mike. Through tears, he explains, “When you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake, but you make her feel like she’s not a mistake at all. Like she’s better for being different, and that gives her the courage to fight on.” He turns and begins crying, clearing expressing his own feelings for Mike, something his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) can see. This results in an emotional moment later in the episode between Jonathan and Will, during which Jonathan reminds his brother he will be there for him no matter what.
Eleven Escapes Papa for Good
When Eleven is ready to leave to help her friends, Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) is willing to let her go; Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) is not — so much so that he lies to her and tells her she’s not ready to face Vecna/One/Henry (Jamie Campbell Bower) and handcuffs Owens to a pipe. He blames Eleven for all the damage that happened, not taking responsibility for the fact that him pushing her to explore her darkness as a young girl is what led to Eleven opening that gate in 1983.
After he hits her with a tranquilizer, the military arrives to try and kill Eleven, causing Brenner to carry her out to safety. Upon arriving in the desert, he’s shot down by a helicopter of soldiers waiting above. After Mike and her friends arrive at the perfect time, allowing Eleven to wake up fully from whatever Brennen injected, she summons her strength and brings down the helicopter in a fiery crash. In his final breaths, Brenner frees her and asks her to tell him she understands that he did everything because he loved her — she holds his hand but refuses to give him that satisfaction.
Max Meets Vecna Again … and Eleven Goes Into Her Mind
The Hawkins gang hatches a four-phase plan to take out Vecna without Eleven, which involves Max (Sadie Sink) setting herself up as the bait. While listening to Nancy’s (Natalia Dyer) discovery of Vecna/One/Henry’s origins, Max realizes Vecna’s Upside Down clock always chimes four times, and he needs to claim a fourth victim to open a fourth gate in Hawkins in order to crack open a permanent rift between the two realities.
Nancy, Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Eddie (Joe Quinn) go back into the Upside Down to try to kill Vecna’s physical body, while Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Max go to the Creel house to lure his mind away by distracting him with another chance to claim Max.
Once Vecna does get Max under his spell again, she tries to hide from him in the memory of her first kiss with Lucas at the Snow Ball, but Vecna finds her. Luckily, so does Eleven — who, with the help of Argyle (Eduardo Franco), Jonathan, Will and Mike has made a sensory deprivation tank in a Surfer Boy Pizza place across the country in order to “piggyback” from Max’s mind into Vecna’s conciseness and fight him there.
Eddie Dies a Hero
For the Hawkins gang, Dustin and Eddie are responsible for luring the Demobats away from the Creel house in the Upside Down — so Eddie performs an epic guitar solo of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” on the roof of his trailer. While it works, eventually the bats find a way into the trailer and the pair prepare to escape through the gate into their own dimension.
After Dustin makes it to safety, Eddie decides to stay and give the Demobats a longer distraction from Nancy, Steve and Robin’s journey to Vecna, after previously beating himself up for running when Chrissy died. Dustin tries to get him to stop, but he refuses, sacrificing himself. By the time Dustin re-enters the Upside Down, the Demobats are dead but Eddie is also gasping for air, ultimately dying in Dustin’s arms after telling him he loves him.
Max Dies + Eleven Brings Her Back
Eleven and Vecna finally face off in Max’s mind via the “piggyback” method and Vecna gets the upper hand, restraining Eleven long enough that he can begin his gradual-bone-cracking-eye-bleeding-death ritual on Max through her mind. He manages to snap multiple limbs, make Max bleed from the eyes and blind her real-life body while she’s in his trance. But Eleven gets her strength back (thanks to some loving encouragement from “the heart” of the team, Mike, while she’s in the makeshift sensory deprivation tank) and pushes Vecna off Max from inside their minds long enough that Max comes out of his hold in the real world.
(While Max was in this trance, Lucas has been fighting with Chrissy’s boyfriend Jason, played by Mason Dye, to prevent the jock from waking Max before the plan to take out Vecna could be carried out.)
At the same time, Nancy, Steve and Robin reach Vecna’s body in the Upside Down and throw multiple Molotov cocktails at him before Nancy shoots him, sending his blazing body flying out the window of the Upside Down’s Creel House. But when they go outside to confirm the villain’s death, in classic horror movie form, Vecna’s body is no longer there. (He must have stolen the Michael Myers mask, and his method, at the same time.)
With Vecna dramatically weakened (but not necessarily deceased), Max is conscious in Hawkins long enough to tell Lucas she doesn’t want to die. He yells for help, but before Erica can call 9-1-1, Max dies. With Max’s death, though Vecna is nowhere to be seen, his plan is carried out and the fourth gate opens in Hawkins. Four giant fault lines crack through the earth beginning at the gates — one flaming right through Jason’s body, killing him — and come together in the center of the town to create a huge rift into the Upside Down.
Inside Max’s mind, Eleven reaches out to her friend and tells her she can’t go yet, and Eleven manages to somehow use her powers to bring Max back from the dead. Two days later, Will, Mike, Argyle, Jonathan and Eleven make it to Hawkins and discover that Max is still alive but in a coma in the hospital with Lucas and Erica at her side. Lucas confirms that Max did die, as her heart stopped for a full minute before miraculously restarting with no explanation. When Eleven tries to go into her friend’s mind once more now that Max is in a coma, she finds it black and empty, unable to connect with even the mental part of Max.
Hopper and Joyce Finally Kiss — and Break Out of Russia
Among all the madness, there was some happiness that ensued. While waiting for the helicopter to be fixed in Russia, Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder) finally kiss, as he tells her that thinking about their date — and the food he will be eating — got him through his time in prison. Unfortunately, their make out session is interrupted by a call from Hawkins which lets them both know all of their children are in danger. So, they’re ready to fight. First, they have to break back into the prison and destroy the particles to weaken Vecna, then they can go home — so that’s exactly what they do.
Hawkins Is In Trouble
By the end of the finale, Joyce and Hopper make it back to Hawkins and reunite with their children, and El is brought to tears when she learns her father is still alive and embraces him. There’s lot of hugging and happy crying.
While everyone is back together, all is certainly not right in Hawkins. Will tells Mike that now that they are back in town, he can feel that Vecna is not dead, he’s just badly injured. While everyone is reuniting with Hopper and Joyce, Will reaches for the back of his neck, a move he made many times when he was controlled by the Mind Flayer, as he turns to see the sky darken.
Then the people of Hawkins watch as Upside Down particles begin to fall from the sky in the real world. As the particles shift the green grass and colorful flowers of Hawkins into black-and-white death and decay in front of El and her friends, black smoke billows from the cracks leading to the Upside Down and red lightening crashes in the sky. Then the show cuts to black, leaving “Stranger Things” fans to await the fifth and final season.