‘Stranger Things 4’: Your guide to what to remember before watching

stranger things The latest new episodes drop in 2019, long before there was the so-called coronavirus pandemic. It seems like an eternity, and you’d be forgiven for not remembering where Netflix’s hit show left off. But with the first half of stranger things season 4 arriving on May 27 and the second half on July 1, it’s time to return to Hawkins. So where did we leave off?

(spoiler for the first three seasons of Stranger Things to come.)

The basics

So, back in season one, Hawkins, Indiana is just a normal 1980s small town. Until young Will Byers goes missing. It turns out the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory is messing around with the supernatural and has somehow broken into a spooky dimension called the Upside Down, unleashing monsters such as demogorgons and the terrifying Mind Flayer. The lab also experiments on children who appear to have special powers. One of them, nicknamed Eleven, escapes and joins Will’s group of friends – Mike, Dustin and Lucas – and helps save Will. Eleven is adopted by the city’s Chief of Police, Jim Hawkins. Happy ending? Ha, we’re just getting started.

We also meet the entertaining older siblings of Will’s crew – his brother, Jonathan; Mike’s sister, Nancy; and Nancy’s boyfriend, Steve “The Hair” Harrington. (Steve started off as a jerk, but got a lot better.) Also, Nancy’s friend Barb. RIP, Beard.

In the second season, a new family moves to town from California. Redhead Maxine “Max” Mayfield ends up fitting in with the Will-Mike-Dustin-Lucas-Eleven group, while her abusive half-brother Billy Hargrove pisses off the kids. But as the characters come and go, Upside Down and its creatures remain a threat. This brings us to Season 3, which aired in 2019. Here we go…

Season 3 begins

It’s 1984-85, and the Starcourt Mall is Hawkins’ new hangout, complete with the Jazzercize gym and all the crazy neon colors of a mall in Madonna’s heyday.

  • Dustin is back from science camp and having fun with a girl from Utah named Suzie whom he contacts via ham radio.
  • Mike and Eleven are a couple, and Hopper isn’t happy about it. THREE THUMB RULE!
  • All the moms at the pool drool over lifeguard Billy, but as he goes on a possible date with Nancy and Mike’s mom, he is possessed by the Mind Flayer. Billy ends up kidnapping fellow lifeguard, Heather, and ends up feeding her and her parents the creature.
  • Meanwhile, Nancy and Jonathan dig into the mysteries of the town via their intern jobs at the local newspaper (which is staffed by a group of misogynistic losers). They investigate the case of a strange old lady, Mrs. Driscoll, who has noticed strange occurrences related to rats.
  • Steve and new character Robin Buckley work together at the mall’s ice cream shop, Scoops Ahoy, where they help Dustin translate a Russian radio message he intercepted. Lucas’ sister Erica, a scene stealer if there ever was one, appears and ends up helping the scoop troupe way more than you might think.

Fight for it all at the mall

All the different groups are working together to try and figure out the mysteries – from Billy’s strange possession, to the Russian transmission, and more. It all ends in a seesaw battle on multiple fronts. You really have to watch it, but here are some highlights.

  • The Scoops Troop (Robin, Steve, Dustin, and Erica) find a Russian lab under the Starcourt Mall, where the soldiers are trying to make their way into the Upside Down. At one point, Steve and Robin are drugged by the Russians, but they recover. Erica is damn sassy and fearless, and Dustin reaches out to Suzie for a pivotal code, at which point they sing a romantic duet from NeverEnding Story, the theme from the 1984 film. No kidding. Here, look at this.
  • Nancy and Jonathan find Will, Mike, Lucas, Eleven, and Max, and they all end up running around the mall hiding from Russian soldiers, the Mind Flayer, and the possessed Billy. Eleven uses her powers to travel to Billy’s troubled past and manages to free him from the Mind Flayer, whereupon he sacrifices himself to save her.
  • Hopper and Joyce enlist the help of Russian-speaking Murray and take a jovial, Slurpee-loving Russian named Alexei as the most willing hostage. He’s helpful and fun, but gets shot (thanks to a Woody Woodpecker carnival prize) by another Russian at the Hawkins Fair. Hopper, Joyce, and Murray fight to close the door and kill the Mind Flayer, but unfortunately Hopper is trapped on the wrong side of the door. In a tearful scene, he tells Joyce to blow him up, presumably killing him. NOOOOOOO, HOP!

Where are the characters at the end of the season?

Hopper is back in the USSR

Hawkins’ crew assumes he is dead. But an after-credits scene shown during the finale reveals an American being imprisoned in a creepy Russian prison camp where unlucky prisoners are fed a demogorgon. Trailers have since confirmed that Hopper is alive and well in this unnerving prison located in Kamchatka, Russia. Don’t worry, he’ll get through this one way or another. He and Joyce need to get this romantic relationship off the ground.

California here we come

Joyce Byers left Hawkins, taking her sons Will and Jonathan. Ever since Hopper was presumed dead, Eleven, who is now without her powers, has accompanied the Byers family, ending up in the fictional town of Lenora Hills, California. Things don’t look sunny in the Golden State, though – a preview shows El getting snubbed at school, then whisked away in some sort of prison van. But hey, at least their new town seems to have a roller rink. And Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) is back, telling El the world has no hope without her.

Meanwhile, back in Hawkins…

So who’s back at Hawkins? Well, Lucas, who seems to be doing well on the school basketball team. Max, who mourns Billy, and at one point floats in the air above his grave. Mike and Dustin are seen cheering on Lucas during a game, and Mike wears a shirt for the Hellfire Club, which is apparently the school’s Dungeons & Dragons club. There’s a kind of plot that revolves around what looks like a haunted house, and a deteriorating grandfather clock plays a part – time travel, perhaps? Erica, Steve, and Nancy are briefly seen in the trailer, but we wonder if Steve and Robin really got those jobs at the video store. (Manager Keith told Robin, “You…start Monday,” before pointing at Steve and saying, “You…never start.”)

How to watch Stranger Things season 4

Get Netflix and settling in for the first half of Season 4, which is set to arrive on May 27, and the rest of season July 1. Unlike Dustin and Suzie’s song, it’s not a never-ending story – there’s only one season of Stranger Things left after this one.

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