'Stranger Things' fourth season finale is surprising and powerful The characters' relationships develop and they face an array of surprises and complications in the bustling storyline that closes the fourth season.

Review

Television

'Stranger Things' season finale succeeds by leaning into excess

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JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Netflix's hit supernatural drama "Stranger Things" drops two final episodes in its fourth season today. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says these oversized episodes, which have been anticipated by fans for weeks, succeed by leaning into everything that makes the show compelling and exciting.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: What I have come to love about "Stranger Things'" fourth season beyond the expanded episodes, new characters and amped-up action is how established characters reveal new depths, like Dr. Martin Brenner, a meticulous, ruthless scientist played by Matthew Modine. He helped raise the show's heroine, a teen with telekinetic and telepathic powers known as Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown. The doctor has been helping Eleven strengthen her powers to take on Vecna, also named Henry, a villain from an alternate universe called the Upside Down who has targeted Eleven's friends. And Brenner has figured out why.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGER THINGS")

MATTHEW MODINE: (As Martin Brenner) Your friends are in terrible danger. With each victim he takes, Henry is chiseling away at the barrier that exists between our two worlds.

MILLIE BOBBY BROWN: (As Eleven) Chiseling.

MODINE: (As Martin Brenner) Imagine, if you will, the barrier between our worlds is a concrete dam. Henry is putting cracks in this dam. Eventually it will reach a breaking point, and the dam will burst.

DEGGANS: Not exactly the most comforting pep talk when you're trying to stop an apocalypse. "Stranger Things" has always turned on an improbable premise. A group of nerdy kids in the fictional town of Hawkins, Ind., keep horrible creatures from consuming our world with the help of a few bumbling adults. Netflix dropped seven episodes of the show's new season in May, saving two oversized episodes for today, including a season-ending installment over two hours long.

I really like these oversized episodes stuffed with kinetic action and effects featuring key characters spread all over the globe. For example, David Harbour's emotionally damaged sheriff of Hawkins, Jim Hopper, was thought dead but actually landed in a Russian prison. In these final episodes, after Winona Ryder's Joyce Byers grabbed a friend and raced off to save him, they are stuck trying to force a bizarre Russian pilot to fly them out of the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGER THINGS")

NIKOLA DJURICKO: (As Yuri) You Neanderthal.

DAVID HARBOUR: (As Jim Hopper) Shut your mouth, or I am going to take this. I'm going to rub it along the bottom of my shoe, and I'm going to jam it down your throat.

DJURICKO: (As Yuri) Well, go ahead. But then you'll never make it out of my country alive.

WINONA RYDER: (As Joyce Byers) So you can get us out.

DJURICKO: (As Yuri) For a glass of water and hot steam bath and five-inch stack of American dollars.

DEGGANS: OK, maybe that makes more sense when you've seen all the episodes. I also loved moments when the action would pause for characters to connect. In one moment, Joyce's son Will and his friend Mike, who's dating Eleven, are looking for her. Mike, played by Finn Wolfhard, frets he's not good enough for his superpowered girlfriend. Will, played by Noah Schnapp, says he's wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGER THINGS")

NOAH SCHNAPP: (As Will Byers) It's just she's so different from other people. And when you're different, sometimes you feel like a mistake. But you make her feel like she's not a mistake it all, like she's better for being different. And that gives her the courage to fight on. If she was mean to you or she seemed like she was pushing you away, it's probably because she's scared of losing you just like you're scared of losing her.

DEGGANS: As Will hides the tears in his eyes, you wonder if he hasn't revealed a bit more about how he feels towards Mike than he planned. It's those moments that really left me loving these last two installments of "Stranger Things'" fourth season and eagerly awaiting what they have planned for the next. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALTIC HOUSE ORCHESTRA'S "STRANGER THINGS (MAIN TITLE THEME)")

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