Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4.After weeks of speculating, debating, and even making ranked lists of which of its characters are most likely to die, Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 2 has finally arrived to put us all out of our misery. Several players in the story do indeed meet their grisly end, while others sustain grave injuries that set up major storylines for the following season. None of those people are Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), thank God. Unfortunately, many fans still had some of their worst fears realized, and casualties among other beloved characters make the finale difficult to watch. Major spoilers ahead.
“Piggyback,” the two-and-a-half-hour-long season finale, sees Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve, Robin (Maya Hawke), Eddie (Joseph Quinn), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Max (Sadie Sink), and Erica (Priah Ferguson) launching their plan to defeat Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). Dustin and Eddie are decoys in the Upside Down to distract the demobats from the Creel house while Nancy, Steve, and Robin can go there to hunt for Vecna’s physical body. Meanwhile, in the normal world, Lucas, Erica, and Max are in the Creel house distracting Vecna from his physical body by giving him another chance to enter Max’s mind. When he takes the bait, Max uses happy memories to hide from him, but he soon finds her nonetheless. Across the country, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) knows about her friends’ plan; However, there’s no way for her to make it back to Hawkins in time to help them. Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and Argyle (Eduardo Franco) create a makeshift sensory deprivation tank for her in the back of a Surfer Boy Pizza place: this allows her to use her powers to mentally find Max and then “piggyback” from Max’s mindscape to Vecna’s and fight him there.
The most devastating death of the finale, and of the season as a whole, is undoubtedly that of Eddie Munson. Eddie has become a fan favorite from the moment he first appeared as the misfit leader of Hawkins High’s D&D club, called the Hellfire Club. However, it is not only his cherished status among viewers but also the manner of his death that makes it so gut-wrenching. Steve tells Dustin and Eddie to hide as soon as they’ve distracted the bats, instructing them to not try to be heroes and to get to safety as soon as possible. “Absolutely,” Eddie reassures him; and then, referring to himself and Dustin, “I mean, look at us. We are not heroes. ” Comforted, Steve, Robin, and Nancy leave to hunt for Vecna.
After he and Dustin barricade the trailer, Eddie gets on the roof and performs a wild guitar solo of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” with the upside-down version of his guitar. They distract the bats from the Creel house and then hide from them in the trailer, but the bats soon find a way to get in through the vents. To escape, Eddie and Dustin head to the gate back to their own dimension. However, after Dustin crosses over, Eddie hesitates – then, finally, he cuts the bedsheet rope that gives easy access from one world to another, ignoring Dustin’s pleas to save himself, and runs out of the trailer to further distract the demobats from Nancy, Steve, and Robin so that they can complete their mission.
Dustin struggles to return to the Upside Down without the rope, but when he finally does, he finds the aftermath of a bloody battle between Eddie and the demobats. It is a case of mutual destruction: Eddie has killed them, significantly increasing Nancy, Robin, and Steve’s chances for survival and success. However, Eddie himself has been mortally wounded in the fight. But, his arc has, in a way, come to its natural conclusion. During the entirety of the series, fans have loved Eddie for his unapologetic sense of self even in the face of a school and town that willingly misunderstands him. But he also knows what his flaws are: among these, that he is afraid of what’s currently happening around him. He is ashamed of having run away after Chrissy’s death.
In Episode 7, he cites Nancy leaping into the water after Steve to the gate to the Upside Down, saying the only thing that propelled him to go after that was the shame at his own cowardice in comparison to her bravery. In confronting the demobats, he has harnessed the kind of courage that, at the beginning of the season, only existed for him in the world of imagination through D&D sessions with his friends. And even then, as dungeon master, he encouraged them to retreat rather than face Vecna, knowing their minuscule odds. After the deadly fight with the bats, he asks Dustin “I did not run away this time, right?” before dying in his arms.
Max’s fate is less straightforward than Eddie’s; and yet, it would not be wrong to say that she too dies in the season finale. Eleven and Vecna battle in Max’s mind; However, Vecna begins to get the upper hand, and, from the perspective of the outside world, Max begins to undergo the transformation that we’ve seen in Vecna’s other victims. She rises into the air. Her limbs crack. Her eyes bleed. Mike, watching Eleven struggle in the sensory deprivation tank, gives an emotional, soul-baring speech that electrifies her enough to rip Vecna away from Max. In the outside world, Max comes out of his grip and falls into Lucas’s arms. Lucas tells Erica to call an ambulance. Max is now blind; “Lucas, I’m scared. I’m so scared. I’m so scared, ”she says. “I do not want to die. I’m not ready. ” Lucas tries to comfort her, but her words convey the terror of death in a way that feels unusual for a TV series. In film and television, characters drop like flies, but they rarely give us an existential crisis about our own deaths and about what it must be like to actually die. Max’s death is terrifying because she herself is so terrified – and it makes us think about how scared we too would be if we were on the brink of that darkness ourselves.
Clinically, Max does die. However, Eleven is determined not to lose her; Somehow, she uses her powers to bring her back from the dead. When we next see her, it is at the end of the episode: she is in a coma at the hospital with Lucas reading to her by her bedside. The doctors are unsure about when she will wake up, or if she ever will. Eleven tries to go inside Max’s mind but finds only darkness. Because of Eddie and Max’s sacrifices, Steve, Nancy, and Robin successfully reach Vecna’s body in the Upside Down, barraging him with bullets and Molotov cocktails. On fire and riddled with bullet holes, he falls out the window of the Creel house and crashes to the ground. This seems pretty definitive – except that, when Steve, Nancy, and Robin go outside to make sure he’s really dead, his body is gone. Even if he isn’t dead, he’s severely weakened; The trouble is that with Max’s death, his plan has succeeded, and a fourth gate opens in Hawkins.
With the creation of this gate, four giant cracks form in the earth, connecting to one another and creating a gigantic crevice leading to the Upside Down. The local news bills this event as an earthquake and states that the death toll is 22 people, with some unaccounted for. One of these people is Chrissy’s boyfriend, Jason (Mason Dye). Earlier in the episode, Jason interrupts Lucas and Max as Vecna holds Max in a trance. He holds Lucas at gunpoint, demanding that he wake up Max. A physical fight breaks out between the two boys. When the giant rifts to the Upside Down form, one splits right through the middle of Jason’s body, killing him.
The Stranger Things Season 4 finale provides fans with some happy endings. The Hopper rescue crew survives and returns to America. Hopper (David Harbor) and Eleven are finally reunited. Max isn’t dead. Vecna has been repelled – for the time being at least. Nevertheless, the Hawkins at the end of “Piggyback” is one in chaos. People have lost loved ones, and while Max isn’t dead, she’s in a coma whose heaviness even Eleven cannot breach. Now that he’s back in Hawkins, Will can tell Vecna isn’t dead, despite being severely injured. What’s more, the Upside Down now appears to be blending into the real world. The protagonists watch as particles from the Upside Down fall from the sky in their own dimension. As they fall, the grass and flowers wither and decay. Thunder booms in the distance while red lightning crackles among black storm clouds, which almost seem to be blooming from the black smoke billowing from the crevices in the ground. Season 4 ends by making it clear that fans will have to wait until the fifth season of Stranger Things to watch the final battle for Hawkins unfold.