Spoilers follow for the final two episodes of Stranger Things’s fourth season, which debuted on Netflix on July 1.
Hawkins, Indiana, is a deadly place to live, and Stranger Things season four goes full Buffy the Vampire Slayer in practically destroying the town by the end of new episodes “Chapter Eight: Papa” and “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback.” Baddie Vecna, newly revealed to be behind all the ongoing weirdness in Hawkins, does so much damage by opening his gates to the Upside Down that Hawkins looks as if it was hit by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, and acid rain. Buffy hell god Glorificus would be so proud!
But in a very spread-apart season, Vecna’s destruction isn’t limited to just Hawkins — he’s putting bodies on the floor all over America. Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp joked about the series needing “to kill people off” in May, before season four premiered, so fans have been ready for some loss. Let’s get this out of the way: None of the original company members, their siblings, their parents, or their new friends from seasons two and three who were already alive and established going into season four died. For the most part, the major Stranger Things names were safe.
But which of the deaths that did go down during this season’s nine episodes hit the hardest? Let’s do some morbid ranking from most to least devastating.
Oh, Eddie. Admittedly, I did not see this character’s appeal at first! In a season that felt like the Duffer brothers amping up their ’80s mimicry to untenable levels, Eddie seemed to be little more than a mishmash of character clichés from that time. But probably midway through Vol. 1, it became clear that Eddie was essentially a good version of the forever-irritating Billy — harder-edged than Steve but really just a metalhead misfit trying to hang out with his Hellfire friends instead of being hunted down as a devil worshipper and murderer. The moment in “The Piggyback” when he decides to atone for his (understandable) cowardice earlier in the season by sacrificing himself to save Dustin and their other friends is lovely and heartbreaking. I’m glad he got the Metallica homage moment with that “Master of Puppets” performance, and kudos to Joseph Quinn for the palpable regret he brought to his line delivery of “I just ran, and I left her there.” R.I.P., buddy.
Max Mayfield (maybe!)
Max would have been No. 1 if she stayed dead, but Stranger Things provided us with a technicality we have to honor. It’s a little odd that Will gives Mike such a big speech in “The Piggyback” about him being the heart of the group when that role really belonged to Sadie Sink’s Max this season as she grappled with losing her stepbrother, Billy, her best girlfriend, Eleven, and her mother and pushed herself away from Lucas and the company. Max’s realization that she did want to live — did want to keep running up that hill, if you will — was up there with Eddie’s sacrifice, and though her coma is worrying, it feels like a sign Max will eventually wake up. Remember how Game of Thrones pretended for ten months that Jon Snow was dead when he very obviously was going to return? The loss of Max hurts right now, but hopefully it isn’t permanent.
Dr. Sam Owens (also a maybe!)
Is this another technicality? Maybe, because we don’t exactly see Dr. Owens die at the bottom of that abandoned laboratory. But with everyone connected to the lab dead, and with Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sullivan leaving Owens handcuffed at the bottom of that underground facility, I’m going to assume some kind of awful Ex Machina future awaits our guy. That’s too bad since Paul Reiser is a legend and his Dr. Owens was a great counterpoint to Papa: He genuinely cared about Eleven and felt anguish and guilt over separating her from her friends and forcing her to take part in the Nina experiments. If he dies, it’s because he was trying to give Eleven back her freedom and free will, and that’s meaningful and admirable.
Chrissy was Vecna’s first victim this season, and though her arc is contained in premiere episode “The Hellfire Club,” it’s still pretty compelling and sets the tone for the “youth cut down in their prime” atmosphere of this fourth season. Her friendship with Eddie was quietly charming, and the trauma she was living with was agonizing. Actress Grace Van Dien did a lot with a little.
Like Chrissy, we didn’t really know much about Fred beyond the fact that he wanted to be a journalist and Vecna preyed on his fears before killing him. Pretty crappy of 001, IMHO!
We knew even less about Patrick than we did about Fred: He was seemingly a goodish guy because of his older-brother mentorship role for Lucas on the basketball team, but he also got swept up in Jason’s peer pressure, and his death didn’t reveal any of his personality or past, as Chrissy’s and Fred’s did. Still, sad!
Dr. Martin Brenner
Peace out, Papa. I am not sorry to see you go! You basically tortured children on behalf of the U.S. government and never felt that bad about it, and I’m glad Eleven denied you the forgiveness you so desperately craved. Taking her collar off was nice, but you put it on in the first place? So net zero there. Matthew Modine remained wonderfully creepy and morally murky until the end, but hopefully the definite removal of Dr. Brenner as a threat for Eleven allows her character to move forward.
I have only one reaction to this death: the Ryan Gosling “Bye!” wave. Bye, Jason, you jerk! Trying to kill Lucas? Going all white-suburbia vigilante? You absolutely cannot live after that.
22 Hawkins citizens killed in the “earthquake”
Unnamed by news reports but upsetting nevertheless — unless some of the 22 were involved in hunting down Eddie. If so, good riddance!
A bunch of military and scientist randos
They died while hunting and harming children. My sympathy is very low.
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