By Stuart Mitchner
“Do you want to feel how it feels?”
—Kate Bush, from “Running Up That Hill”
Three days after the May 24 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, Matt and Ross Duffer’s Stranger Things 4 opened with a jarring series of shots showing the bloodied bodies of children. Rather than cut the sequence, which is flashed back to in subsequent episodes, Netflix covers the coincidence with an advisory, noting that the season was filmed a year ago, and that, “given the recent tragic shooting,” viewers may find the opening scene “distressing.” Then: “We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”
The placement makes it possible to relate “unspeakable violence” to both the show and the massacre. However you read it, that’s not a good way to begin the fourth season of a school-centered show, especially not a season as wildly, graphically, and sometimes gratuitously violent as this one. The formulaic statement only sharpens the focus on this season’s excesses and the relative absence of the humor and character and other qualities that made Stranger Things special.
Building to an Ending
In an interview about ST 2 on ign.com, Matt Duffer shared his thoughts on the future of the series. Speaking of “the shows that we really look up to,” Duffer said Breaking Bad was his favorite because “it feels like it was never treading water … like it built to an ending that was very much intended from the beginning. It feels like a very, very complete show, and it just nailed the landing, so that’s the goal and the hope, and it’s really, really difficult. But hopefully we get there.”
Perhaps the fear of “treading water” explains why the Duffers are piling the action on in the new season, as if desperate to cover every base, every horror, every action sequence, every character, with the result that episodes go on too long, the first seven running for nine hours total. more