Alternative Stranger Things Season Four Ending

— All the Spoilers Obviously —

So, you’ve finished the fourth season of Stranger Things and you’re walking away with Kate Bush and Metallica. You have a strange, unexplainable desire to watch Guardians of the Galaxy without understanding the nostalgic trap that has been set before you. But you’re not just walking away with this, you’re walking away with a confusion that you can see at the corner of your eyes, at the corner of the story.

Why did they have to be in Russia and what was that all about? What exactly was the power set in the mental landscape vs the real world vs the Upside Down? Why could Eleven lift up Vecna, turn him around, throw him through bleachers in one scene and then just get overpowered in the next? Infact, what the fuck does it matter that you threw a mental projection of a dream Vecna into the bleachers? Why does dream physic power look exactly the same as it would look as if they actually fought in person? Why was Sam in a memory within a memory for Eleven and what was the actual point of all that?

Look, you have questions and while the ride was fantastic on the rails, you’re thinking how strange things (heh) it looks when looked at from a different perspective. I get that. That’s why you’re here. But the sad thing is they could’ve created a way tighter season with the working material they had.

Let’s break down how this works and I’ll keep the first half of the show pretty consistent. Hopper is in Russia, Eleven is in the Rocky Montage Chamber, the kids are separated. Sam is cursed. All of this is about the same. There will be one key difference.

In Chapter 7: A Massacre at Hawkins Lab there is a scene where Papa is talking to Eleven. Within the context of the story Eleven has had a taste of reactivating her powers, but can’t seem to hone in on them enough to control them with any accuracy. Papa talks to her about the choice she has and if they go back into the machine and unlock the memories of her past, she will be able to heal. He gives a spiel about trusting her, the camera pans over to the Nina suit and the next scene is her getting in. If contrived was a candy, it would taste like that.

That isn’t going to be what happens. She doesn’t trust Papa, he does his spiel, he walks away. The door closes. Eleven is confused, scared, the world feels too big. It’s the extension of the scene of the two men talking about her just before that. Saying she’s a scared little girl, what are they even doing? But instead of just jumping into Nina as an excuse to give is Vecna’s backstory, she is going to be within a mental state of distress. She will access her power through this state as we have seen before and fits within the mechanics of the show and her power, but she’s going to be reaching out to Hopper. Not because she knows he’s alive, not because she’s consciously doing it, but because she has ALWAYS been doing it.

While she starts ugly crying in her cell, we get flash backs of her presenting her father as her hero in episode one. We get the scene of that, of the thing she made breaking, of how mad she is getting, how alone she felt and through this suddenly the chaos stops and it goes dark and she looks up and in the darkness is Hopper sitting in a jail cell with his russian friend. She’s confused. She doesn’t believe it. She doesn’t get it.

She stands up in the blackness, she runs to him, hugs him. You see a scene of him sitting down looking at the demigorgan cage. His russian friend against the bar. His eyes express shock, he doesn’t know what he’s feeling. Then he’s in the blackness too. Eleven is hugging him. He opens his mouth about to say something, but she’s crying. He hugs her. His facial expression indicates that he’s realizing her powers and realizing she’s able to do this. This scene has some emotional music, he breaks it by saying, ‘hey kiddo’. I don’t know, write some hopper lines.

Finally she looks up, says she doesn’t know what to do. Hopper says, ‘okay tell me what’s going on.” He’s in prison, ready to be eaten by a monster, but at this moment he’s just keeping his kid safe. The scene cuts there. The next scene is Eleven getting in her Nina suit. Papa says something like, ‘I’m glad you changed your mind’. The narrative juxtaposition making it evident that her conversation with Hopper gave her the motivation to go through with this. It buries in your head there is a plan. The russian says like, ‘you seem hopeful today american’. And Hopper says, ‘I got places to be.’ or some smart aleck line.

Now the show plays out relatively the same. Eleven gets out, gets full use of her powers, explores the mind of her friends, and learns the plan they are making. The events happen relatively normally from here. Papa betrays her, locks her up, the army attacks, she goes 100% freiza power level and deals with it. This whole thing is kind of silly, like papa sneak attacking her seems really forced. But the point is she wants to get back to hawking, they can’t get back, she falls back on using the pizza cooler.

The main twist here is that Vecna knows exactly what everyone here is doing. He is inside their mind, he knows their plan. But do you know what he doesn’t know? He doesn’t know Eleven. He doesn’t know what Eleven has been doing. The Russian prison isn’t going to be overcome with dead guards and a bunch of demigorgans as a weird justification for the entire plot happening. The ivans were studying them, they’re not going to be instantly defenseless if one escapes, that’s absolutely fucking lunacy. That they’d have no fail safe for that? That they trusted their gate system that much? No way. They have methods for killing it and will kill it. But it will have done significant damage. The prison will be in total disarray and abandoned. The radio system was destroyed and gate has opened up, it’s ground zero. But that’s exactly what our plucky heroes wanted.

We already know Hopper got to Russia using upside down portal, so we know we can get back. They’re not going to just go there to fight some hivemind using movie logic that it should help. They’re going back there, so they can be the unseen chess piece against Vecna.

One note — Eleven does confront Vecna in Sam’s mindscape, but she never has the upper hand. She’s the one who is trying her best to keep him away. It isn’t a weird power fight. It is her and Sam jumping through memories and buying time. Vecna taunts them while this happens. Talks about how powerful he has grown. How they have no chance. Then when it looks like he has them trapped and cornered inside the mansion. Eleven pulls them into his memory of capturing spiders. He says it’s amusing and Eleven tells him it’s instructional. He looks confused and we flip to Hopper with a flame thrower looking at Vecna from outside the window. Vecna slams open his eyes to see a get of lava hot magma eat through the wood and burn the tendrils he is holding himself up with. He mind blasts Hopper off the roof, stumbles to the ground and rolls around. He’s about to get up when the door slams open and it’s Nancy Wheeler with a shotgun. She blows his head clean off. The building is on fire, Robin lights her cocktail anyways and throws it, Nancy and Steve look at her in disbelief and she shrugs. They run out of the building as it is absolutely consumed in fire and run into the Russian crew. They say they’ll explain later, but they need to get out of there. The thing is Vecna can kill instantly, so the idea he’s just going to stare Nancy in the face for 3 minutes while she shoots him is just not logical. The only reason he has let them live is because he is the predator and he’s playing with his food. Realistically he could’ve murdered the entire town by walking through a portal and neck snapping everyone. The only reason any character is alive is because he lets them live. In that moment he has no reason not to snap all of their necks. The only logical way to beat him while considering his power is by the complete surprise before he can react. Also actually killing his body instantly instead of 5 minutes of him on fire looking vaguely mad.

So, while they run back to the camper to get back to the regular world, we see the fire give way to smoke and the smoke bellows up from the mansion into the shape that looks man-like from the distance as they head into the camper.

While this is happening, max is safe completely from vecna. But the Jock comes in and sees her floating and opens fire. Sam is shot in the chest, she falls down. Maybe Lucas and him tumble around, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that since Sam still dies, the conditions of the ritual are completed. Not by the monster of the other world, but by the monsters of our world — people governed by fear. Way cooler and more meaningful right?

Sam could live or die from this in the same capacity, but the trigger point of it is what matters. Vecna in universe is built up to be more powerful than Eleven, so they should’ve always been playing it defensively. Eleven should not have tried to go 1v1 nor should Mike’s love confession be what does it in the end. I think it could’ve been included, but only to buy just a little bit more time and not to over power Vecna.

Another thing to explore that would’ve been interesting is the town hall should’ve happened later on. It should have happened the moment the assault on Vecna happens. The entire jock hunting party was not super needed in the season and just seems to justify that final confrontation. I think a better use of it would be during the townhall, the world should’ve started flickering upside down and regular world as Vecna was chasing Sam. The town should’ve recognize the crazy shit that happens, instead of acting like their town was totally sane the entire time. It clearly has not been. The Jock should’ve still had the extreme voice, but he should’ve left there and then, have a friend who was following hellfire, tell him they were at the mansion. So it isn’t this weird tension that amounts to nothing for most of the show.

The Townhall should’ve served as a means to question what was going on, acknowledge they all knew a lot more than we suspect, and start a dialogue about Eleven. People who saw what she did to the invaders saying, ‘I never shared this, but I was in the closet at the school when they attacked and she killed them. I don’t know what’s going on, but I think she’s the hope we have for this town’.

It doesn’t have to be a catharsis moment, but it would’ve built into accepting Eleven not just as a girlfriend or daughter, but within the community and the town. The idea being Hawkins is their home, it is what is lost in the background. And that could be built into something meaningful at the very end. Regardless, while Sam dies for real or temporarily, the same city level destruction happens. The cloud that looks like a man and has the indications of a face grins. They could destroy his body, but not his physic imprint. And that’s way more believable than this human surviving a minute of flame and 5 shotgun blasts without being phased.

The townhall serving as a seed for more plot in season five. It also serves a narrative justification of the opposing philosophies of Eleven and One. One seeing himself as predator vs prey and Eleven wanting family, community for strength.

But yeah, fixed. You’re welcome.

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Faye Seidler

I write essays on literature, pop culture, and video games. I mostly deconstruct and do comparative analysis on many topics in both a serious and goofy way.