WARNING: Major spoilers ahead!! If you haven’t seen this season, please be aware.
The final two episodes of season four of Stranger Things also titled Volume 2 were about four hours long. And what an emotional four hours it was. The Surfer Pizza van full of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and his brother, Jonathan (Charles Heaton) with Will’s friend, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and their new stoner buddy Argyle (Eduardo Franco) were on their way through the southwestern desert to find Eleven/Jane (Millie Bobbie Brown). She had been taken to an underground labatory. The Surfer Pizza group were totally MIA from the seven episode which focused more on El’s history.
After finding and rescuing El after the military fatally shoots Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) as they’re trying to escape. El uses her telekinetic abilities to down a helicopter just as the van is arriving. Telling them they need to get to Hawkins, Ind., somehow, Will and Mike have a talk along the way. During this scene, Will more or less pours out his emotions to Mike. But he turns his head when he starts to cry. All the time. Jonathan has been watching in the rear-view and overheard.
There’s been a lot of Internet chatter about whether or not Will is gay. Now, obviously, it’s no big deal if he is or not. But then again, this is 1986 when being openly gay wasn’t thing. Regardless of the fact that Will and Jonathan had moved with El and their mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder) to California. It was just geography. If they were in the Midwest or on the West Coast, it was still taboo subject for men and women. Another character on the show, Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) is gay and has a crush on her bandmate, Vicky (Ambybeth McNulty).
Is Will in love with Mike? Possibly. But could he also realize that he and Mike have come to that point where Mike wants to spend more time with El? It’s the hardest part in many young men’s lives when they realize that their friends have girlfriends and things won’t be the same. But in a way, I also feel that Will sees that Mike doesn’t see him as anything more than a friend, which leads to his sadness.
Remember these kids are mostly Melvins and Krelboynes so the likelihood they will all have their own girlfriends is great. Will just may not be interested in any relationships at this time. He looks uninterested in a fellow female classmate but that doesn’t mean he is gay. He may just not feel the same. I was discussing this with a friend and she called it “queerbaiting.” It is. If I was face with a supernatural force threatening all existence on this planet, I’m not sure I’d list taking a girl out for dinner and a movie as a top priority.
Later when they’ve taken over a Surfer Pizza place by giving the lone worker a joint so they can immerse El in a makeshift tub for sensory deprivation, Jonathan opens up to Will. He tells Will that he loves him for who he is is. Typically brothers are shown in movies and TV shows arguing, but the Byers brothers have been through so much, aside from simple arguments, they have gotten closer.
Back in Hawkins, Ind., the rest of the gang are preparing for a showdown with Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and his friend and Hellfire Club leader, Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) are preparing to create a diversion for the demon bats. This will allow Robin, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) to go into the Creel house in the Upside Down to battle Vecna. At the same time, Max Mayfield (Saddie Sink), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and his sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson) will remain in the real world to channel Vecna while they’re in the Creel house.
Before they go into the Upside Down through a hole in the ceiling of Eddie’s trailer, Dustin and Eddie have a moment where they goof around out in an open field the way young men will play and kid with each other. At the end, they look at each other and Eddie says, “Never change, Dustin Henderson.” It’s a sweet moment between two friends, even though it foreshadows that Eddie will die. After playing a mean version of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” Eddie and Dustin distract the bats then hide in the trailer. As the demon bats still converge on the trailer, Dustin goes first back into the real world, but Eddie decides to stay to create more of a diversion.
In the end, Eddie is fatally bitten several times by the demon bats and dies. But as he lies dying, he and Dustin tell each other “I love you.” It’s platonic, but it still is meaningful. Dustin and Eddie became friends because they had similar likes and got along in the Hellfire Club. While it’s not the same love Will has for Mike (who seem to be more like Frodo and Samwise from Lord of the Rings), it’s still love. And we don’t see that much between two young men in a series or movie.
Later when Dustin talks with Eddie’s uncle, Wayne (Joel Stoffer), he has an emotional moment and calls Eddie a hero. Eddie had been ostracized by the community for his role as the leader of the Hellfire Club as people thought it was a Satanic worshipping cult. Vecna had killed three people in Hawkins in a way that left their bodies contorted and it led the authorities to believe it was a ritualistic killing. This was amplified by the ramblings of basketball star, Jason Carver (Mason Dye), even though I doubt the elders would believe him as much as they did.
It’s not just young men expressing their emotions toward other men. When the series began in the first season, Steve and Nancy were beginning a relationship. It’s obvious over the years that Steve still has feelings for her even though she’s been more interested in Jonathan. But as the fourth season opens, there is issues as Jonathan has cut off much contact with Nancy. During a scene in which Eddie has stolen a Winnebago so they can go into a nearby community to buy some weapons, Steve tells Nancy about an idea he’s had of taking a trip in an RV with his family one day. He later tells Nancy that he’s thought about her.
At the end when everyone in the Surfer Pizza van arrive in Hawkins, Jonathan tells Nancy how he’ll tell her everything and he’s glad she’s safe. He kisses her on the forehead and they embrace in a hug as Steve walks by them and you can clearly see he’s upset that Nancy is with Jonathan as Robin touches him on the shoulder for comfort. I wasn’t surprised at the end of the first season that Nancy stayed with Steve even though she had feelings for Jonathan and he has feelings for her. I know the Duffer Brothers are probably planning something for these three in the fifth and final season.
While she’s in the sensory deprivation tank, Mike empresses his emotion for El even as Will, Jonathan and Argyle are nearby. Men are told not to show their emotions and never tell a girlfriend/partner “I love you” with them in earshot, but this helps El. When it seems like Vecna is going to kill Max as her limbs begin to twist and contort like the other teenagers, El saves her by vanguishing Vecna and is helped by Robin, Nancy and Steve. Lucas can’t do anything but watch as it seems Max is going to die. When he’s holding her body, he pours his heart to her.
But as they wait earlier in the scene, Max is listening to Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” on her Walkman. In a nice twist on old-school texting, they write messages on paper and show them to each other with Lucas finally asking Max out. It’s a sweet, tender moment. Max has been grieving the loss of her stepbrother, Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) who died in the third season. This has made her home life different as her stepfather has moved out and her and her mother’s lives have changed.
As the season begins, Lucas and Max are not together as things have changed. Lucas has joined the basketball team in an attempt to be part of the cool kids group, but has dicovered it’s not as not as good as he thought. All through the season, watching Lucas and Max get back together has been one of the season’s highlights.
What has made the series work is the relationships between the characters don’t seem forced. Even Joyce and Jim Hopper (David Harbour) have spent four seasons leading up to a scene where they finally kiss. Hopper, himself, with El and Joyce isn’t afraid to express his emotions. He sees El has his daughter as she sees him as his father.
All of this is more important considering this was an era in which men crying was still seen as a sign of weakness. It seemed that TV shows in the 1980s always ended with the “big hug” at the end which is what Married…With Children and Seinfeld were trying to rally against. Forced emotions, I don’t like. You need to earn it. And Stranger Things has earned it, mostly due to the actors and the little moments between them.
Three years ago when I met with one law firm about my disability case, one lawyer told me to walk with a cane all the time and tell people I do all the time. I was only 40 at the time and people act “manly men” need to “work through the pain.” I’ve even heard that, myself. Earlier this year, I lost my girlfriend. I told her things I couldn’t tell anyone else. And now she’s gone. I’ve cried so much and will never get over her. She was a big fan of Stranger Things too. I remember one night when I couldn’t sleep, I marathon watched one season and we commented on who Montgomery reminded us more of – Zac Efron or a younger Rob Lowe?
When the series began, Hopper was grieving the death of his daughter to cancer. In a way, with El, he’s gotten another opportunity to be a father. And like most fathers, he is cautious but with her, he has to be more strict considering he’s hiding her from government officials who want to use her. When you lose someone you loved like that, it hurts you in ways you don’t even know. And after all the phone calls and condolensces end, you’re still left alone.
You shouldn’t be called or considered a “sissy” if you’re too emotional or sensitive. In this society now, there seems to be a criticism of men who don’t feel derogatory jokes about BIPOC or the LGBTQIA community should be said. People are called “snowflakes” but it’s really directed at men. There’s nothing “manly” about making fun of people based solely on their skin color or sexuality. Years ago, they excused things Donald Trump had said, such as the “grab them by the pussy” comment as “locker room talk.” Well, I was never on a sports team but I took gym and weight lifiting classes in school. We never discussed sexual assaults.
In my opinion, it’s a sign of weakness NOT to tell a friend of the same sex you love them in a platonic way. You should give hugs if they are comfortable with that. You should turn to them with your issues and concerns. What the young people in this series have been through, they shouldn’t be criticized for holding back. Hopefully, viewers, especially younger viewers, will see this show as inspiration on how to treat their friends. We’re never guarenteed a tomorrow. We should tell them today.
It’s hard to lose someone like my girlfriend. You expect to lose grandparents, elder relatives, favorite teachers and even your own parents, but when it hits home with someone close to you and around your same age, it’s a gut punch. There’s been criticism that the original cast has survived throughout the four season with additional characters we come to love (Eddie and Bob Newby) usually being the ones who are killed. This makes me wonder what the Duffers have in store for the final season.
What’s it all building to?
What do you think? Please comment.