Stranger Things – Season 4 Episode 1 “The Hellfire Club” Recap & Review

Chapter One: The Hellfire Club

Episode 1 of Stranger Things Season 4 starts with a flashback to September 8th 1979. In the Hawkins National Laboratories, El is there with numerous other kids. They’re all testing their psychic powers; puzzles and games strewn out across the tables.

Dr Brenner shows up and takes 10, another test subject, in for some tests. After a couple of warm-ups, he asks 10 to use his powers to psychically link with other individuals in the area. However, it all goes awry when 11 causes chaos outsider, escaping her room and leaving piles of dead bodies in her wake.

All the other subjects are dead aside from El. But was it actually her? Or is there something else going on here?

This leads us nicely into the present, where we get a nice little catch up through El writing a letter to Mike. We’re up to March 21st 1986, and Spring Break is upon us. Eleven is at Lenora Hills High School in California with Will, while the others are still at Hawkins.

Joyce is working at home but soon receives a strange package from Russia, sporting a doll and Russian stamps all over the top. Will is painting a lot and Jonathan has been smoking weed with his new friend Argyle. Mike has a new D&D party called The Hellfire Club, while Dustin is still working with Suzie, hacking into the school system together and changing grades.

Steve and Robin are still BFFs, with the pair giving each other dating advice, while Lucas is part of the basketball team, wanting to expand out from being “the nerd” at school. Things with Mad Max are still tense too though, given Billy’s death. She’s listening to ‘Running up that Hill’ which is, honestly, an absolute banger. Placebo’s version is a shade better though. Anyway, I digress.

Max has obviously been through a lot and she’s even talking to a counselor about her issues. Her mum is working two jobs, drowning her sorrows in alcohol, while Max is not sleeping properly, haunted by nightmares. She’s also taking pills to numb the pain.

In the midst of all this, there’s an unsettling scene involving a girl called Chrissy, who finds herself in the bathroom, screaming, as someone (or something) pounds on the door. She also sees a strange grandfather clock in the woods, that suddenly cracks open and sprouts black spiders. It’s pretty unnerving, but she does end up befriending the new Hellfire captain, Eddie. She scores some drugs from him but wants something harder. He encourages her to show up at his place after school.

In California, El is bullied by the resident b*tch Angela. At the same time, Joyce smashes open the Russian doll and finds a note inside, reading “Hop is alive!”

Back with the kids for now, and a lengthy moment sees Erica join The Hellfire Club for the night, filling in for Lucas who scores the winning basket for the championship.

That night, Eddie invites Chrissy over to his caravan. She wants to take the edge off the nightmares she’s suffering from. The faint chimes of a clock continue to taunt her, while she seems to be experiencing bits of the Upside Down too.

Frozen in place, Chrissy is stalked by that same strange creature we saw at school. “Don’t cry Chrissy. It’s time for your suffering to end.” It booms, reaching out a hand and touching her forehead. In doing so, she levitates in Eddie’s room and eventually her eyes implode.

The Episode Review

We’re finally back in Hawkins (and California) and the first episode immediately starts off with a big flashback… before slowing right down to a snail’s pace to introduce all out characters again. To be fair it makes sense, although scenes like Dustin and Mike trying to recruit people to join their D&D group feels like unnecessary filler that could have been left in the editing room.

Despite that, Stranger Things has undoubtedly been one of Netflix’s biggest successes, and the ending certainly leaves the door wide open for the rest of the season.

With extended run-times (or standard for those who watch a lot of K-Dramas!) there’s plenty of time to play with but this opening chapter certainly drags its heels before starting the narrative. However, that ending with Chrissy is certainly intriguing so we’ll have to wait and see what’s lurking in Hawkins this year!

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You can read our full season review for Stranger Things Season 4 here!


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