Chapter Two: Vecna’s Curse
Episode 2 of Stranger Things Season 4 whisks us back in time to see exactly what happened to Hopper and how he survived his ordeal. During the explosion in season 3, he actually jumped off the platform just before the whole thing exploded.
Clawing his way to freedom, Hopper eventually finds himself face to face with Russian soldiers. They torture him, demanding to know who he is and what he may be hiding. Realizing Hopper is stronger than most, the men send him off to Kamchatka, which is located in the far east of Russia, to test his resilience in the motherland
On a side note here, I’m still a little salty over how the show emotionally manipulated everyone into believing Hopper was dead, only to surprise everyone by him being alive and surviving. Anyway, let’s continue on.
Another bad dream awakens Max, who finds her day immediately take a turn for the crazy. Numerous police cars show up at Eddie’s place, with another dead body in Hawkins drawing huge concerns. It’s Chrissy. As the officers call it in, we see that these calls are being monitored.
It’s big news all over Hawkins, grounding this town to a halt as everyone from Nancy to Lucas, all the way across to Dustin and his mum are desperate for more information. Max shows up to see the latter, telling Dustin that Chrissy is the deceased and Eddie is suspect #1.
Max believes he’s shifty, likening Eddie to Ted Bundy. Dustin refuses to believe this is true. The thing is, Max actually saw Eddie driving off in a hurry after his bloodcurdling cry the previous night. She didn’t think anything of the lights flickering on and off in her house, but on reflection, Eddie’s terrified face and actions could be evidence of “something else” killing Chrissy. The only way to find out the truth is to track down Eddie himself.
Part of that investigation stems from Dustin showing up at the video rental shop Robin and Steve are working at. Although it would be hilarious if this was Blockbusters, it’s not.
The pair intend to use this as their base of operations to find out who Eddie’s friends are. They manage to find someone called Reefer Rick. They find his address and the four take off to search for answers.
For now it’s onto big reunions as Mike touches down in California. El and Mike immediately connect, while Will seems to be a tad jealous. Could he have a crush on Mike? It seems that’s where we’re going here! He ends up playing third wheel to El and Mike’s relationship, although El fabricates that she’s a big shot here when she’s not. Will encourages her to open up but El tries to wait for the right time.
Naturally, Angela shows up and causes chaos. She forces El into the middle of the rink, calls her a snitch and throws milkshake on her. El snaps and eventually grabs a roller-skate, smacking her in the nose. This inevitably brings back memories of the past, linking to those early flashes from episode 1.
Meanwhile, Murray catches up with Joyce, reading the note and believing this is a message from Hopper, given it’s signed “Enzo.” Joyce clings to the hope that he’s survived, so Murray helps her call the number in question – which happens to be a phonebooth in Russia.
Enzo answers and asks for $40k and to meet in Alaska in 2 days’ time. In doing so, he’ll help “unstuck” Hopper and free him from his hell. The pair deduce that Enzo is actually a prison guard and that’s how he can get Hopper out.
Another subplot here features Nancy and her newbie recruit Fred, heading off to find info about what happened to Chrissy. Nancy speaks to Wayne, where he learns that Victor Creel is a real boogeyman in these parts, and he thinks that guy is responsible. We know that not to be true though, especially as this strange creature continues to extend its influence across Hawkins, but it could be important for the later chapters. Hold that thought!
First it was Chrissy and now it’s Fred; Fred sees visions of that same creature, who taunts him and calls Fred a murderer. The terrified boy charges through the woods, stumbling upon a flaming upside down car and then, eventually, a large, inescapable hole. Just like Chrissy, he floats up in an entranced state, and is killed with all his limbs distorted out of place.
Back with Max and the gang for now though, and the motley group find Reefer Rick’s address and begin looking around. Instead of Rick though, they find Eddie.
It’s here Eddie reveals that something was inside Chrissy. Dustin and the others realize that this is just like Vecna’s curse. In other words, it seems they’re dealing with an undead wizard.
The Episode Review
Some of the editing in this season is actually really impressive. Most notably, the burning papers dissolving across to the rental store. There’s also a lovely rotating camera shot, tumbling forward and tying two scenes together. These moments really help to give this season some visual flair.
Away from the style though, Stranger Things’ narrative is essentially split into four or five different subplots and it does make for a somewhat messy watch at times. Some of the plots – like Nancy and Fred galivanting off around town – re-tread the same ground that Max, Dustin and the others have previously and it sometimes feels like the show is overlong for the sake of it. This problem, of course, something that’s their own making given the show’s inability to kill off any main characters.
The Eleven and Hopper subplots are arguably the most interesting parts of this, although it would appear that all of this is going to be stretched out across the run-time of the whole series.
Either way though, Stranger Things is certainly starting to ramp up the drama and it leaves plenty on the table for the rest of the show.