Chapter Nine: The Piggyback
The Russian Job
Episode 9 of Stranger Things Season 4 starts the slimy Yuri up in Russia messing about with his helicopter. He takes out a crucial component and intentionally stalls for time.
Inside, Hopper gets some clothes for them both to get changed into. When Hopper takes his top off, Joyce notices all the scars over his body and is shocked.
The pair soon change the subject, talking about their upcoming date and what could come next. So naturally, the pair start kissing… until the phone rings. Although Hopper manages to communicate back home, he learns that the lab is a mess, the doctor is “indisposed” and El has head back to Hawkins to fight.
They’re running out of time and the fight seems hopeless. However, Hopper realizes they may be able to fight them from Russia after all. Those particles in the prison last episode? Well, Hopper decides they can fight part of the hive mind, and go back in with a flamethrower at hand. They intend to bust back in and take it out.
The trouble is, the soldiers are all indisposed with fighting and aren’t at their posts. Hopper and Joyce easily make it back into the lab but in doing so, overhear gunfire and guttural screams in the distance.
Meanwhile, Nancy leads her troops as they prepare to strike against Vecna. Nancy, Steve, Robin, Eddie and Dustin are going in using the same gate they came out of – the one in Eddie’s camper van. They each take it in turns to travel through, ready to enact this four phase plan.
The editing here is *chefs kiss* as the camera pans around Vecna’s house, skipping seamlessly between the different characters in our world (Erica, Max and Lucas) as they use their lamps to try and find the demon. Now, this works in tandem with Steve, Nancy, Eddie and Dustin as they try creep through the woods toward the house.
Unfortunately Justin and the basketball bullies catch wind of how here’s movement in the “murder house” and prepare to strike.
The Makeshift Tank
Eleven and the gang are delayed too, finding themselves struggling to get a flight back Hawkins in time. However, El has another idea. She decides to piggyback off Vecna’s mind control to break into Max’s mind and do the same, essentially psychically fighting Vecna and playing him at his own game.
Part of this includes busting into a pizza parlour, where Argyle and Jonathan use their stoner skills to convince the worker there to let them use the kitchen. While Argyle makes a pizza, the others dump all the salt they can find into a freezer compartment.
There’s a really nice montage here, skipping back and forth between these guys alongside Eddie and Dustin. After setting up the camper van, they head inside, where Eddie’s guitar is on display.
At the same time, Robin, Steve and Nancy head toward Vecna’s house, where they notice the glowing orange light outside. That’s their signal. And as everyone moves into position, Phase Two gets underway. This phase includes Max using herself as bait to bring Vecna out of hiding.
As this Phase begins, we cut back to Mike and the others as they set up the tank ready for Eleven. In the kitchen, Jonathan speaks to Will and apologizes for being distant and not letting him feel like they could talk like they used to.
Jonathan admits that he misses talking to him and they should confide in one another more. It’s a really touching chat and one that sees Jonathan eventually hug his brother, telling him it’s going to be okay.
With the tank now ready, Eleven gets in and follows Max and her light. The thing is, Max’s plan isn’t working, so it calls for drastic measures.
Max sits down and speaks to Vecna, admitting that Billy made her life a living hell and a small part of her actually wanted him dead. She used to pray for something bad to happen, including Billy crashing his car. This seems to work, as Lucas speaks up and eventually points out that Max is going to be the fourth sacrifice, given she’s already admitted she wants to disappear.
Vecna appears, and a chase ensues. This gives Eleven enough time to break into her memories and explore more of Max’s life. At the same time, Eddie begins Phase Three, which includes Eddie playing,.. Master of Puppets by Metallica. Yes! What a tune! Guys, can we please get this to number 1 as well?
Anyway, this is to bring out the bats and leave the door wide open for Steve and Nancy to break into Vecna’s house now that it’s not guarded.
Unfortunately, the plan goes completely awry when the basketball bullies show up and chase Erica out the playground. Eddie shreds out a killer guitar solo, as they eventually make it inside the cabin and shut the door.
Unfortunately, the bats overwhelm the place and instead of escaping, Eddie decides to buy more time and sacrifice himself, leading the bats away from Dustin. He rides off on his bike; the makeshift shield strapped to his back.
The Demodogs Strike Back
Back in Russia, Hopper and Joyce break into the lab and learn that the particles have escaped, descending into the various Demodogs and Demogorgons that have broken out the chamber. The only way to stop them is to play on the fact this is a hive mind.
Hopper is going to use himself as bait to lure out all the Demodemons to the main courtyard. Then they can lock them inside. Joyce knows a thing or two about Demodogs, but Hopper promises that he’s not dying right now, he’s going to come back.
Back in Hawkins, Justin breaks into Vecna’s house where he finds Max entranced. With a handgun drawn, he forces Lucas to empty his pockets. He tells Lucas to wake her up, otherwise he’ll shoot.
Sometimes The Best Laid Plans Suck
Meanwhile, Steve, Nancy and Robin are all ensnared by the tentacles inside the house. The trio are whisked up and pinned against the wall.
As a result, Vecna communicates with Max and tells her he’s been aware of her plan this whole time. “It’s time Max.” He says, wrapping tentacles around her arms and stringing her up.
At the same time, we skip back to Lucas who realizes he doesn’t want to be anything like Justin, spearing him against the wall as the pair begin fighting. Unfortunately, Justin destroys Max’s Walkman in the process.
Vecna is suddenly stopped by Eleven, who shows up and immediately holds him levitating in the air. The duo fight, and as they do we cut to various other fights happening between the different characters.
Hopper runs away from the Demodog; Erica runs away from the basketball bullies; Eddie runs away from the bats. The latter decides to be brave and stand up for himself after all, holding out his makeshift shield and fighting back the wave of bats. As he does, Dustin scrambles through the portal and tries to find Eddie, not letting his friend die.
001 VS 011
There’s a fight happening on all fronts but the most important is that involving Eleven and Vecna, who both psychically dual in Max’s mind. Vecna is too strong and throws her through a portal, using his tentacles, holding her up against the door in his house. Vecna carries Max in after, slamming her down and wanting Eleven to watch this.
Just before he enacts the plan, Eleven calls out, “Papa is dead. I know what he did to you.” She tries to make Vecna see that he was the real monster but it’s no good. Vecna is too far gone and is blinded by power. “He did not make me into this… you did.” Vecna rasps bitterly.
Those moments from Vecna stumbling through the portal are now contextualized in more detail, as we see that Vecna was not sent to purgatory and became an explorer of a realm unspoilt by mankind. He found something to transcend his human form and become a predator he was always born to be. And that, unfortunately, was the Mind Flayer.
Vecna has been prepping Eleven for all of this, wanting to break free and deciding to use her own powers against her. Realizing hat wasn’t working, with Eleven fighting back, he decided to open his own gateways instead. “There’s nothing you can do to stop this now.” Vecna says, as we cut to various characters on the verge of death.
The Power of Love
With Eleven being suffocated, Mike speaks words of courage for her, telling her he loves her and is scared that she won’t need him anymore. “I love you for exactly who you are, you’re my superhero and I can’t lose you.” Mike says, encouraging her to fight back against Vecna.
With Max’s life hanging in the balance, Eleven pushes back against Vecna’s will. Lucas also fights back against Justin, who was earlier on the verge of choking him out. It seems like it’s too late for Max, whose limbs begin contorting out of shape. As for Eddie, he’s bleeding from the mouth and screaming out in pain.
When we return after a quick fade to black, the various conflicts are thwarted for now. Joyce saves Hopper from the Demodog, running with him into the courtyard to lure the demons in, where the monsters are met with a barrage of flames from Murray holding his flamethrower up on the balcony.
The End of Vecna
This singular act, coupled with Eleven fighting back against Vecna, drops all the Demobats to the ground while inside the house Steve, Robin and Nancy are released from the tentacles. In doing so, they find the heart of the house; Vecna is strung up with his multiple tentacles.
“This is only the beginning. You have already lost” Vecna says to Eleven in Max’s mind, as Eleven gets the upper-hand. Meanwhile, Hopper strikes at the Demogorgon with his sword, thwarting the beast, while Steve throws a Molotov and burns Vecna, knocking out his influence. As the creature stands up, burning, Robin throws another to knock him back.
In the midst of all this, Dustin encourages Eddie to get up and get to a hospital. Eddie knows it’s too late, telling him it’s “finally his year” to graduate. And with that, he passes away in Dustin’s arms. At the same time, Lucas holds Max, who tells him she can’t feel or see anything. Eleven is too late to save her it would seem, and Max falls unconscious in Lucas’ arms.
The stakes have just been raised and with Max now presumed dead, the four chimes from the clock sound as the portal opens. It’s the end of the world and it rips right through Justin’s body. Eleven refuses to let Max die and uses her powers to somehow bring her back from the brink.
Two Days Later
We then skip forward two days later. Everyone is packing up and leaving Hawkins while Jonathan, Mike, Eleven, Argyle and Will are the only guys heading toward the devastation.
The news are recording this as an earthquake of unprecedented scale. There are 22 deaths so far but many more are missing. The town is in a complete state, but unfortunately Eddie and the Hellfire Club are blamed for the high school kids being killed.
Is Max dead?
Anyway, the gang are all reunited again after a long season of absence. Jonathan and Nancy are also reunited, with Steve watching on, while Lucas is at the hospital with Max. She’s still alive but comatose. According to the doctors, she was dead but then was brought back by “some sort of miracle.”
Eleven touches Max’s hand and tries to reach her but struggles to do so. It would seem as if Max is lost.
The rest of the gang head down to the school where Dustin catches up with Eddie’s father. Dustin breaks the news to him that Eddie has passed away, handing over the boy’s necklace for good measure. Dustin talks about Eddie’s heroic acts, how he remained loyal until the end. “He fought and died to protect this town.” Dustin says, “Eddie is a hero.”
Will catches up with Mike and tells him that this fight is not over. Despite being hurt and wounded right now, the Mind Flayer is going to come back and this is going to be the beginning of the end, just like Vecna promised before he was destroyed.
How does Stranger Things Season 4 end?
In the midst of this, Hopper and Joyce are reunited with Eleven and the gang, properly this time. Their happy time is interrupted by thunder rumbling ominously overhead.
Ash begins to descend slowly as the rest of Hawkins – those who haven’t skipped town yet – stare up at the sky and notice raging black clouds growing and consuming their town. Flowers begin to die, the grass turns to charcoal black and as red lightning crackles, the final fight has arrived. The Upside Down is spilling into our reality. Will our world survive this threat?
The Episode Review
Not pulling the trigger and sacrificing main characters, giving everyone plot armour instead, is one of the biggest gripes I have with Stranger Things at this point. Even Millie Bobby Brown has said there should have been more sacrifices.
Max’s ending was perfect. Sure it was cruel but it was also the best possible way for her to go out. She faced the demons of her past, she was heroic and stared down the barrel of death in Vecna with everything she had. Just like Eddie, it was the best possible way to kill her off. But instead, she’s brought back by Eleven through her powers, comatose but still alive, at least as far as we can see.
I genuinely think this would have been a perfect episode had 2 or 3 characters been killed to heighten the tension even more. Instead, almost everyone survives to fight another day.
That is a minor gripe though in what’s otherwise been a thrilling final episode. The fight against Vecna was really well shot, with excellent choreography as we skip between the different characters and their individual fights. Hats off to the editors this season though, they’ve been fantastic and done well to juggle all these different plotlines.
The basketball bullies subplot has been one of the weakest parts of season 4 though, and I mentioned this before in the earlier recaps that a lot of this could have been cut, given it simply led to Erica being held down and Lucas fighting with Justin, who ends up being killed in the end anyway.
That ending hints that we’ve got some serious drama to come in the fifth season and as much as it pains me write as I love all these characters – big players need to die. There needs to be real consequences to this final season in order for Stranger Things to bow out on a high, otherwise it’s in danger of feeling a little too safe with the main cast surviving.
Having said all of that, this epic final chapter concludes with a return to form for Netflix’s flagship show, picking itself back up from season 3 and delivering an enthralling and highly enjoyable finale. Can we please get season 5 now?