It’s a minor subplot, but several of the characters go to Salt Lake City.
Season 4 of “Stranger Things” is bigger, wider and bloodier. There are parallel stories in Hawkins, California, Russia, inside out – and a stay in Utah.
Yes, several of the characters from Netflix’s wildly popular horror series are taking a road trip to Salt Lake City. They need a hacker (which hardly existed in 1986) and they go in search of Dustin’s long distance girlfriend, Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo). Suzie makes a brief appearance in Episode 1, which seems primarily designed to remind viewers that the character exists; four of the characters consider heading to SLC in Episode 5; and they arrive in episode 6.
There’s a nice photo of the mountains and Salt Lake City from a distance – it looks like CGI – but locals will be able to tell that no filming was done in Utah. Which doesn’t really matter. The trip to Utah is a comedic interlude in an extremely dark season of “Stranger Things” (which begins streaming Friday on Netflix).
Let’s just say that Suzie’s house is a “Mormon” madhouse, filled with a bunch of loud, inventive kids who seem to have little supervision. And Suzie’s rather rebellious older sister isn’t happy that Suzie isn’t helping keep the younger siblings in line.
(Yes, it’s vague. Avoid spoilers.)
The four visitors need Suzie to log on and find something for them, and although she “will do anything for Dusty Bun”, her father confiscated her computer after creating a bit of online mischief in the name of Dustin in Episode 1. Dad was upset because, “I was not only breaking the law, but I was dating an agnostic,” Suzie says.
Ack! The horror!
It’s kind of funny to see 1986 technology and the characters know next to nothing about it. “What is the Internet? we ask. And – again, no spoilers – Suzie has a line that’s downright hilarious. The biggest laugh of season 4, part 1.
It’s clear that no one on the “Stranger Things” writing staff spent much time researching Utah or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or there might have been. have pictures of Joseph Smith or temples on the wall and not a bad copy of Leonardo’s The Last Supper da Vinci. And, as we saw in Season 3, Suzie has a few BYU pennants on her bedroom walls.
The entire Suzie/Utah subplot doesn’t take up much more than 10 minutes of Season 4 screen time, which is a drop in the bucket. The seven episodes that begin screening on Friday are all long – 76, 75, 63, 77, 74, 73 and 98 minutes. That’s a total of nearly eight hours. And the final two installments of Season 4, which will be released on July 1, will be an 85-minute episode 8 and a 2.5-hour season finale. (In the first three seasons, only one episode was over an hour long, at 1:02.)
The length alone is probably the biggest downside of Season 4. Each of the first seven episodes could have been made shorter.
And they tell several largely distinct stories. Different groups of characters – or individuals – have little or no interaction with other characters. And some characters that we didn’t expect to see come back.
That doesn’t mean Hopper (David Harbour), who we know isn’t dead. He’s in the trailers.
There are several cliffhangers sprinkled throughout the episodes. Scenarios reach a point where you can’t wait to see what happens next, but you have to because you’ve suddenly moved on to another scenario. Sort of like reading “The Lord of the Rings,” which is referenced in “Stranger Things.”
You have to ignore this, while the story of season 4 begins only six months after the end of season 3, it’s been three years since season 3 aired and some of the young actors have grown a lot.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) – who lost her superpowers at the end of Season 3 – moved to California with Joyce (Winona Ryder) and her family. And, unsurprisingly, Eleven doesn’t fit in. This poor girl is a tortured soul who seems destined to be unhappy forever.
Back in Hawkins, the children are now high school freshmen. Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) is on the basketball team and hangs out with the jocks, and his friends have drifted away from him. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) are passionate about Dungeons & Dragons. Max (Sadie Sink) has moved away from everyone, traumatized by the death of his half-brother at the end of season 3.
And there’s a new villain crossing the Upside Down dimension, and he delights in murdering teenagers in the most gruesome ways. There’s just a lot of violence, death and blood. The season isn’t without humor – Robin (Maya Hawke) has more to do this season, and it provides some much-needed comic relief – but, overall, it’s darker and more gruesome, and yet less scary. .
Not that it’s without scares. There are a few moments that will scare you off your couch.
And, without spoiling anything, there’s a stunning reveal in Episode 7 that you might not see coming, but it made perfect sense in the “Stranger Things” narrative. Episode 7 brought several of the main storylines to turning points, giving viewers answers while also posing more questions that will need to be answered when Episodes 8 and 9 air on July 1.
And these episodes will, no doubt, set up the final season. What we will see…eventually.
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