It was almost immediately obvious to Stranger Things fans just how different Season 4 of was from seasons past. For the first time, the story and its characters have expanded well beyond Hawkins. That isn’t to say that the story hasn’t left Hawkins before, but there was something distinctly different about it in Season 4. The characters and their trajectories were on firmly different paths. The show had multiple storylines operating completely independent of one another without any clear sign as to how they would converge. Plenty of shows have done this before to great effect, but it felt odd coming from Stranger Things. And this probably came from the fact that the show hadn’t worked this way in the past.
The biggest show that worked this way was Game of Thrones. The HBO series was notorious for its overabundance of characters, settings, and storylines. But the fantasy tale worked this angle well because it started from the very beginning. Fans immediately had the expectation that this was a larger than life world with multiple realms and environments, families and agendas, wars and battles. There wasn’t any confusion about the disjointed nature of the series because that is how it presented itself from its debut.
In contrast, Stranger Things already had three seasons to set its narrative tone and pacing. Hawkins was where the action was; where our main characters faced off against their threats. But the fourth season had other challenges. Besides Vecna in Hawkins, there were competing storylines in Russia and California, totally separate groups working their own angle without any clear indication as to how they will weave together. There’s no doubt that they will converge at some point before the show is said and done, but for the entire first half of Season 4, Stranger Things took an entirely new approach that was as much a risk as it was an expansion of the world.
Stranger Things is now streaming on Netflix.