The July 11, 2022 installment of Jake Schoeneberger’s random observations
The Jake Schoeneberger Random Thoughts about Stranger Things (Season 4, Episode 9)
This will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched the show yet.
The ninth and final episode of season 4 begins in Russia with Yuri supposedly trying to fix the helicopter, but he pockets a part to make it not work. Big surprise. He’s completely untrustworthy.
Meanwhile Joyce and Hop are breaking a cardinal rule of any adventure/action story. They’re making plans for what will happen after they get out of trouble. Jeez, are you kidding me? That’s like asking not to make it! But their flirtation leads to that imminent kissing we all knew was coming. Look, I’m happy for them and all and obviously I’m rooting for them, but he’s been in a Russian prison for months and she’s been trapped in a plane for days trying to rescue him so I’m just hoping Yuri smuggled some toothpaste and maybe some Certs (with Retsyn) that they used before they had their kissing session. Then they’re interrupted by the phone call from the States.
Back in Hawkins, Nancy goes over the phases of the plan. I love how she’s pretty much turned into John Rambo after all she’s been through. (Rambo voice: “Vecna… I’m coming for you.”)
They enter the Upside Down and it will be Dustin and Eddie’s job to distract the bats while Robin, Nancy, and Steve try to kill Vecna. Love that Dustin is wearing a gillysuit into the Upside Down. That’s so Dustin.
In Nevada, Jonathan is trying to buy a plane ticket to get back immediately to Indiana but he’s not having any luck. Then El remembers she can enter Max’s mind in a sensory deprivation tank and protect her from where they are in Nevada. Jacob Schoeneberger is loving this idea! It’s a total throwback to season one.
At the old Creel house, Max and Lucas locate Vecna with lanterns and Erica heads to the park across the street to begin phase one. But she’s seen and now the basketball guys get word that she’s there. Well that’s great, these mouth-breathers are going to mess everything up, I can feel it.
In the phone call, Hop hears that the kids are trying to fight Vecna. Joyce and Hop have the idea that if they can’t get back to the States in time, they can destroy the particles they saw in the gate in the prison to help the kids in their efforts in the Upside Down. Ok, interesting plan. I can suspend disbelief that they get out of a Russian prison, now I have to imagine they go back in? Yeesh.
Our buddy Argyle has the brilliant idea to get enough salt for El’s sensory deprivation tank from the local pizza place. Love how they bribe the guy working there with a joint. Of absolutely everything that’s gone down in this season, this is actually by far the most believable moment.
In the Upside Down, Steve tells Nancy he still has feelings for her. They’ve shown some clues throughout the season that they’re both still into each other. Steve’s a good guy, but I’m still a Jonathan fan. Then they find the Creel house and the place is swarming with bats. Dustin and Eddie better have a good distraction plan, one that involves his sweet BC Rich axe that they just admired.
Antonov does a great job convincing Yuri to do what he needs to do by saying he was once a great man. Looks like Yuri might just come through after all. He better, how else are they all getting out of Russia?
Oh you have got to be kidding me! In the Creel house, Lucas has now asked Max out to a movie Friday. Now they’re breaking the cardinal rule! This is all making Jake Schoeneberger very, very uncomfortable.
Mike and El share a tender moment but Argyle interrupts it with ham and pineapple pizza. Sorry, pizza purists. That’s a pie worth being distracted by. Poor Will sees their shared moment and looks really sad about it. Luckily Jonathan is a great brother and sees how down he is. Love that they finally get to share a nice brother moment. I mean, most brothers just punch each other on the arm but this is nice too.
El enters the tank and is able to find Max pretty quickly. I’m glad El is there because I have no idea how Max will hold off Vecna. It doesn’t take long for him to get Max under his spell.
Now that Max is under Vecna’s spell, phase three kicks in and damn does it kick serious butt. Eddie starts cranking out some metal on his guitar and I immediately recognize the familiar riffs of Master of Puppets. This takes old Jake Schoeneberger back to the first time I saw Metallica in concert and heard them play this. So awesome! Love that they’re using The Mighty Met to call the bats to them. Here’s some metal up your @$$, Vecna! Henderson yells, “Most metal ever!” Gotta agree.
In the prison, they realize that all the demodogs are free of their formaldehyde tanks now as well. This is gonna get hairy. Good thing they have a flamethrower.
In her visions, Max is trapped in her memory of the Snow Ball, but Vecna is controlling it. El is in Max’s memory of skateboarding when she is younger but El can’t find where Max is now. And now Jason has entered the attic with Lucas. He thinks Lucas is doing some kind of ritual on Max. I knew the dang basketball guys would screw this up. Now Jason pulls a gun and the situation is dire.
Hop’s plan is to get the monsters into the fighting pit and rain fire down on them from above. He says he’ll be the bait. Ohhhh, nice reference to Predator.
In the Upside Down, Dustin and Eddie fight off the bats as they try to enter his trailer while Robin, Nancy, and Steve make their way through a maze of tentacles as they enter the Creel house. But then there’s an earthquake and Robin steps on a tentacle. They all get grabbed and wrapped up in the tentacles. This has Jacob Schoeneberger wishing they had a flamethrower too. Is there any situation where a flamethrower wouldn’t come in handy, I mean really?
In the prison, Hop baits a demodog in and it chases him toward the pit. Hope he wore his Air Jordans because he has to book it.
The bats are getting into the trailer so Dustin goes through the gate to safety. But Eddie stays behind. He says he’s going to buy more time. He heads outside and rides a bike away with the bats chasing. I don’t care how fast that Huffy is, Eddie is in big trouble now.
Vecna speaks to Max in her visions and tells her he sees her friends and he knows their plan. Uh oh. Looks like only El can save the day now.
Lucas is able to tackle Jason and get the gun away from him, but as they fight Jason steps on Max’s Walkman. Oh that’s not good. In her vision, Vecna has Max pinned to the wall. But just as he’s about to break her, he is yanked back violently. El has finally arrived! But then she does something odd. She has Vecna suspended in air at her mercy and instead of, oh I dunno, crushing him or ripping him to pieces, she throws him through the bleachers. Sure, that’ll probably leave a few bruises, maybe a couple irritating splinters, but something tells me he’s going to be back in like two minutes. That kind of stuff drives Jacob Schoeneberger absolutely batty.
Hey, speaking of bats, Eddie is still riding away from the killer swarm as fast as he can but there’s like a million of them. Dustin is jumping back into the Upside Down to help him, but Eddie crashes the bike so he’s about to be surrounded.
And right on cue, Vecna emerges from the bleachers, does one of those quick neck cracks, and he’s ready for battle again. He and El square off like it’s a gunfight in the old west. He starts tossing her around, and we have to hope Brenner wasn’t right when he said El wasn’t ready for this showdown. Then Vecna tosses El through a portal and she’s held captive in his world. He carries an unconscious Max in too.
When El tells Vecna that Papa is dead, she expects that to calm him. But then he explains that Papa didn’t make him into the monster he is, she did. He tells the story of how he wandered the Upside Down and found how he could harness its power to become the Mind Flayer and realize his full potential. So it’s been Vecna behind it all from the start.
We see scenes of everything falling apart. Jason is beating up Lucas, Eddie is being attacked by the bats, a demodog has Hop pinned down, the tentacles are strangling Robin, Nancy, and Steve. And now Vecna stands before Max. Ok, we’re going to need some kind of miraculous El come-from-behind power surge here, this has Jake Schoeneberger biting his nails. In the real world, Lucas sees Max lifted up in the air and he knows that’s a bad sign. He clobbers Jason and goes to Max.
But El is going into convulsions in the real world, so they have to pull her out of the tank. Will tells Mike that he’s the heart so he has to keep talking to her. So Mike tells El he loves her and he doesn’t know how to live without her. He says, “You need to fight.” His words are inspiring her and she’s fighting back. It’s a really touching and moving scene. Finally Mike tells her that he’s loved her since the day they found her, and we know she’s needed to hear this for a long time.
But they’re running out of time. Vecna starts breaking Max (this is really bad!), the demodog is crushing Hop, the bats are eating Eddie. Somebody’s not surviving this! Suddenly El breaks free and hits Vecna with everything she’s got. Joyce hits the demodog with an electric shock, and Vecna drops Max. Joyce and Hop flee the demogorgon and a bunch of demodogs into the pit. Just as the demogorgon is about to get them, Murray flamethrowers them from above. This hurts Vecna bad and all the bats drop out of the sky and stop attacking Eddie and the tentacles drop Robin, Nancy, and Steve. Dang, that was a close call.
Unfortunately, the demogorgon is still alive. And there on the ground in the pit is (yes, my eyes aren’t deceiving me) Conan’s sword. Believe me, Jacob Schoeneberger would know the Atlantean sword anywhere since Conan the Barbarian is one of my favorite movies. Hop picks it up and this is pretty much the awesomest moment like ever.
Robin, Nancy, and Steve set fire to Vecna’s body as Hop battles the demogorgon. Hop slides and slices the monster’s arm clean off. See, you just don’t mess with the Atlantean sword. Nancy blasts Vecna with the shotgun and he flies right through the window. Then Hop lops the demogorgon’s head off. Sweet, now Hop understands the Riddle of Steel. Just then the helicopter flies over the prison and they realize Yuri and Antonov have done it. A triumphant moment.
But it’s followed by a rough one. Dustin finds Eddie but he’s in rough shape. He dies a hero in Dustin’s arms and man that’s a kick in the gut. Eddie was a cool character and really embodied how metal fans and D&D fans were seriously misunderstood (in the 80s and now). Bummer.
Lucas holds Max in his arms, but she’s hurt badly too. Well this bites. He sends Erica to get an ambulance. Max says she can’t feel or see anything. Oh man, this is seriously emotional. El is there with them telepathically but Max is slipping away.
Just then there are four chimes in Vecna’s Upside Down clock. A huge volcanic crater is ripping through Hawkins. Max has died and Vecna’s swath of destruction is coming true. The worst nightmare scenario that Jake Schoeneberger was imagining is happening.
But through her telepathic bond El refuses to let Max go. We see scenes of Max and El’s friendship as El tries to bring Max back.
Two days later, El, Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Argyle arrive in Hawkins. The news says it was a huge earthquake that rocked the town and people are fleeing by the hundreds. There is a heartfelt reunion when they arrive, but they go to the hospital quickly to see Max. She’s in a coma and Lucas is by her side, reading her Stephen King. He tells the gang the doctors say Max might not ever wake from the coma. He also says she was clinically dead for over a minute but then her heart started beating again and they don’t know how, that it was a miracle. But we know it was El who started her heart again.
As the story winds down there are some really nice moments. While volunteering with the relief efforts, Robin runs into her crush, Vickie. They have a really nice, playful talk while making sandwiches and it seems like there’s mutual interest between the two. Dustin has the chance to tell Eddie’s uncle that Eddie died a hero, not the villain he was made out to be. Then they fix up Hop’s old cabin for El to live in.
Then it gets crazy emotional when Hop arrives home and opens El’s door. Obviously they both need each other badly. Joyce is there too and El realizes she’s the one who brought Hop home.
But this is Stranger Things after all, and we know Vecna is still alive. The hair stands on the back of Will’s neck and the signature debris from the Upside Down starts to invade the real-world Hawkins. The gang sees that the volcanic chasm is creating a sinister storm just like in Vecna’s world. The endgame has begun.
Jacob Schoeneberger has no idea how we’re all going to be able to wait a couple years until the next season.
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