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Stranger Things 4

The show is among Netflix’s biggest hits.

The press release accompanying volume four of Stranger Things makes a reckless boast: “Over five hours longer than any previous season!”

We cruise back into Hawkins, the small Indiana town perched on a portal to a monster-infested netherworld, in 1986.

There are more characters and more locations (Nevada, California, Alaska, Russia) as the ensemble is split up and scattered, giving Stranger Things 4 enough strands to sustain episodes that routinely stray beyond an hour each. Everything is unapologetically bigger.

More important, Stranger Things now has a supersized dramatic purpose, on the assumption that the twelve-year-old viewers who were wowed by season one are now eighteen and ready for darker meat. What was once a spooky but essentially cute thriller has taken on elements of full-blown horror.

Episode four, perhaps the show’s best single instalment ever, makes heartwrenching use of a montage of fun moments from episodes past, illustrating what would be lost if any of these goofy kids were overcome by their demons.

Stranger Things is bigger, older, somewhat sadder – and as lovable as ever.