Stranger Things came out last Friday, and I finished it a few days ago. I have tons of Stranger Things rankings coming, but I thought I'd start out with a ranking of the episodes from this season/volume. There are some iffy episodes here and there...but this season also has some of the best episodes of TV...ever. That said, here is my ranking of all seven episodes of Stranger Things 4 Volume 1.
7. Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse
I still liked this episode, but I found it a little bit tedious. The ending of episode one was shocking, and I felt like episode two didn't follow it up with an equal amount of shock value. It felt like the characters were finding things out that we already knew. I also really didn't like the plotline involving Eleven. I felt like the bullies were over the top and I didn't find it fun to watch Eleven being harshly bullied and humiliated. This is a good episode, but it's one of the weakest Stranger Things episodes.
6. Chapter Five: The Nina Project
This episode was another frustrating one. It followed up the utter masterpiece that episode four was with a slower, exposition-heavy episode. This was the episode were I felt the Stranger Things-isms repeating the most. It felt like we cycled through a bunch of beats and scenes that we've already seen similar versions of. I felt like the writing here wasn't great. The building mystery of Vecna was kind of put on pause here. I loved the return of Dr. Brenner, but everything else had me slightly frustrated.
5. Chapter One: The Hellfire Club
I think there's a big jump in quality from episode five to episode one. Obviously, I love these characters, so I loved seeing where they were at. It immediately felt darker and sadder than any of the previous seasons. We see that high school has affected all of the characters differently. I loved the introduction of Eddie and Jason. And nothing had me ready for that ending. We get our first scenes of Vecna and immediately establish the threat that he poses, which I loved. This was a great episode, and worked as a re-integration into this world.
4. Chapter Six: The Dive
This episode feels like the transition episode. Before the finale of each season, Stranger Things always has what I like to call a transition episode, where the stakes are raised and our characters are in real danger. I love the small amount of payoff this episode has with the compass and Skull Rock. And the ending is great. I'm not crazy about where they took Jason's plotline, but I get what they are going for. It set the stage for the finale of this volume very well.
3. Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero
This episode being the shortest of the season definitely helped it out. This is another transition episode. It feels like this episode is the end of the first act. The setup is out of the way. Now let's get into the story. The last fifteen minutes of this episode are awesome, as we see Eleven reunite with Dr. Owens. The terror you feel when Vecna calls out Max's name is also amazing. I loved how they wrapped up the first chapter of this season. You feel the stakes increasing and the danger coming closer. And I love that feeling.
2. Chapter Four: Dear Billy
It's funny. Before the finale of this volume, I was thinking this was my favorite episode of Stranger Things. It's fantastic. There's a building sense of urgency and dread as Vecna draws closer to Max. You feel the hopelessness and sadness of our characters as they desperately search for a way to save Max. The use of Victor Creel as a Hannibal Lecter-type character who gives us more backstory on Vecna was awesome. Robert Englund was incredible in that role. But what makes this episode great is the final sequence. Vecna chasing Max as Dustin, Lucas, and Steve try their hardest to save her is the most intense and emotional sequence in this season. Because we know that Stranger Things is willing to kill off main characters, I wasn't sure Max was going to survive. It was so stressful and sad as she runs from Vecna with the music swelling. Her eventual survival is one of the biggest reliefs I've ever had watching a show. It was one of the best scenes I have ever seen. It was absolutely incredible. I don't know if the last two episodes can top this episode, but if they can, then this season could very well end up as my favorite.
1. Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab
I wasn't sure if this episode would be good. All of my friends were hyping it up. From what I had read, it was supposed to be a good finale. Nothing prepared me for this. This is one of the craziest episodes of TV I have ever watched. It is also one of the best. Not only did this just immediately shoot up my ranking of the Stranger Things episodes, but it cemented Stranger Things as my favorite show of all time. I am in actual awe. The runtime on this thing is one hour and thirty-eight minutes. It does not feel like that. The episode moves at an extremely fast pace. Every plotline that they cut to is equally exciting. And they have some massive, game-changing moments and reveals in here. Everything with Vecna was utter insanity. But then you also have moments of extreme tension and realizations about the Upside Down that change everything. I am losing my mind. I cannot wait for the last two episodes of this season.