Netflix’s Stranger Things
“Chapter Four: Dear Billy”
Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by Paul Dichter
* For a recap & review of 4×03, click here.
* For a recap & review of 4×05, click here.
In Cali, Jonathan, Will, and Mike are being told all the madness going on in Hawkins, as well as what’s happening with Eleven, attempting to get her powers back. It’s a lot to hear and handle. Mike’s clearly worried about Eleven, but the government folks there to explain things also explain there are people within the government who think Eleven is a monster and responsible for everything. Mike and the boys have to trust these folks right now. It’s all they can really do. At least Eleven sent along a note for Mike, letting him know she’s trying to become a superhero once more.
Back in Hawkins, Max tries her best to tell the others what she saw at the school, though the grandfather clock has disappeared, obviously. Dustin and Steve found Max in a trance. Not looking good for her. She’s experiencing all the same symptoms of “Vecna‘s curse” as Chrissy and Fred, from the headaches to the nightmarish visions. She’s scared she’ll die tomorrow, like the other two. The gang’s interrupted by Lucas dropping in on them. He tells them the jocks are searching for Dustin to find Eddie, but that’s not their biggest concern at the moment.
While the jocks continue hunting, Dustin, Lucas, and Steve are going over the information Nancy and Robin tracked down at the library. The gang wonder why Vecna’s come back now, and how long the Upside Down has been around since Vecna has been around since at least the 1950s. Nancy and Robin have come up with cover stories as college students to get their way into the asylum and potentially to Victor Creel. Steve gets upset because he doesn’t want to keep babysitting while Nancy and Robin are off doing their academic investigation.
In Alaska, Joyce and Murray are ready to meet with Yuri. In the prison camp, Dmitri prepares Hopper for the escape, even if he also gives the odds of success a “50 to 1” chance. Over in Cali, Jonathan and the lads are on lockdown in the house, sat on by government agents. Mike worries about Eleven and Will tries to assuage that worry. But they know they’re the ones who can save Hawkins, at least with Eleven’s help. First, they’ve got to get themselves out of there, which requires the help of Argyle.
Robin and Nancy get dressed up then head to Pennhurst Mental Hospital. They talk with the hospital’s director but find they’re getting nowhere. He offers a tour of the facility. So, when Nancy’s nice talk approach doesn’t get anywhere, Robin jumps in talking about the sexism of the professional world that holds women back, plus she reels off a story about camp to ingratiate herself to the director. And, somehow, it works.
Murray and Joyce get to an airfield where they’re meant to meet Yuri. They find him working on a plane and joking around about his own death. They hand over the $40K, then Yuri wants to get counting. Simultaneously, Hopper’s setting his escape plan in motion by knocking out a guard, but another guard has already noticed he isn’t on the line with the other prisoners. He’s about free of his shackles when the other guard finds him, and thankfully he remains a bad ass, fighting himself out of a jam using the shackles as brass knuckles. Shit hits the fan when the guard fires off his AK-47, alerting everybody else; something even Dmitri can’t stop. Hopper’s able to sneak himself out of the roof and runs for the woods, leaving behind explosives for the other guards. He gets to a snowmobile and soon he’s off on the horizon, free again.
Max is sure she’ll be killed by Vecna, so she writes letters for her friends, as well as her family, prepared for the moment of her death. When she talks with her mother briefly, she has another vision: she sees bloody clothes on the line and her own mother becomes Vecna himself, his awful arms folded around her. “You‘ve broken everything,” says Vecna. When Max comes back to reality she’s all alone in the yard. When she goes back to the car she refuses to tell her friends about her waking nightmare.
At Pennhurst, Robin and Nancy are taken to see Freddy Kru—I mean, Victor Creel (Robert Englund). They try to get in to see Victor alone and the director allows it. A very Silence of the Lambs-esque dungeon cellblock. Nancy and Robin are left to chat with Victor, who’s been wasting away down there in the dark for decades, his own eyes gone. They tell him they believe he’s innocent and that whatever murdered his family has returned.
When Will, Mike, and Jonathan prepare to take a pizza delivery out of there, they’re surprised and terrified by gunfire. A bunch of soldiers are trying to barge their way inside the Byers house. Bullets fly everywhere as the government agents try to protect the boys. But everything is pure bloody chaos. Argyle soon arrives and gets them out of there before anyone else takes any bullets like the remaining agent.
In Alaska, Yuri finishes counting the $40K, then calls Dmitri to make sure Hopper isn’t dead before he takes a flight to pick the fugitive up. Hopper’s out in the Russian woods making his way further towards the coastline. He takes refuge in a building where there are keys waiting for him outside. Inside, he finds clothes and peanut butter, both a welcome discovery for someone stuck in a Russian prison so long. But his peace is interrupted by soldiers, and Dmitri realises trusting Yuri was a mistake. Very quickly, Joyce and Murray realises the mistake, too, as they begin feeling the effects of the drugged coffee Yuri gave them. Oh, goddamn.
At Pennhurst, Victor tells the girls about his earlier life when he and his wife bought their grand home. He talks about his family, specifically his boy Henry, who felt strange things in that house. Weird things started occurring soon after they moved in, like dead animals turning up all over the place. Victor knew something evil was lurking: “This was a spawn of Satan, a demon.” And after some time, the demon fully invaded their home with “waking, living nightmares” starting with the kids, but soon moving on to Victor himself. Victor thought the evil was nesting in the house, cursing not just the Creel family but Hawkins as a whole. Music seemed to come with the demon, too. Then the demon killed everybody in the house except for Victor. After a while, Robin and Nancy get interrupted by the hospital director; they’ve been found out! Ah, shit.
Max reads a letter to Billy at his grave, both thankful and remorseful; thankful that Billy saved her, as well as Eleven, remorseful that she can’t even tell anybody how he actually died. She feels guilty, too. But she can’t blame herself. Things happening in Hawkins have nothing to do with her, or any of them, really. These horrible things have been going on for so, so long. Though Max still blames herself for not somehow saving Billy, or, at the very least, not allowing him to get sucked into everything. But Vecna returns to visit Max, a dark cloud growing around her. Steve’s fed up waiting and goes to Max, noticing she’s caught in a trance. He can’t snap her out of it. Vecna is busy using Billy’s form to torment Max. She does her best to outrun him in that other reality, yet Vecna’s everywhere.
Robin and Nancy figure out that Victor’s mention of music might provide a link back to reality, as they rush out of the hospital before cops arrive, and that may help Dustin and the boys save Max from the fate Vecna has prepared. Dustin asks Lucas what Max’s favourite song is, then uses his Walkman to try pulling Max out of Vecna’s terrifying Upside Down universe full of grandfather clocks and spiders. Suddenly, Max hears Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” playing, as Vecna’s about to twist her apart into one of his demonic soldiers. She’s able to slip free of Vecna’s grasp, running back towards the light of reality.
Against all odds, Max makes it back to her friends again.
“I suppose all evil must have a home“