Stranger Things Season 4 ended with an Empire Strikes Back-esque set back for our intrepid heroes, inspiring yet more worry for what’s still to come in Season 5. Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 2 followed our heroes as they faced their most dangerous foe yet, Vecna/Henry/One (Jamie Campbell Bower).
Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1 ended with Nancy (Natalia Dyer) firmly in the monster’s grasp. Spoilers, but Vecna let her go, only to deliver a horrifying message to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). The message? He’s coming to lead an army of monsters and darkness through four gates to destroy Hawkins. Each kill creates one gate and now Vecna’s only one kill away from invading the other side…
That means Max (Sadie Sink) is in immediate danger. She would be the fourth kill and her death would open the fourth gate. So the gang hatches a complex plan to bait Vecna with Max, while Nancy, Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Eddie (Joseph Quinn), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) go into the Upside Down to kill Vecna while he’s “weak.” The good news is Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has figured out a way to help from across the country and Joyce (Winona Ryder), Hopper (David Harbour), and Murray (Brett Gelman) are working to weaken the Upside Down from Russia. The bad news is Vecna is more powerful than the team bargained for and his plan might have actually worked.
So what’s does that final scene mean? Did Vecna actually win? Is Vecna alive? Which Stranger Things characters died? What’s next for our heroes and the Upside Down? Here’s everything you need to know about the end of Stranger Things Season 4…
Stranger Things Season 4 Ending Explained: Vecna Won
Well, well, well, it seems our heroes didn’t win the day after all.
Let’s back up for a minute. Once Eleven finds her way into Max’s mind, she’s able to battle with Vecna once more. The balance of power seesaws back and forth with Eleven first taking the upper hand and then Vecna revealing that by banishing him to the Upside Down, El has made him more powerful than ever before. It seems Vecna has won and Max is doomed. Eddie dies buying time for his friends in the Upside Down, whom he doesn’t realize are also (with the exception of Dustin) being choked by Vecna.
In Surfer Boy Pizza in Nevada — where Eleven’s body is — Will (Noah Schnapp) encourages Mike (Finn Wolfhard) to be “the heart.” Mike tells Eleven he loves her and that she can do anything. But she has to fight. This gives Eleven the strength to telekinetically push Vecna off of Max. Meanwhile, in Russia, Murray is able to torch the demogorgons and demo dogs there. This weakens the Upside Down at the perfect moment. Nancy, Steve, and Robin torch and shoot Vecna’s physical body to smithereens.
Before he dies, Vecna taunts Eleven, telling her that although she believes she and her friends have won, “This is only the beginning.” As it happens, Vecna was able to do enough damage to Max that she does die. Four bells chime and then four gates open across Hawkins. Houses are destroyed, people die, and clouds cover the town. Eleven can’t bear losing her best female friend so she calls upon all their happy memories, hoping it will revive Max.
When we cut ahead to “Two Days Later,” the Surfer Boy crew finally arrive in a devastated, but still standing, Hawkins. They learn that Max was clinically dead for a minute — thereby opening the fourth gate — but that Eleven was able to bring her back. However, Max is in a full body cast and it’s unclear if she will ever come out of her coma.
The gang returns to Hopper’s dilapidated cabin in the woods to set it up for Eleven. Hopper and Joyce arrive and are reunited with the kids. All seems calm, but Will tells Mike that now they’re back in Hawkins, he can feel Vecna again. (After all, it was Vecna who controlled the Mindflayer and Demogorgon all that time. He was looking for Eleven, using her to search for a way back to our world so he could conquer it and remake it as something he considers “beautiful.” And Mike and the Mindflayer go way back.) Mike says Vecna is not dead yet, but merely hurt. But they have to kill him or he’ll destroy everything.
In the final moments of Stranger Things Season 4, Mike feels that telltale itch on the back of his neck. An ominous black cloud emerges over Hawkins. Ash falls from the sky and everything it touches withers into a grotesque version of itself, sort of like you’d find in the Upside Down. The four gates dividing Hawkins light up with a hellish glow. Eleven — with her friends behind her — looks down upon Hawkins. Vecna won.
So, yeah, Vecna is not dead and the gates have been opened, so Stranger Things Season 5 will be all about the final showdown between Eleven and her friends and Vecna…probably in a twisted version of Hawkins. This lines up with what the Duffer brothers revealed about Stranger Things Season 5 in a recent Variety interview: that next season is about the lore of the Upside Down. You know, something that’d be good to know as the Upside Down tears our version of Hawkins apart.
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