Stranger Things 4's Biggest Plot Hole Is Driving Me Crazy
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I know I’ve been picking on Stranger Things a lot for the past few days, but that’s only because I genuinely do love this show and its characters. It just also happens to be one of those shows that always irks me to no end.

Season 2 felt like a retread of Season 1 with a villain that was much less frightening and mysterious. Season 3 included way, way too much kissing and was just overly goofy in almost every way.

Season 4, thankfully, fixed most of these problems by introducing a more interesting villain and giving many—but not all—of the characters more satisfying arcs.

But in the end, even the strengths of Season 4 were diminished by shoddy, poorly paced storytelling. (I go into detail about the problems with the final two episodes in my two-part review here and here).

One of the problems with the season finale of Stranger Things 4 is such a gaping, massive plot hole that I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve turned it over and over in my head a bunch of times and it still just doesn’t make a lick of sense.

I suppose I should remind you that spoilers follow as obvious as that may seem.

Okay, so at the very end of the finale our heroes fail to stop Vecna from killing Max. Mostly, this is due to Eleven freezing up for no good reason after she initially puts the smack down on the supervillain. It’s not until Mike tells her he loves her and shouts at her to “Fight!” that she snaps out of her sobby capitulation.

I really hated this part of the finale and it still irks me to no end whenever I think about it. Eleven spent several episodes delving into her deeply traumatic backstory in order to regain her powers. She gets them back and uses them against a military helicopter, illustrating just how powerful she’s become once again. And when she first shows up in Max’s mind, she puts the hurt on One in a big way. The fact that she suddenly is a weepy little weakling makes no sense. That the almost entirely useless Mike—the “heart” of the group according to Will, which is just bafflingly sappy—has to inspire her to action is infuriating.

But that’s not the plot hole that’s been driving me crazy.

Here’s what happens:

Eleven fails to stop Vecna and he mortally wounds Max. In the haunted mansion, Nancy, Steve and Robin attack Vecna one at a time as though this were a turn-based RPG and Nancy fails to shoot him in the head, inexplicably. He survives and escapes.

Max does not. She dies in Lucas’s arms in what is, admittedly, a profoundly sad and moving scene.

This is Vecna’s fourth sacrifice, the one needed to open the giant fiery rifts between the real world and the Upside Down. The rifts open, causing massive death destruction to Hawkins and its residents.

Eleven approaches Max’s dead body and we see her reach out, using her powers to bring Max back from the dead.

Then we get a two-day time jump where it seems that the rifts have closed, presumably because Eleven saved Max who is now in a hospital in a coma, but still clinging on to life. Later the rifts re-open for reasons we don’t really understand, which was confusing but whatever.

The plot hole I’m talking about is what happens during the two-day time-jump between the fight against Vecna and everything that takes place in Hawkins (where apparently everyone other than Dustin has forgotten that Eddie sacrificed himself and died!)

Here’s my question: How do Nancy, Steve, Robin and Dustin escape the Upside Down?

The massive rifts open up while these characters are in the Upside Down. The rifts are clearly not the same thing as the small gates that were open before. We see one tear the body of Jason clean in half. We see them opening and entire buildings falling in as they tear through neighborhoods. I’m not sure if there’s actual lava or fire in the rifts but they certainly look fiery.

Whatever the case, these are obviously super dangerous but somehow the four living people who find themselves in the Upside Down after Vecna’s disappearance make it out somehow. They must travel through these rifts quickly, also, because it appears that the moment Eleven brings Max back to life they close up again. I suppose it’s possible that when they close up, the four small gates remain and that’s how everyone exits the Upside Down, but none of this is made clear and we’re left scratching our heads.

Also, and this is equally important, did they really just leave Eddie’s body in the Upside Down? Seriously?

I think this just underscores how bad the “TWO DAYS LATER” time skip was. It cut off at a crucial moment, as Eleven went into Max’s broken mind, and picked back up without explaining how our heroes escaped or what exactly happened. In many ways, I wish they’d simply ended the episode before the time jump and avoided all the sappy denouement. If they really needed to have a reunion with Eleven and Hopper, it would have been far more interesting if she’d found him with her powers and we all had to wait for the actual hugs and tears until Season 5.

Then again, there may be yet another time-jump between now and then, even though the ending of Season 4 makes that a totally bizarre narrative decision.

What do you think? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.



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