‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 Episode 9 Recap: “The Piggyback”
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It’s on, folks. Welcome to the supersized recap to the supersized finale episode of Stranger Things 4, “The Piggyback.” Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Russian Into Battle

In Russia, the work ethic is questionable (Yuri), the smooches are intense (Joyce and Hopper), and the yearning for lasagna is strong (Hopper again, but also all of us, because who doesn’t love a pasta layer cake?). While Yuri stalls on fixing Katinka the Curvaceous Helicopter, Hopper has some feelings about putting Joyce in danger, then has some pants-feelings, somehow undeterred by her correcting his pronunciation of Chianti in their food-centric verbal foreplay. They mack in the warehouse with all of Yuri’s saints watching, until! The phone rings. Mom. Just kidding, it’s the call back from the U.S.

STRANGER THINGS SEASON 4 EP 9 KISS KISS BANG BANG

As Hop recaps to Murray, Antonov, and Joyce, it was a quick call with the stern lady agent in Lenora, who seemed to have no idea who he was, nor does he know who she is. She told him that “the doc” — Owens — went with “the girl” — El — to fight evil. The usual. They’re off the grid “and they’re not alone, Joyce’s kids are with them.” Yikes. They stress over how to get to America, which is far, as a reminder, too far for Katinka and her heli-booty to carry them, even if she was in working order, Yuri<. Also also, it would take too long.

Joyce hatches a plan: Break back into the prison that they just broke out of and destroy the particles they saw in the creepy lab of Demogorgons. Lab-o-Gorgon, if you will. She correctly guesses that they’re fighting a hive mind, and that they may be able to weaken it and buy the kids some time from afar if they get them particles gone. How will they do it? Well, Hop has a flamethrower, so.

Antonov is tasked with motivating Yuri to repair Katinka while Hop, Joyce, and Murray storm the castle. When they drive back in, it’s quiet — too quiet. Not quiet: The radio that we hear crackling with gunfire and shouting at tan abandoned guard station. Yikes.

Back at the warehouse, Antonov first tries bullying Yuri, then flattering him, saying that he heard “the Peanut Butter Smuggler was once a great man.” He wins him over to helping “the Americans” by convincing him that the monster they’re fighting knows no borders, and they could use a war hero like Yuri to save the world. Fine, fine.

The Lab-o-Gorgon is a mess, and the tanks are all smashed. We can assume that an actual herd of monsters are on the loose, because they’re certainly not in their glass prisons. A bloodied guard tells them that the gunfire shattered the tanks, they came alive, and the particles, which they call “the shadow,” “went into them.” Into…who? Instead of answering, he unhelpfully dies. Some people. New plan! Hop assigns roles: Murray, with the flamethrower, will be “grillmaster,” Joyce will be “jailor” at the surveillance monitors, and Hop will be the bait to lure the monsters into the pit, where Joyce will push the button to lock them in. Joyce is having flashbacks to her former BF Sean Astin getting fully eaten by the same monsters in the (honestly pretty recent!) past, but Hop assures her: Not him, not today. He still has lasagna to eat, after all. Smooches!

Obviously, he’s….pretty quickly being overtaken by a monster. We’ll leave him here for now and come back to see what’s up with him in our epic finale, shall we?

A Scoop of Heroics

Our current Scoops Troop configuration — Robin, Steve, Nancy, Eddie, Dustin, Max, Lucas, and Erica — goes over their plan. Lucas, Erica, and Max will go into the real-world Creel House to use Max as Vecna-bait, with Erica acting as a signal go-between from the playground. Robin, Steve, and Nancy will go into the Upside Down Creel House to attack Vecna’s body in the attic once they know he’s got Max in his mind palace. Their plan is, simply, “flambe,” as Robin puts it. As for Eddie and Dustin? Decoys, not heroes. They’re meant to lure the bats away from the Creel House in the Upside Down, clearing the way for the others to enter. Decked out in camo, and in Dustin’s case, some extraneous dog tags, they alternate between dropping people and weapons through to the Upside Down. “Don’t try to be cute or be a hero or something,” Steve reminds Dustin and Eddie. “Look at us. We are not heroes,” Eddie agrees, then tells Steve to “give ’em hell.”

Trippin’

Our third faction, Jonathan, Will, Mike, Eleven, and, most importantly, Argyle, are also striking out on getting back to Hawkins in a timely manner and have to get creative. There aren’t any seats on the bus, and Argyle’s best idea, bless him, is for them to ride in the luggage compartment. “Dogs do it all the time.” Eleven has another idea that doesn’t require any physical travel: Piggyback. She thinks she can invade Max’s mind and fight Vecna there, she explains, drawing it out on a dirty window with a stick figure that looks happier than Max ever has, tbh. All they’ll need is a bath and a lot of salt. Argyle, after realizing she doesn’t just feel a stank, has an idea for “a magical place that has all you need, my brave little superpowered friend. That mind fight is on!” We’re going to Surfer Boy’s Nevada franchise!

It’s like the Upside Down of Stonerdom there: Argyle importantly adjusts his Surfer Boy visor and greets an alterna-Argyle as “my dude,” who “my dude”s him right back. Our Surfer Boy friend would love to feed a fellow Surfer Boy, but the kitchen is closed, my dude. Argyle plays it straight: They’re not there for pie. “She needs a tub with a bunch of salt to enhance her psychic powers so she can save the world from this super bad dude. But to make this salty tub, we require your kitchen.” Natch. One problem: Surfer Boy needs to meet Chaz at Taco Bell in ten. Jonathan pulls a “my dude” of his own and offers the great equalizer: weed. My Dude complies and the game is on. Will and Jonathan work on making the salt tub in the walk-in freezer and have an emotional talk about being there for each other, Mike flirts with Eleven while crafting some sensory-deprivation glasses out of a pizza box, and Argyle expertly slings a pineapple pizza, which horrifies Mike and delights Eleven. Snacks are important, my dude.

Finally, it’s time. Eleven slides into the tub and slips on her pizza glasses. The lights immediately start flickering.

STRANGER THINGS 4 EP 9 PIZZA GLASSES

Mindfight or Flight

Now that everyone is in place across (and under) the world, we’re entangled. Bear with me, because this episode is over two-and-a-half hours, a runtime that, if it were a movie, I’d walk out and go, “so fun, but probably could stand to lose at least half an hour.” Just saying! It’s a journey!

So! Let’s do it.

Dustin and Eddie are at Eddie’s trailer in the Upside Down, reinforcing it. Nancy, Robin, and Steve are walking through the woods, Robin complaining that “That would suck if Vecna destroyed the world just because we got lost in the woods.” Steve and Nancy have A Talk, where he admits that he crawled backwards as a baby until he bonked his head, then he learned how to crawl forward. It’s a pretty decent metaphor, actually, for what he says is going through life “super confident” and then realizing he is “also an idiot.” He thanks Nancy for giving him a metaphorical bump on the head two years before, and wonders whether they’d still be together if some other girl had given him that awakening — it’s definitely shaping up to be A Moment, but then Robin comes running back to deliver good news and a total buzzkill before they can smooch: They’ve arrived at the Creel House, the hellbats swarming overhead.

In the real world, Max, Lucas, and Erica walk the Creel House in sock feet with lanterns, silently hunting Vecna, Max’s headphones blasting Kate Bush as usual. When the lanterns buzz up, Phase One is afoot. Erica runs to the playground to show the signal, and Lucas and Max settle in to wait and exchange cute handwritten notes. Lucas goes hard on exclamation points and happy faces, wondering how this guy would fare sending emails in 30 years. He’s definitely a “hope this finds you well” with an inspirational quote in his signature, I can just feel it. They make a plan to see a movie on Friday, complete with Max drawing a cute stick figure tableau of them holding hands and also popcorn. When Erica’s flashlight signal clicks on, Max springs into action in the house for Phase Two: Distracting Vecna. She takes off her headphones and laces up her Converse, monologuing about how she kind of wanted Billy to die as she makes her way to the attic. Vecna sees her darkest thoughts, she says, so he knows that she would think about something terrible happening to her brother. She just stood there when he died at the mall not because she was afraid, but because she maybe wanted him to die. Vecna’s not taking the bait.

In the pizza freezer, El narrates to the rest of the crew as she travels the astral plane or what have you. She can see Max and Lucas and their lanterns, and says that their plan isn’t working. Max sits on the floor, Lucas looking on, saying that she wanted Billy to disappear, and now she’s guilty and wants to disappear herself. Lucas, aghast, asks if it’s true that she wanted Billy to die. He says it’s not normal to fantasize about people dying and — typical teen boy — makes it about himself. “Do you ever have those thoughts about me?” He’s getting super mean, telling her that maybe it would be best if she dies, that it would be fitting if Vecna takes her and she’s the one who breaks the world. Waitaminute — my guy’s eyes are glowing blue as he’s dropping this verbal devastation. It’s Vecna time! We realize that Max is in a trance in the real world, Lucas shouting at her very still body.

STRANGER THINGS SEASON 4 EP 9 PIZZA BATH

In Surfer Boy, the lights are flickering and Eleven is trying to get to Max’s mind to begin the piggyback experiment, while Max shouts at Vecna-Lucas to stay away from her. Eleven is seeing flashes of Max apologizing to Billy, singing the Neverending Story song, arriving at school in Hawkins for the first time — “I think I am in a memory,” El narrates. “A Max memory.” She emerges into a skate park, looking for Max.

Lucas uses his flashlight to signal Phase Three, which is about where things start unraveling, to be real. See, the Basketbros have figured out that something is going on at the “murder house,” as they call it, and they’ve tackled Erica. Not great, but I have confidence in Erica America to see this through. Dustin and Eddie pick up the signal and it’s time for them to rock — literally. Eddie fetches his beloved guitar, and they head to the roof of the trailer to distract the hellbats and draw them away from the Creel House long enough for the others to enter and set Vecna on fire. The usual. “Chrissy, this is for you,” Eddie says, then rips into Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Honestly, it rules. There is no other word for it than absolutely metal. Dustin is in awe, headbanging and screeching. I don’t blame him, Eddie is absolutely shredding as the bats come to see the show. Dustin counts Billy down and they hop into the reinforced trailer, where Dustin screams that it was “dude, most. Metal. EVARRRRRRR!” and they jump up and down bellowing together while the bats pelt the side of the trailer, looking for a way in.

STRANGER THINGS SEASON 4 FINALE MASTER OF PUPPETS

Meanwhile, Max is running from Vecna in the mind-house, the spectre of Billy banging on a door and trying to escape. She’s thinking of dancing with Lucas for the first time to “Every Breath You Take,” and it’s both very sweet and very intense. As Vecna-Billy manages to break open the door and Eddie finishes his guitar solo, Max opens her eyes to find herself alone in the decorated school gym, the memory of the dance. It worked. “Holy shit,” she breathes. Same, dude.

Robin, Steve, and Nancy open the door to the Upside Down Creel House. The good news is that the bats have been successfully distracted. The bad? The house is absolutely covered in vines. Yikes. They cautiously hopscotch in.

Eleven spots Tiny Max in the skatepark memory, flipping off a bully and telling him to “bag his face.” MemoryMax can’t see El, who realizes that there’s a memory inside a memory, spotting a boom box playing “Every Breath You Take.”

In the memory safe haven, things are getting a little less safe for Max: The streamers begin drooping and the flowers on the table are wilting and turning grey as she watches. Balloons pop, exploding blood. I always knew school dances were the worst. A record player starts playing a distorted, warbling “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” literally Creel’s music. Things are going south. Eleven hears the music too, and sees storm clouds gathering in the distance. Doom!

In the Creel House attic, Lucas wonders what the hell is taking so long for Erica to signal back. Welp. She got captured, that’s what the hell. Jason and his handgun burst into the attic, spotting Max and trying to wake her up, then turning on Lucas. “Is this what you did to Chrissy?” He points the gun at him, telling Lucas to turn around, empty his pockets, and then wake Max up. Um, no can do, my guy. “If I wake her too soon, we all die,” he says. But, Jason counters, if “we don’t wake her up right now, you die, Sinclair. Just you.” Eeesh. Jason is not buying the explanation that Chrissy was seeing things, and that she went to Eddie to buy drugs because she was scared and looking for help, not because she was an unwitting satanic sacrifice. “I was wrong about you,” Jason tells Lucas. “I never should have let you in the door.” Lucas gets him back: “And I never should have knocked. I thought I wanted to be like you. Popular. Normal. But as it turns out, normal’s just a raging psychopath.” That’s what I’ve been saying, my guy! Jason has a vibe, and it’s not a good one! Jason gives him a five-second countdown to wake Max, and Lucas lunges at him, the gun going off. It’s on. Erica has also escaped her own basketbro and made a break for it to come to Lucas’s aide. In the tussle between Jason and Lucas, the Walkman, the only hope of pulling Max from her trance, is crushed underfoot. Oh no.

More bad news for Dustin and Eddie: the bats found a way in. While they’re celebrating Eddie’s rockin’ (sorry) distraction, a bat punches through a ceiling vent. They attack it, bellowing “die, die, die!” They do manage to plug the hole, high five, but realize there are other vents. Shooooooooot. They realize there are hella hellbats in the back of the trailer, and it’s time to boogie. They shut the door against them and get back to the hole leading to the real world, where Dustin goes through first. Eddie begins to climb as well, but hesitates. As Dustin eggs him on to climb and get the hell out of that literal hell, he makes a decision, slicing off the rope and flipping the questionably stained mattress away, blocking a distraught Dustin from getting back through. “I’m buying more time,” he shouts to a pleading Dustin, booking it out of the trailer and onto a bicycle, hellbats giving chase as Eddie taunts them to “come get me, you sons of bitches!” Dustin manages to take a flying leap and claw through the hole, landing hard on his ankle on the other side without the gnarly mattress to break his fall. Eddie is knocked off his bike and swarmed by the bats, his own words about running from Chrissy’s mangled body because he didn’t know what to do, his “we are noooooot heroes” line, echoing in his head. He hefts his trash can lid shield up and stands against them, and it’s very badass, though the feeling I have about where this is going is decidedly more bad than badass.

Robin, Steve, and Nancy are also in trouble: A Vecna-earthquake shook the house and they touched those ding dang vines when they fell, and now all three of them have been grabbed by the tentacles, pinned to the walls and being squeezed and choked. Oof.

STRANGER THINGS 4 VECNA DANCE
The Enchantment Under The Sea dance is going TERRIBLY.

Max tries to barricade her memory gym, but it’s not working. Vecna’s stained glass door appears, followed by the monster-man himself. She can’t hide. He tells her he knows what she’s doing, and can see her friends too. “I can feel them. I can feel them dying.” As the clock chimes, it looks like, yep, they are. Nobody’s in a good place, emotionally or physically. “It’s time, Max.” He throws out his arm and pins her to the wall, creeping closer and telling her how weak and fragile she is, how he’s going to break her. He’s about to do so, lifting his hand to her face to end it all, when he’s suddenly flung away from her with force. My gal Eleven! She’s got everything One has, plus ten, y’all. She slowly turns Vecna, suspended in the air, to face her. “You,” he growls. “Hi,” she replies, then flings him away into a wall. It’s. Friggin. On.

As Eleven helps her up, Max asks if she’s real and how this is happening. “I piggybacked from a pizza dough freezer.” Duh. Vecna is recovering, so it’s time to face off. He tells Eleven it’s going to be “beautiful, and it’s all thanks to you,” as they start fighting. He quickly gains the upper hand, thrashing her around. In the pizza freezer, with what closed captioning tells me is some [edritch thrumming], her body convulses, and the crew realizes she’s gotten in and she’s fighting Vecna. I’m telling you, if you watch this episode through, you gotta put on closed captioning for the descriptions alone. For example, as Vecna continues to thrash Eleven and then immobilizes Max when she attempts to charge him, he floats Eleven toward him while [ominous dirge plays], and he brings them both into his misty red mind palace where he keeps all of his Vectims like trophies, their twisted bodies pinned to columns forever. The clock ticks and Eleven is immobilized by [ichorous vines], held fast to the stained glass door. Max, unconscious, is pinned too.

Eleven gets Vecna’s attention by shouting that Papa is dead. “I know what he did to you,” she tries to reason with him. “You were different. Like me. He hurt you. He made you into this. He is the monster, Henry. Not you.” He says no, Papa wasn’t a monster. He was just some guy, seeking greatness through others. He couldn’t control them or shape them. In fact, “Do you not see, Eleven? He did not make me into this. You did.” We flash back to Baby Eleven absolutely wasting Henry in his orderly whites, sending him through the wall and into the other dimension. Once he realized he wasn’t dead, he began exploring, where he discovered a means to become the ultimate predator, like his beloved spiders. In the memory, he reaches out to a dark cloud, which forms into the shape of a spider and reaches back. All this time, the Demogorgons, the Mind Flayer, all of it — that’s been his doing. “All I needed was someone to open the door, and you did that for me without even realizing it, didn’t you?” he asks. We see Eleven’s earlier explorations through the dark place, those missions that Papa sent her on. “I sought your power. So don’t you see? Once again, you have freed me.” He tells her that she and her friends have lost.

And as we see flashing between our scattered groups, it’s not looking awesome for any of them. Lucas is getting the absolute crap beaten out of him, Eddie just got bitten by a bat, with more coming. “There is nothing you can do to stop this now.” The Demodog is on top of Hop. Steve, Nancy and Robin are getting choked by tentacle vines, and Lucas is getting choked by Jason. Vecna wants to pull a Thanos and remake the world into something beautiful. He’d wanted to have Eleven by his side, “but now I just want you to watch.” He walks away toward Max as a vine wraps around Eleven’s throat. He tells Max not to be afraid and to try and stay very still. “It will all be over soon.” (This episode’s runtime bs to d, just saying.)

As Max’s body begins to levitate in the attic, the Pizza Pack panics and tries to wake Eleven, who can’t breathe. Will reminds Mike that he’s the heart, and he can lead them. They pull her body to a table, and Mike begins monologuing and telling Eleven that he loves her. “You’re my superhero,” but he’d love her even if she wasn’t. He believes she can do anything, “but right now, you just need to fight.” In the Mind Palace, she looks determined and her tentacle vines loosen.

As Max’s limbs begin to twist and crack in the attic, Lucas breaks free and begins decking Jason. The Demogorgon is getting closer and closer to Hop’s face. Eddie is getting eaten by bats as Dustin runs for him. Eleven screams and throws out her hand and the screen. Goes. Black.

After a beat, we see Vecna flying away from Max, hurled by Eleven’s powers. Max’s body thuds to the ground. Joyce makes a heroic entrance in Russia, nailing the monster with a shock stick, before she, Murray, and Hop manage to trap them and set the whole dang pack of monsters on fire. Vecna is pinned to one of his own columns in his mind palace, and all of the hellbats drop abruptly. Steve, Robin, and Nancy are also dropped from their tentavines, which are slithering away, retreating. “I don’t believe in a higher power or divine intervention, but that was a miracle,” Robin says. Which means it’s time for Phase Four: Flambe.

STRANGER THINGS 4 FLAMETHROWER

One last Demogorgon has managed to stand up, still on fire, and Hop shoots it about a thousand times to no avail, before he spots a sword on the ground, natch. Like, a full-on Lord of the Rings sword. Real epic fantasy hero stuff. He slices the monster’s head off.

El is doing El Arm, holding Vecna up against the pillar. In the Upside Down, the Scoops have made it to the attic and Vecna’s vulnerable body. “You and your friends believe you have won, don’t you?” Vecna asks Eleven. “But this is only the beginning. The beginning of the end. You have already lost.” Eleven responds: “No, you have.”

As Kate Bush, the only fitting soundtrack for this moment, blares, Steve hurls a flaming bottle at Vecna, who bursts into flame. In the mind palace, he dissolves into red smoke before Eleven’s eyes. Back in the attic, Robin hits him with more flaming bottles, and Nancy and her sawed-off shotgun march toward him, shooting five times before his body flies backwards out the window … dead? Big question mark. In Russia, Katinka the helicopter arrives, and Murray, my personal hero, sums it up with a celebratory “son of a bitch.” The good guys won! The good guys…won? Again: Big question mark.

The good guys appear to have not, in fact, won. Steve, Nancy, and Robin stand on the porch, looking at the charred mark on the ground where Vecna’s body should be, but isn’t. And Eddie. Poor Eddie! Eddie has played his last solo. “I didn’t run away this time, right?” he tells a weeping Dustin, then makes him promise to look after “those little sheep for me.” Because “I’m actually going to graduate. I think it’s my year, Henderson. I think it’s finally my year. I love you, man.” Dustin loves him too and then Eddie…Eddie is deady. Boooooooooo. Rewind, I hate it!

STRANGER THINGS 4 EDDIE DEADY

In the real-world Creel House attic, Erica bursts in, where Lucas is holding Max’s literally broken and bloody body. We saw at least three limbs go full twisty, and her eyes have blood streaming out of them. She’s alive, but barely. While Erica goes to call an ambulance, Max tells Lucas she can’t see or feel anything, and he begs her to hold on. Eleven is watching them from her dark place mind dimension. Max doesn’t want to die, she says, but then she goes ahead and does it anyway. The clock ticks loudly and then rings its four chimes. Yikes.

The good guys definitely did not win, we see, as lines run from each of the four gates through the town, ripping straight through everything in their path (including Jason’s body, which is fully sliced, turd) to meet in the middle. We watch from above as an explosion blooms at the center.

Mike begs Eleven to wake up, while in her mind world, Eleven watches Lucas cry over Max’s body. “No, you’re not going,” she whispers, replaying her own happy memories of their friendship in her head and reaching out to put her hand on Max’s chest. The screen. Goes. Black.

TWO DAYS LATER, the chyron tells us, which is also about how long this episode is. Just saying.

STRANGER THINGS 4 TWO DAYS LATER

Cars are streaming out of Hawkins as the Surfer Boy van drives in toward the black columns of smoke that are all over the town. A news report helpfully informs us that this is being called an earthquake of unprecedented proportions, and mentions that Eddie, the prime suspect in recent satanic cult murders, is still missing. Hawkins Tourism Board must be thrilled, as usual.

The van pulls up to Nancy’s house, and Mike, Will, Jonathan, Argyle, and Eleven are reunited with Nancy and her family, as well as Robin, Dustin, and Steve, with lots of happy tears and, in the case of Jonathan and Nancy, a very unsexy kiss on the forehead. Mike is banned by his mother from going on vacation ever again, or to college. Lucas is at the hospital reading to Max, who is in a coma and may not wake up, her sweet stick figure drawing taped to the wall. Her heart stopped for over a minute, and doctors have no idea what made it start again, Lucas says. It’s a miracle. El takes her hand.

The Hawkins High gym has transformed into a relief center with cots and medical services, and Steve, Robin, and Dustin arrive to drop off donations and the volunteer. Robin ends up making PB&Js and sweetly awkward conversation with her crush, Vickie, who says she broke up with her boyfriend. He didn’t even like Fast Times which really should have been a flag, she says, as Steve looks on from across the gym like a proud uncle.

Speaking of uncles, Dustin spots Eddie’s, putting up posters asking for information about him. He gives him Eddie’s guitar pick necklace and tells him he was with him when the earthquake hit, and that he wishes people would have gotten to know sweet goofball Eddie, because they would have loved him. “He could have saved himself, but he fought,” he tells the grief-stricken man. “He fought and died to protect this town, this town that hated him. He isn’t just innocent. Mr. Munson, he’s a hero.”

Finally, it’s time for El to go back into hiding, since the military still thinks she’s behind all this nonsense and wants to, you know, kill her. The Surfer Boy van, which at this point has really seen some stuff and is almost definitely going to come out of Argyle’s paycheck, rolls up to Hop’s abandoned cabin, which Argyle dubs a “fortress of grodiness,” hole in the roof and all. As they get to a cleaning party, Jonathan and Nancy unconvincingly agree that they’re “okay,” and he says that his Emerson letter just….never came. No time like LITERALLY NEVER to tell the truth, I guess!

Will and Mike discuss El’s emotional state — not great — and the future of the world — also not great. They agree that they’re just going to have to kill Vecna, and Will says that his spidey sense is tingling, a souvenir from that first go-round in the Upside Down, years ago. Vecna’s hurt, but he’s not dead. “I still remember what he thinks and how he thinks, and he’s not going to stop. Not until he’s taken everything and everyone. We have to kill him.”

STRANGER THINGS 4 SPIN THE BOTTLE

Eleven is interrupted from her brooding in her old room, searching for Max in her mind, by a familiar voice: “Hey, kid.” Hop’s back! I’m in pieces. They hug and cry and I hug a pillow and cry. Eleven sniffs out that she always kept the door cracked three inches, that she never gave up on him. They admire each other’s shaved heads and Eleven declares Hop’s new look “bitchin’.” Outside, they find Joyce in a group hug with her sons, and El goes to them too, the rest of her family. “I’m happy you went to your…conference?” El tells Joyce, looking at Hop. Mike says hey to Hop, who says, “you’ve grown.” “You’ve shrunk,” Mike says. Zing! They hug. This is so nice! It won’t last. Will grabs the back of his neck and looks up to the sky. They all look up. Not…good. Thunder rumbles. The Upside Down particles float around in the air, people are seeing it all over town. It’s like pollen, but from hell. Holly thinks it’s snow, but Holly doesn’t know anything.

The kids walk out into a field of colorful wildflowers, Eleven in the lead. As red lightning flashes in the distance, we see that there’s a dividing line, the field abruptly turning from lush and green to grey and shriveled, the deadest of dead. A flower wilts in Eleven’s hand as she picks it. As we hear [dire choral vocalizations] (thank you, closed captioning), the lightning flashes one last time and we smash to the credits. Sheeeeeesh.

And that’s our show, folks, at least until Season Five! Load up those playlists with Vecna-proof songs and practice your best Eleven arm-throw, because it looks like we’re gonna need it.

Kase Wickman is a writer, editor, Ravenclaw and certified fraidy-cat who lives in New Jersey. If she had powers, she’d never have to wash off mascara again. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, if you dare.

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