MANILA, Philippines – Whenever Stranger Things returns to Netflix, people tend to say it’s the show’s darkest season yet, but that has never been more true than for its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere on May 27.
“Every season when we do this press I always say, it’s so much darker, it’s so much bigger. It’s like the classic thing you say with Stranger Things,” said Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers, in a roundtable interview with press.
“But this season, when I was watching it, I was terrified for some of the parts. So it’s definitely darker and scarier,” he added.
From the very beginning, Stranger Things 4’s death toll is already jarring. Netflix released the season’s first eight minutes on May 20, showing a grisly scene that takes place at the Hawkins National Laboratories.
Viewers don’t need to go very far into the season to see the death toll rise, thanks to a new supernatural threat that sets the stage for more Duffer Brothers references to classic horror films like Carrie and The Exorcist.
Other than paranormal entities, the Stranger Things kids are also entering high school – a different horror altogether – while still nursing a fresh trauma from season 3’s deadly faceoff at Starcourt Mall.
Max (Sadie Sink) is dealing with depression as she lives with the trauma of seeing her stepbrother Billy die, and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) faces a similar grief after losing her adopted dad Hopper, and not having anyone around her who understands.
To make things even tougher, the gang is splintering – Will and Eleven move across the country with Will’s mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) and his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) remain in Hawkins, but are pulled apart by separate interests.
“We’re starting high school, and we’re starting high school without a good chunk of our friend group. Obviously, we miss them very much. It’s a very transitional time for us. Not only are we struggling with dealing with regular things like fitting in in a new social climate, but also trying to cope with everything that has gone on in the past six months,” Gaten said at a press conference.
While the story still unfolds with Stranger Things’ signature humor, the sadness, grief, and fear are also sharper this time around.
As dark as the story has become, behind-the-scenes, the cast enjoyed being able to work with each other again, after production went on pause for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we were all so happy to go back to work after everything and so happy that they were able to figure out a safe way for us to go back,” shared Natalia Dyer, who plays Mike’s big sister and young journalist Nancy Wheeler.
“It was a little different, obviously everyone’s wearing masks, but it was just kind of amazing to be back on set and working again and to keep going with the story that we’re trying to tell…. I think we were all just very grateful that they found a way for us to keep going,” she said.
Eduardo Franco, who joins the cast as this season’s comic relief Argyle, shared that a lot of video games and card games would happen behind-the-scenes as the cast took breaks from filming dark, scary scenes.
“I guess playing video games with Charlie and Finn and playing poker with Noah, that was probably the way I felt like I was decompressing…maybe as a way to get away. Everybody has to have a way to escape, and those were fun moments. Really good fun moments,” he shared.
Maya Hawke, who plays Robin Buckley, said that aside from being a darker season, Stranger Things 4 is also bigger. It’s true in more ways than one: the fourth season clocks in at five hours longer than any previous season, and it’s premiering in two volumes coming in May and July.
It’s also bigger in terms of the scope of the stories, as Maya pointed out.
“I think the party line is that it’s darker, but I think it’s also so much bigger in terms of the relationships and dynamics,” she said. “I’ve gotten to see some of the episodes and there’s just so many storylines and so many interconnected details. It just feels like the scope is huge.”
Maya also said that the relationships between characters grow as the series nears its end (the fifth season will be the last).
“I think the relationships evolve a lot and everybody gets to know each other and themselves better along the way,” she said.
“Everyone changes a lot. I think this season especially is really starting to bring in…because we’re near the beginning of the end, we’re approaching this feeling of everyone really changing and becoming the person that they’re gonna be,” Maya said.
Like many of its main characters, Stranger Things is growing up, and just like any coming-of-age, it’s not without some darkness – which might be the thing that makes Stranger Things so compelling, season after season.
Stranger Things 4 premieres in two parts. Volume I, which includes seven episodes, will premiere on May 27. Volume II, which contains episodes 8 and 9, premieres on July 1. – Rappler.com