High school bullying, new cliques, pain, an ominous clock, and (of course) a new monster are the latest problems the teens of Hawkins, Indiana are experiencing in stranger Things 4, the next installment in Netflix’s throwback ’80s sci-fi horror series. The new season picks up in 1986, months after the confrontation at Starcourt Mall that left Eleven telekinetic (millie bobby brown) powerless. The gang is separated for the first time and a new threat emerges, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, could finally bring the horrors of the Upside Down to an end.
“I cried a lot this season,” Brown said at the show’s world premiere in Brooklyn on Saturday night at Netflix’s new 170,000-square-foot production studio. “This is the most emotional season for Eleven. She’s powerless and she’s trying to fit in at a new school and she’s trying to understand who she is and where she came from. She’s struggling with her identity and this is the darkest state she’s ever been in.” She is sad and I had to cry a lot, it was extremely difficult for me to cry so much!
The fourth season, which will be released in two volumes on Netflix, the first on May 27 and the second on July 1, takes place in three different places with various groups of characters that drive three different narratives. Always concerned mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) has moved their children Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathon (Charlie Heaton), as well as Eleven, from Hawkins to a desert town in California. Eleven finally gets to experience everyday life as a teenager, but faces severe bullying at his new school.
“We are shedding light on what some kids go through in high school. It’s not an easy time for Eleven. It really doesn’t fit. Portraying that story for me was important because it’s influential and powerful,” Brown said. “I want to show fans how horrible it feels to be bullied and I hope that some of them will stop doing it. Also, I love his perseverance. He is sad, but he never gives up. I think we can all learn from her.”
In past seasons of Strange things, Will and Eleven haven’t shared much of the screen. But this time, “you’re going to see a more non-supernatural side of Will and Eleven together,” Schnapp said. “This season I probably worked with Millie more, and we shared some emotional scenes at school together. I think the fans will really connect with him. Our characters will continue to change and learn new things about themselves.”
The one thing that remains constant for Will is his unfortunate yet period-accurate hairstyle. “I get asked about the bowl cut all the time and I’ve seen the memes and jokes online,” Schnapp laughed. “Each season he has a new bowl cut and in season four he has a different one. I saw a Change.org petition from fans asking to get rid of the bowl cut for next season, and I signed it!
Another main story focuses on the original core group of friends in Hawkins. Luke (Caleb McLaughlin) has joined the basketball team; max. (Sadie sink) is grieving the loss of his brother Billy, who was tragically killed by the Mind Flayer last season; Miguel (finn wolfhard) is trying to figure out his calling at school and maintain his long-distance relationship with Eleven and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) begins to adjust to navigating the hellish halls of high school.
“Dustin is finding his sense of confidence and his sense of self. He’s finding cool new friends and feeling accepted by the Hellfire Club, Hawkins High’s Dungeons & Dragons team. But he’s sad because his main team is starting to fracture,” Matarazzo said of his character arc this season. “Will has already moved to California and other people in the group are starting to find new interests and new friends. He is a part of life and a part of high school. He is hard to watch. We are a separate team and for me the union is a big topic this season because when they are not together, things get very difficult.
Each episode of the new season is twice as long as a typical Strange things fee, running an hour or more. shawn levy, the show’s director and executive producer, promises more action, but stays focused on the characters. “This show has always been an anthem for the disenfranchised,” said Levy, whose next project is directing Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 3. “Whether you were the popular kid in high school or the one on the fringe, everyone knows what it’s like to feel from the outside looking in. And Strange things in many ways it is about the set of characters that share that experience. It’s about the struggles, but it’s also about the strength that comes from the struggles.”
Meanwhile, Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper (port david)—who apparently died sacrificing himself to close the door to the Upside Down at the end of the last season—is alive, but imprisoned in Kamchatka, Russia, in a secret facility.
“Hooper is a brutal guy now that he’s not that big guy on the couch eating chips and salsa anymore,” Harbor said, wearing a custom blazer with Strange things characters. “This season is a whole new layer of Hopper that we can peel off. It was really exciting for me, and I hope it’s exciting for the audience to see Hopper as the brutal warrior that he has now become. You will see him as that guy who knows how to survive and fight evil. He did the best I could in terms of changing my body, which also changes your mind and the way you think. It was a lot of fun, but also a challenge.”
Strange things has seen demogorgons, demodogs, Russian agents, and a giant Mind Flayer terrorize the town of Hawkins. The new horror awaiting in season four is Vecna, a demo monster that comes out of the Upside Down.
“Vecna is humanoid-looking, and she’s more formidable than any big, bad monster we’ve had so far,” Levy joked.
“I was very, very scared and very nervous when I first saw it,” Brown added of Vecna. “No one has seen anything like it, especially how it was played. It’s amazing and the fans will freak out.”
“Vecna is a psychological horror that I don’t think we’ve really seen,” Harbor said. “She is very calculating and psychologically evil, which makes her the most dangerous monster in the series. But there may be more than one monster. I do not deal directly with Vecna. There’s a Demogorgon in a Russian prison that I have to deal with. There’s a lot more evil in this season.”