Stranger Things season 4 reviews say the new episodes are ambitious – but long

Stranger Things season 4 reviews are in – and while they’re all broadly positive, a lot of attention is being paid to those supersized runtimes. 

The first part of the season – seven episodes – consists of episodes all upward of 63 minutes, the longest touching 98 minutes in length. Judging by the reviews, though, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Stranger Things season 4 sees the core group of characters split up across different locations, while the new monster, the Vecna, is a formidable (and terrifying) foe indeed. David Harbour’s Hopper is also back after being revealed to have survived the season 3 finale (you can read more about his return in our interview with Harbour). 

We’ve rounded up a selection of critics’ reviews right here to give you an idea of what to expect going into season 4. And don’t worry – everything below is completely spoiler-free, so you can get reading right away. 

GamesRadar+ – 3.5/5 for the premiere

“Come the premiere’s ending, the scene is set for an interesting new season. Does it make for a classic episode of Stranger Things? Not really. There are fun moments, but this is all about catching us up on how the gang are all doing. Hopefully, now the ball’s rolling, Stranger Things season 4 can kick up a gear and lose some of the high-school antics behind and fully embrace being the darker, more intriguing season that the opening scene – and the premiere’s ending – promises to come.” 

The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) – Daniel Fienberg 

“With two more unseen feature-length episodes coming in July,  the fourth season of Stranger Things is the biggest, scariest, most ambitious Stranger Things season yet. It’s also the least charming, least funny and least inventive season yet, which doesn’t mean that those elements are wholly lacking, just that the effort to concentrate on moments of human relatability often gets overwhelmed by the attempts at scale.”  

 Variety (opens in new tab)– Caroline Framke  

“It helps, too, that the new Hawkins beast  – which Dustin accurately calls out as a Freddy Krueger facsimile  feels more tactile and viscerally frightening as he preys on teen trauma. The so-called “Vecna” does have a (very cool) explanation, but before that, it’s also just an effectively creepy monster of the week that brings new undead life to the Upside-Down. In fact, for as interesting as the eventual reveals are, it’s downright jarring to realize that there’s going to be a whole other season beyond the second part of Season 4. The way Vecna ties into the rest of the series makes it hard to imagine how much more juice the series could squeeze from it – but of course, mining as much material from this one property as possible is now as much the point of Stranger Things as anything else.”  

The Independent (opens in new tab) – Amanda Whiting – 4 / 5 

“Some shows evolve over their long runs; others clutch to what made them hits in the first place. Stranger Things’ flashy fourth season mostly does the latter, churning through Eighties pop-cultural references at a pace that makes me worry there’ll be nothing in the tank for its final, fifth chapter. Gone is the neon of the shopping mall and Jane Fonda’s workout tapes, replaced by Encyclopaedia Britannica, film strips, snail mail, microfiche and Satanic panic. This is the Eighties of dying technology and Reaganism’s dark, moralising underbelly.”  

 IGN (opens in new tab) – 8 / 10 – Alex Stedman  

“Part 1 of Stranger Things Season 4 sets up its most ambitious season yet, and despite a few moments where you can feel it struggling under the weight of that ambition, it largely works. The performances – particularly David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, and Sadie Sink’s – are all top notch, new baddie Vecna is appropriately terrifying, and there are some gorgeous special effects. Not every plotline in these extra-long episodes works as well, but none feels unworthy of the time spent. We’ll have to wait and see if season 4 sticks the landing as a whole with the final two episodes in July, but for now, we can say that this batch of episodes was well worth the wait.”  

AV Club (opens in new tab) – B+ – Saloni Gajjar

 “Stranger Things kicks off its fourth season by going back to the beginning – in more ways than initially anticipated. “What have you done?” Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) ominously asks a young Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) in a bloody-good cold open as multiple dead bodies lay around them. The scene takes place in Hawkins Lab before El escaped in the series premiere. What did she do then, accidentally or not, that might’ve set off the events of Stranger Things? The answers trickle in over seven entertaining, terrifying, and overlong episodes about who the heck controls the Upside Down, and how El is connected to it all.”  

Den of Geek (opens in new tab) – Alec Bojalad 

“What’s interesting about Stranger Things season 4, however, is how closely it takes after the strengths and weaknesses of its studio. Like Netflix itself, Stranger Things’ fourth season is occasionally capable of breathtaking fits of creativity and sincere storytelling joy. It’s also a lumbering, overstuffed beast that can come across as too impressed with itself.”  

Collider (opens in new tab)– B+ – Robert Brian Taylor 

“And while casual viewers might be put off by the deep dives into the series’ lore and episode run times that aren’t exactly binge-friendly, the fans who have loved Stranger Things all along should find themselves riveted by Season 4’s most electrifying turn of events. Waiting until July for those final two episodes to drop is going to be rough. And it’s safe to assume that waiting even longer for that final season is going to be rougher.”

Stranger Things season 4 part 1 arrives on Netflix this May 27. In the meantime, check out our guide to the best Netflix shows streaming now to fill out your watchlist. 

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